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Archaeoastronomy & Ethnoastronomy News


Number 2, December Solstice 1991

Bridging Disciplines & Falling in Cracks
by David Dearborn

In November, a small conference was held at Colgate University on the role of archaeoastronomy in native american studies. Gary Urton presented a talk at this conference, is working on an essay to give us his considerations on this topic. We hope to present this essay to you in our next issue. The topic is certainly an important one, and with the related issue of the value if interdisciplinary studies for the disciplines involved.

An example of the value of archaeoastronomy to modern native americans comes from the Celestial Wheel project at DQ University. DQ university is a two year accredited college specializing in educating native american and hispanic youths. They are constructing a monument designed with a utility for making systematic solar observations. This will serve not only as a tool for studying astronomy, but in conjunction with material from archaeoastronomy studies in the americas, they will show their students that mathematics and the study of nature are culturally acceptable.

The artificial partitioning of Knowledge into disciplines affects our perceptions and limits our actions. A recnt example of the imapct is the delay in publishing the two volumes containing materials from the Oxford 3 conference held in Edinburugh. Clive Ruggles states:

The problem was that we had successfully convinced them that archaeoastronomy should no longer be considered solely by their astronomy editor, but was more properly considered part of archaeology and anthropology. Their archaeology editor subsequently decided that because our output included papers largely concerned with human sciences other than just archaeology, such as ethnohistory, history of religions, and 'classics', it couldnot be considered by her only.

The editors have resisted requests by Cambridge University press to remove mainly historical material, and have reluctantly descided look elsewhere for publication. (We will keep you informed of when the volumes become available.)

How much of our understanding is colored by the formal partitioning of knowledge into disciplines? The American Association for the advancement of Science has called for an intergated curriculum which links science and society. There is great resistance to broaden studies outside of the traditional confines of a discipline. While there are many exceptions, it is not uncommon to find difficulty in the establishments of courses on archaeoastronomy, or to try to establish a thesis topic in the field.

Astronomers and anthropologists ask different questions about a subject. At the risk of sounding like a holistic bean sprout eater, most subjects are more than would be percieved by the view of either discipline.

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