In December, a constellation known as the Pleiades or “Seven Sisters” becomes visible in the sky of the northern hemisphere. Paradoxically, if you look closely at the constellation, we will only count six stars. In different cultures around the world, the Pleiades are compared with seven sisters, the myths about them are even linked by similar plots. But what is most curious – as we study the motion of celestial bodies, we can assume that these myths are already about 100,000 years old.
In Greek mythology, the Pleiades are the seven daughters of the titan Atlas, who had to forever hold the sky on his shoulders and could not protect them. To save the sisters from the hunter Orion, Zeus turned them into stars. But one of them fell in love with a mortal and fled from the sky.
A similar plot is found among the Australian Aboriginal tribes, where the Pleiades are also a group of young girls. Here they also act as a calendar-astronomical symbol – their first appearance at dawn marks the beginning of winter. Orion is located next to the Seven Sisters, which is also called the “saucepan” in Australia. Often he also acts as a hunter or a group of lustful young people who stalk their sisters. One of them dies, hides, is too young or abducted, so again only six are visible in the sky.
Lost Pleiad stories are found in the cultures of Europe, Africa, Asia, Indonesia, Native Americans, and Australian Aborigines. But why are the myths of the Australian aborigines so similar to the Greek ones? After all, they are probably much older than Europeans, and between the cultures of the tribes of Australia and the rest of the world there has been almost no contact for 50,000 years.
Careful measurements with the Gaia telescope show that stars move slowly across the sky, and the Pleiades is no exception. For example, the star of Pleion is so close to the star Atlas today that they are visible to the naked eye as a whole. 100,000 years ago, Pleione was visually further from the Atlas, and people on different continents actually saw seven stars in the cluster. This is an explanation of two riddles at once: about the similarity of plots of different cultures and about the concept of the “lost” seventh sisters.