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The Sun rising over Stonehenge on the morning of the Summer Solstice (21st June 2005).
Credit Andrew Dunn / Wikimedia Commons
The Sun rising over Stonehenge on the morning of the Summer Solstice (21st June 2005).

This week on Looking Up Bruce Bookout enlightens us as to what the study of archaeoastronomy actually is. 

One of the newer disciplines in science is the field of Archaeoastronomy.  We have been speaking to this subject during my tenure on “Looking Up”, but have never actually defined it. Archaeoastronomy is the study of astronomical practices, celestial lore, mythologies, religions and world-views of ancient cultures.  In many ways it is an “Anthropology of Astronomy”.

We have already covered monuments and ceremonial centers of some early North American cultures that have astronomical alignments. Remember the Big Horn Medicine Wheel up in Wyoming?  The field of Archaeoastronomy started in the 1960s from studying Stonehenge with an astronomer’s perspective.  It has grown to an active interdisciplinary field that provides a vast new perspective for the history of human interaction with the universe.

Archaeoastronomy is often twinned with ethnoastronomy, the anthropological study of modern skywatching and is associated with the history of astronomy. One quote that summarizes it as “… a field with academic work of high quality at one end but uncontrolled speculation bordering on lunacy at the other".  Can you dig it?

If you’d like to take a closer look at Archaeoastronomy, or any of the other wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit csastro.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties.