Start Date: 09/13/2020

Course Type: Common Course

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About Course

Archaeoastronomy is the “science of stars and stones”. It is an interdisciplinary science in between architecture, archaeology, and astronomy. It studies the relationships between the ancient monuments and the sky, in order to gain a better understanding of the ideas of the architects of the past and of their religious and symbolic world. The course provides the first complete, easy introduction to this fascinating discipline. During the course, many spectacular ancient sites of archaeology – such as Stonehenge in England, Giza and Karnak in Egypt, Chichen Itzá in the Yucatan, Macchu Picchu in Peru and the Pantheon in Rome – will be visited and the fascinating events occurring there in special days of the year (such as solstices, equinoxes, or the day of the foundation of Rome) will be shown and explained. The course also provides the necessary background on Astronomy with the naked eye and a general introduction to the role of Astronomy in religion and in the management of power among ancient cultures.

Course Syllabus

In this week we shall learn the basic tools which are needed for studying Archaeoastronomy. Essentially, this means learning Astronomy with the naked eye, since the ancients did not have telescopes, and becoming acquainted with a simple instrument - the magnetic compass - and amazing softwares: virtual globes and digital planetariums.

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Course Introduction

Archaeoastronomy This course introduces the principles and practice of archaeoastronomy, the study of ancient monuments and artifacts. The objective of the course is to acquire a broad understanding of the field of archaeoastronomy, its principles and the methods used by archaeologists to study the physical and cultural heritage of the ancient Mediterranean World. The course will focus on three aspects: 1) principles of archaeoastronomy, 2) the study of the material culture of ancient monuments and 3) the discussion of the problem of contamination of archaeological sites by outside influences. The course will also introduce the field of archaeoastronomy into the University of London, and the course will review the current status of these topics in the scientific field. The course is taught by a team of independent experts, including archaeologists, engineers, and paleontologists, and it utilises a wide teaching area, including sections that focus on the material culture of monuments and on the problems of contamination. This course is part of the series: Ancient Architecture, Archaeology and Historiography. View the video: to Archaeology The Three Groups of Monuments and the Meaning of their Monuments Corruption and Contribution to the Local Heritage The Monuments and their Environments Architecture: Creating the Show Do you

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Article Example
Archaeoastronomy In contrast to the largely alignment-oriented statistically led methods of Green archaeoastronomy, Brown archaeoastronomy has been identified as being closer to the history of astronomy or to cultural history, insofar as it draws on historical and ethnographic records to enrich its understanding of early astronomies and their relations to calendars and ritual. The many records of native customs and beliefs made by the Spanish chroniclers means that Brown archaeoastronomy is most often associated with studies of astronomy in the Americas.
Archaeoastronomy The term "archaeoastronomy" was first used by Elizabeth Chesley Baity (at the suggestion of Euan MacKie) in 1973, but as a topic of study it may be much older, depending on how archaeoastronomy is defined. Clive Ruggles says that Heinrich Nissen, working in the mid-nineteenth century was arguably the first archaeoastronomer. Rolf Sinclair says that Norman Lockyer, working in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, could be called the 'father of archaeoastronomy.' Euan MacKie would place the origin even later, stating: "...the genesis and modern flowering of archaeoastronomy must surely lie in the work of Alexander Thom in Britain between the 1930s and the 1970s."
Archaeoastronomy Green Archaeoastronomy is named after the cover of the book "Archaeoastronomy in the Old World". It is based primarily on statistics and is particularly apt for prehistoric sites where the social evidence is relatively scant compared to the historic period. The basic methods were developed by Alexander Thom during his extensive surveys of British megalithic sites.
Archaeoastronomy Additionally the "Journal for the History of Astronomy" publishes many archaeoastronomical papers. For twenty-seven volumes (from 1979 to 2002) it published an annual supplement "Archaeoastronomy". The "Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage" (National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand), "Culture & Cosmos" (University of Wales, UK) and "Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry" (University of Aegean, Greece) also publish papers on archaeoastronomy.
Archaeoastronomy (journal) Archaeoastronomy may refer to two different astronomy journals
Archaeoastronomy Because archaeoastronomy is about the many and various ways people interacted with the sky, there are a diverse range of sources giving information about astronomical practices.
Archaeoastronomy Clive Ruggles and Michel Cotte recently edited a book on heritage sites of astronomy and archaeoastronomy that provides a list of the main sites around the world.
Archaeoastronomy Archaeoastronomy can be applied to all cultures and all time periods. The meanings of the sky vary from culture to culture; nevertheless there are scientific methods which can be applied across cultures when examining ancient beliefs. It is perhaps the need to balance the social and scientific aspects of archaeoastronomy which led Clive Ruggles to describe it as: ""...[A] field with academic work of high quality at one end but uncontrolled speculation bordering on lunacy at the other.""
Archaeoastronomy The reactions of professional archaeologists to archaeoastronomy have been decidedly mixed. Some expressed incomprehension or even hostility, varying from a rejection by the archaeological mainstream of what they saw as an archaeoastronomical fringe to an incomprehension between the cultural focus of archaeologists and the quantitative focus of early archaeoastronomers. Yet archaeologists have increasingly come to incorporate many of the insights from archaeoastronomy into archaeology textbooks and, as mentioned above, some students wrote archaeology dissertations on archaeoastronomical topics.
Archaeoastronomy Archaeoastronomy (also spelled archeoastronomy) is the study of how people in the past "have understood the phenomena in the sky, how they used these phenomena and what role the sky played in their cultures." Clive Ruggles argues it is misleading to consider archaeoastronomy to be the study of ancient astronomy, as modern astronomy is a scientific discipline, while archaeoastronomy considers symbolically rich cultural interpretations of phenomena in the sky by other cultures. It is often twinned with "ethnoastronomy", the anthropological study of skywatching in contemporary societies. Archaeoastronomy is also closely associated with historical astronomy, the use of historical records of heavenly events to answer astronomical problems and the history of astronomy, which uses written records to evaluate past astronomical practice.
Archaeoastronomy There are currently three academic organisations for scholars of archaeoastronomy. ISAAC—the International Society for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture—was founded in 1995 and now sponsors the Oxford conferences and "Archaeoastronomy — the Journal of Astronomy in Culture". SEAC— La Société Européenne pour l’Astronomie dans la Culture—is slightly older; it was created in 1992. SEAC holds annual conferences in Europe and publishes refereed conference proceedings on an annual basis. There is also SIAC— La Sociedad Interamericana de Astronomía en la Cultura, primarily a Latin American organisation which was founded in 2003. Two new organisations focused on regional archaeoastronomy were founded in 2013: ASIA - the Australian Society for Indigenous Astronomy in Australia and SMART - the Society of Māori Astronomy Research and Traditions in New Zealand.
Archaeoastronomy A criticism of this method is that it can be statistically weak. Schaefer in particular has questioned how robust the claimed alignments in the Caracol are. Because of the wide variety of evidence, which can include artefacts as well as sites, there is no one way to practice archaeoastronomy. Despite this it is accepted that archaeoastronomy is not a discipline that sits in isolation. Because archaeoastronomy is an interdisciplinary field, whatever is being investigated should make sense both archaeologically and astronomically. Studies are more likely to be considered sound if they use theoretical tools found in archaeology like analogy and homology and if they can demonstrate an understanding of accuracy and precision found in astronomy.
Archaeoastronomy Archaeoastronomy is sometimes related to the fringe discipline of Archaeocryptography, when its followers attempt to find underlying mathematical orders beneath the proportions, size, and placement of archaeoastronomical sites such as Stonehenge and the Pyramid of Kukulcán at Chichen Itza.
Archaeoastronomy There is no one way to do Archaeoastronomy. The divisions between archaeoastronomers tend not to be between the physical scientists and the social scientists. Instead it tends to depend on the location of kind of data available to the researcher. In the Old World, there is little data but the sites themselves; in the New World, the sites were supplemented by ethnographic and historic data. The effects of the isolated development of archaeoastronomy in different places can still often be seen in research today. Research methods can be classified as falling into one of two approaches, though more recent projects often use techniques from both categories.
Archaeoastronomy Both practicing archaeoastronomers and observers of the discipline approach it from different perspectives. George Gummerman and Miranda Warburton view archaeoastronomy as part of an archaeology informed by cultural anthropology and aimed at understanding a "group's conception of themselves in relation to the heavens', in a word, its cosmology. Todd Bostwick argued that "archaeoastronomy is anthropology – the study of human behavior in the past and present." Paul Bahn has described archaeoastronomy as an area of cognitive archaeology. Other researchers relate archaeoastronomy to the history of science, either as it relates to a culture's observations of nature and the conceptual framework they devised to impose an order on those observations or as it relates to the political motives which drove particular historical actors to deploy certain astronomical concepts or techniques. Art historian Richard Poss took a more flexible approach, maintaining that the astronomical rock art of the North American Southwest should be read employing "the hermeneutic traditions of western art history and art criticism" Astronomers, however, raise different questions, seeking to provide their students with identifiable precursors of their discipline, and are especially concerned with the important question of how to confirm that specific sites are, indeed, intentionally astronomical.
Archaeoastronomy Archaeoastronomy uses a variety of methods to uncover evidence of past practices including archaeology, anthropology, astronomy, statistics and probability, and history. Because these methods are diverse and use data from such different sources, integrating them into a coherent argument has been a long-term difficulty for archaeoastronomers. Archaeoastronomy fills complementary niches in landscape archaeology and cognitive archaeology. Material evidence and its connection to the sky can reveal how a wider landscape can be integrated into beliefs about the cycles of nature, such as Mayan astronomy and its relationship with agriculture. Other examples which have brought together ideas of cognition and landscape include studies of the cosmic order embedded in the roads of settlements.
Archaeoastronomy Aveni states that one of the strengths of the Brown methodology is that it can explore astronomies invisible to statistical analysis and offers the astronomy of the Incas as another example. The empire of the Incas was conceptually divided using "ceques" radial routes emanating from the capital at Cusco. Thus there are alignments in all directions which would suggest there is little of astronomical significance, However, ethnohistorical records show that the various directions do have cosmological and astronomical significance with various points in the landscape being significant at different times of the year. In eastern Asia archaeoastronomy has developed from the History of Astronomy and much archaeoastronomy is searching for material correlates of the historical record. This is due to the rich historical record of astronomical phenomena which, in China, stretches back into the Han dynasty, in the second century BC.
Archaeoastronomy Archaeoastronomy has long been seen as an interdisciplinary field that uses written and unwritten evidence to study the astronomies of other cultures. As such, it can be seen as connecting other disciplinary approaches for investigating ancient astronomy: astroarchaeology (an obsolete term for studies that draw astronomical information from the alignments of ancient architecture and landscapes), history of astronomy (which deals primarily with the written textual evidence), and ethnoastronomy (which draws on the ethnohistorical record and contemporary ethnographic studies).
Archaeoastronomy Archaeoastronomy owes something of this poor reputation among scholars to its occasional misuse to advance a range of pseudo-historical accounts. During the 1930s, Otto S. Reuter compiled a study entitled "Germanische Himmelskunde", or "Teutonic Skylore". The astronomical orientations of ancient monuments claimed by Reuter and his followers would place the ancient Germanic peoples ahead of the Ancient Near East in the field of astronomy, demonstrating the intellectual superiority of the "Aryans" (Indo-Europeans) over the Semites.
Archaeoastronomy A common source of data for archaeoastronomy is the study of alignments. This is based on the assumption that the axis of alignment of an archaeological site is meaningfully oriented towards an astronomical target. Brown archaeoastronomers may justify this assumption through reading historical or ethnographic sources, while Green archaeoastronomers tend to prove that alignments are unlikely to be selected by chance, usually by demonstrating common patterns of alignment at multiple sites.