Session: #248

Theme & Session Format

Interpreting the archaeological record: artefacts, humans and landscapes
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

SEAC 27: The Archaeology of Astronomy: Concepts of Space and Time Materialised in Cultures
The sky provides basic references for orientation in space and time. The observation of celestial regularities resulted in useful, practical knowledge that became particularly important with the origin of agriculture and the increasing need for scheduling seasonal activities. On the other hand, the order observed in the sky, apparently perfect and divine, gave rise to a variety of ideas that explain the role of heavenly bodies in the cosmic order and their influence on earthly affairs. In any social group, the exact concepts and those defined in terms of our current knowledge as “non-scientific” are intertwined and integrated in a relatively coherent worldview, which can be properly understood only if examined as a whole and in the light of the specific natural, social and historical context. Characterized by this holistic approach, archaeoastronomy attempts to reconstruct and understand astronomically-derived concepts and related practices in societies typically studied by archaeology. While markedly interdisciplinary, archaeoastronomy can thus be considered a constituent part of archaeological pursuit. Relying on both written and unwritten evidence, including spatial distribution of archaeological vestiges, it explores all cultural manifestations related to the observation of the sky, as well as their role in subsistence strategies, architectural and urban planning, religion and ritual, and political ideology. Although frequently focused on astronomical referents of architectural orientations and other alignments embedded in ancient cultural landscapes, archaeoastronomy also seeks to understand the underlying motives within the broader context of landscape archaeology. By presenting a number of case studies, which should exemplify the problems addressed and the procedures employed to solve them, this session is intended to illustrate the potential of archaeoastronomy, its relevance to archaeology, and the place it deserves within a broader framework of anthropological disciplines.
archaeoastronomy, cultural astronomy, archaeology, landscape, skyscape
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Main organiser:
Ivan Šprajc (Slovenia) 1
Juan Antonio Belmonte Avilés (Spain) 2
2. Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias