A beautiful photo of Stonehenge, the birthplace of archeoastronomy
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Image courtesy of Corel Photography.
"The movements of the heavenly bodies are an admirable thing, well known and manifest to all peoples. There are no people, no matter how barbaric and primitive, that do not raise up their eyes, take note, and observe with some care and admiration the continuous and uniform course of the heavenly bodies." - Bernabe Cobo (1653)
From the beginning, man has observed the heavens. Early man observed the heavens because the Sun, Moon and stars gave indication of coming seasons to farmers and hunters. The sky aided in navigation especially for nomads and sailors. And many ancient civilizations thought the sky gave signs of life, war, earthquakes, the fate of kingdoms...and more.
The new field of archeoastronomy started in the 1960s with discoveries at Stonehenge, the world's most famous megalithic structure. Archeoastronomy has been called the 'anthropology of astronomy' to distinguish it from the history of astronomy. This means that archeoastronomy pays attention to the astronomical practices, mythologies, and religions of ancient cultures. It sets to find out just how astronomy fit into a certain culture's life.
And so it touches on ancient calendar systems, concepts of time and space, mathematics (especially counting systems and geometry), navigation, and architecture. Archeoastronomers will look at imagery and writing left by a civilization. They will look at architecture, especially to see if the buildings or megaliths have any orientations towards the Sun or Moon or even Venus. The most common orientation is to look for alignment with sun rise on the date of a solstice.
Journey through many topics in archeoastronomy by choosing which way to start your journey:
Journey through Time
Journey by Region
Meet the People Involved
Just Look at Megaliths!
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The Fall 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist
, which includes articles on student research into building design for earthquakes and a classroom lab on the composition of the Earth’s ancient atmosphere, is available in our online store
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