Archaeoastronomy

From Academic Kids

Archaeoastronomy (also spelled Archeoastronomy) is, as the name implies, the combination of astronomical and archaeological studies. Specifically, it covers the intersection between the two. One aspect of this is the use of the historical record prior to the genesis of the modern astronomical discipline in order to study past astronomical events. It also may involve the use of astronomical knowledge and extrapolation to further our understanding of the historical record. The two disciplines interact constructively. Cultural anthropologists have contributed to the field of archaeoastronomy by studying the astronomy of more modern, historical cultures; this study is termed, ethnoastronomy.

An example of the first sort of archaeoastronomy is the study of the extensive records of ancient China for references to "guest stars". "Guest stars," or star-like objects which appeared in the night sky, were of great interest to the observers of ancient China and were often dutifully recorded. These events have been associated with many transitory phenomena, such as comets and, particularly, supernovae.

An example of the second sort of archeoastronomy is the study of solar, lunar, and stellar alignments of historical monuments. Many claims have been made that the megalithic monument, Stonehenge, represents an "ancient observatory," although the extent of its use in that regard is in dispute. Certainly Stonehenge - and many other ancient monuments - is aligned with particular significance to the solstice and equinox points. Similar claims have been made that the Great Pyramids of Egypt are aligned with the stars in the belt of Orion, in reflection of the significance invested in that constellation by the ancient Egyptians.

During the 1960s, Alexander Thom did a thorough research on megalithic monuments in Britain, and published the results is Megalithic sites in Britain (Oxford, 1967). Apart from arguing for his theory of the megalithic yard, he also argues with statistical methods that a large part of the monuments in Britain are oriented in a way so they can be used as calendars. His theory proposes that the monuments mark points on the horizon where the sun, moon and principal stars rises at seasonal extremes like midsummer, midwinter and the equinoxes.

Contents

Some Old World sites where archaeoastronomy is being explored

Some New World sites where archaeoastronomy is being explored

Some artifacts that throw light on archaeoastronomy

Reference

  • Clive Ruggles, Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland

External links

  • Mesoamerican Archaeoastronomy (http://www.jqjacobs.net/mesoamerica/meso_astro.html), a Review of Contemporary Understandings of Prehispanic Astronomic Knowledge.
  • Archaeogeodesy (http://www.jqjacobs.net/astro/aegeo.html), the area of study encompassing prehistoric and ancient place determination, point positioning, navigation (on land or water), astronomy and measure and representation of the earth.
  • Epoch 2000 (http://www.jqjacobs.net/astro/epoch_2000.html), an Excel spreadsheet for calculating temporally variable astronomic constants.
  • Clives Ruggles webpage: (http://www.le.ac.uk/archaeology/rug/index.html) bibliography and synopsis of his course at Leicester University
  • ISAAC (http://www.wam.umd.edu/~tlaloc/archastro/index.html), The International Society for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture.
  • Babylonian and Indian astronomy (http://uk.arxiv.org/abs/physics/0301078)
  • International Institute of Astroarchaeology (http://www.astroarchaeology.org/)
  • "The House Of The Sky" (http://www.biroz.net/words/flood.htm) - An essay exploring ancient astronomy, myths of the Deluge and the mythical stories of mankind's past and futureel:Αρχαιοαστρονομία

es:Arqueoastronoma it:Archeoastronomia pt:Arqueoastronomia zh:考古天文学

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