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Archaeoastronomy
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Title: Cultural Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy: an Italian Experience
Author: E. Antonello

A brief review is given of some recent positive developments regarding the reception of archaeoastronomy by the archaeological institutions in Italy. Discussions and problems that are currently going on in this field are also mentioned, such as the separation of the scientific and humanistic disciplines (i.e. the two cultures problem). Suggestions based on contemporary philosophy are also reported. Finally, sky-gazing is proposed as the place where the two cultures could meet, since, taking Plato into account, sky-gazing could be considered the mom of the human knowledge, and of the scientific and humanistic disciplines.

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Title: Astronomy in the Upper Palaeolithic?
Authors: Brian Hayden and Suzanne Villeneuve

Beginning with Alexander Marshack's interpretation of engraved lines as lunar calendrical notations, a number of highly controversial claims have been made concerning the possible astronomical significance of Upper Palaeolithic images. These claims range from lunar notations, to solstice observances in caves, to constellation representations. Given the rare nature of artefacts and images that lend themselves to such interpretations, these claims are generally difficult to evaluate on the basis of archaeological data alone. However, comparative ethnology can provide at least a way of assessing the plausibility of such astronomical claims. If the premise is accepted that at least some of the Upper Palaeolithic groups were complex hunter-gatherers, then astronomical observances, or the lack of them, among ethnographic complex hunter-gatherers can help indicate whether astronomical observations were likely to have taken place among Upper Palaeolithic complex hunter-gatherers. A survey of the literature shows that detailed solstice observances were common among complex hunter-gatherers, often associated with the keeping of calendars and the scheduling of major ceremonies. Moreover, aggrandizers in complex hunter-gatherer societies often form secret societies in which esoteric astronomical knowledge is developed. The existence of calendrical notations and secluded meeting places for secret-society members are suggested to be at least plausible interpretations for a number of Upper Palaeolithic caves and images.

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Archeoastronomy
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Title: Thinking about Archeoastronomy
Authors: Noah Brosch

I discuss various aspects of archeoastronomy concentrating on physical artifacts (i.e., not including ethno-archeoastronomy) focusing on the period that ended about 2000 years ago. I present examples of artifacts interpreted as showing the interest of humankind in understanding celestial phenomena and using these to synchronize calendars and predict future celestial and terrestrial events. I stress the difficulty of identifying with a high degree of confidence that these artifacts do indeed pertain to astronomy and caution against the over-interpretation of the finds as definite evidence.
With these in mind, I point to artifacts that seem to indicate a human fascination with megalithic stone circles and megalithic alignments starting from at least 11000 BCE, and to other items presented as evidence for Neolithic astronomical interests dating to even 20000 BCE or even before. I discuss the geographical and temporal spread of megalithic sites associated with astronomical interpretations searching for synchronicity or for a possible single point of origin.
A survey of a variety of artifacts indicates that the astronomical development in antiquity did not happen simultaneously at different locations, but may be traced to megalithic stone circles and other megalithic structures with possible astronomical connections originating in the Middle East, specifically in the Fertile Crescent area. The effort of ancient societies to erect these astronomical megalithic sites and to maintain a corpus of astronomy experts does not appear excessive.

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Archaeoastronomy
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From Stone Age to Space Age
Astronomy & World Heritage Thematic Study released

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, at its 34th session in Brasília, Brazil, has, for the first time, endorsed a study in science heritage. The thematic study on the Heritage Sites of Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy, prepared within the framework of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, presents an overall vision of astronomical heritage and attempts to identify some of the most outstanding examples that are of significance to everyone.
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How The Ancients Celebrated The Solstice

At sunrise on the Northern Hemisphere's longest day of the year - the summer solstice - thousands of modern-day druids, pagans and partiers gather in the countryside near Salisbury, England, to cheer as the first rays of light stream over a circular arrangement of stones called Stonehenge. The original purpose of the ancient monument remains a source of academic debate. The large stones erected about 4,000 years ago are aligned with the summer solstice sunrise, leading scholars to suggest a link to an ancient sun-worshipping culture.
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Recent astronomical observations at Kilmartin Glen, Argyll, Scotland

The Temple Wood and Nether Largie complex stands in the Kilmartin Glen, Argyll, Scotland (Grid Ref. NR 82 97; Lat. 56° 7' Long. 5° 29'). The Temple Wood site consists of two adjacent stone circles thought to have been built in the fourth millennium BC (RCAHMS 1988, 1999; Scott 1989: 53). However, there is some doubt about this date, (Butter 1999). Radiocarbon dates for the southern circle show that it was used for burial from the middle to late Bronze Age (Scott 1989: 115-7; Sheridan 2008). It is thought that the southern circle was erected after the northern circle (Scott 1989) and it is possible that they were built in the early Bronze Age. The line connecting the centre of the circles forms an axis running NE-SW, and coincides with the alignment of the southern circle's three burial cists. Three of the stones of the Temple Wood southern circle have symbols carved on their outer sides: stone 8 is cupmarked and stone 10 has a double spiral, while stone 12 has faint concentric circles.
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Tree Carving in California: Ancient Astronomers

Though local lore held that the so-called "scorpion tree" had been the work of cowboys, palaeontologist Rex Saint Onge immediately knew that the tree was carved by Indians when he stumbled upon it in the fall of 2006. Located in a shady grove atop the Santa Lucia Mountains in San Luis Obispo County, the centuries-old gnarled oak had the image of a six-legged, lizard-like being meticulously scrawled into its trunk, the nearly three-foot-tall beast topped with a rectangular crown and two large spheres.
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Date with destiny
Covering an area of 1,400 sq m, the rammed earth ruins of probably the world's oldest observatory is one of the most important discoveries at the Taoshi site in Shanxi province.

Just before dawn in a quiet village in North China, a short-waisted man hurries with a bundle of poles toward a clump of weeds to wait for sunrise. He busily makes measurements and takes photos. He wants to prove that ancient astronomers once stood at the same place 4,100 years ago to determine the changing of seasons, by observing the sunrise and discerning the best times for sowing and harvesting.
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Astronomical Associations of "The Day of the Dead"

Just as the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe can be traced to the pre-Conquest festival honouring the Nahua sun goddess Tonantzin at the winter solstice (December 12 in the Julian calendar), so too, may we discern the origins of the "Day of the Dead" in the Nahua ritual known as "the binding of the years". Although the astronomical event which specifically provided the timing for the latter was the zenithal passage of the Pleiades at midnight every 52 years (a year known as "2 Reed" in the Nahua calendar), there is the strong likelihood that the "Day of the Dead" represents an annual celebration whose original purpose was to commemorate the same celestial event.
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"Although weak in astronomical theory, given the charge to search for heavenly omens, Chinese astronomers became acute observers.who produced systematic star charts and catalogues. Chinese astronomers recorded 1,600 observations of solar and lunar eclipses from 720 BCE, and developed a limited ability to predict eclipses. They registered seventy-five novas and supernovas (or 'guest' stars) between 352 BCE and 1604 CE, including the exploding star of 1054 (now the Crab Nebula), visible even in the daytime but apparently not noticed by Islamic or European astronomers. With comets a portent of disaster, Chinese astronomers carefully logged twenty-two centuries of cometary observations from 613 BCE to 1621 CE, including the viewing of Halley's comet every 76 years from 240 BCE. Observations of sunspots (observed through dust storms) date from 28 BCE. Chinese astronomers knew the 26,000-year cycle of the precession of the equinoxes. Like the astronomers of the other Eastern civilizations, but unlike the Greeks, they did not develop explanatory models for planetary motion. They mastered planetary periods without speculating about orbits. Government officials also systematically collected weather data."

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