A Brief Introduction to
The study of the astronomical practices, celestial lore, mythologies,
religions and world-views of all ancient cultures we call
archaeoastronomy. We like to describe archaeoastronomy, in essence, as
the "anthropology of astronomy", to distinguish it from the "history of
You may already know that many of the great monuments and ceremonial
constructions of early civilizations were astronomically aligned. The accurate
cardinal orientation of the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt or the Venus
alignment of the magnificent Maya Palace of the Governor at Uxmal in Yucatan are
outstanding examples. We learn much about the development of science and
cosmological thought from the study of both the ancient astronomies and
surviving indigenous traditions around the world.
With its roots in the Stonehenge discoveries of the 1960s, archaeoastronomy
and ethnoastronomy (the study of contemporary native astronomies) have blossomed
into active interdisciplinary fields that are providing new perspectives for the
history of our species' interaction with the cosmos.
One hallmark of the new research is active cooperation between professionals and amateurs from many backgrounds and cultures. The benefit of this cooperation has been that
archaeoastronomy has expanded to include the interrelated interests in ancient
and native calendar systems, concepts of time and space, mathematics, counting
systems and geometry, surveying and navigational techniques as well as geomancy
and the origins of urban planning. We feel the excitement of the synergy that
results when the new syntheses are more than the sum of their parts.
Our subject is essentially a study of the Anthropology of Astronomy and world-views and the
role of astronomy and astronomers in their cultures.