University of Leicester Logo

School of Archaeology & Ancient History


Course AR3015

Reading List



This page lists the main core texts for the course. Many other books and papers are listed elsewhere in the on-line resources for this course, which will be linked in as the course progresses, but I cannot guarantee that these will all be in the library or bookshop.

Essential reading

Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland, by Clive Ruggles (Yale University Press, 1999). This is the core text for the first part of the course.

Skywatchers, by Anthony F. Aveni (University of Texas Press, 2001). This long-awaited update to Aveni's Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, which was published in 1980, is a comprehensive and up-to-date survey of Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy that provides an essential background to the second part of the course.

Tombs, Temples and their Orientations: A New Perspective on Mediterranean Prehistory, by Michael Hoskin (Ocarina/Oxbow Books, 2001). This synthesis of Hoskin's fieldwork over many years in southern Europe epitomizes the new direction taken by European archaeoastronomy in recent years.

Astronomies and Cultures, edited by Clive Ruggles and Nicholas Saunders (University Press of Colorado, 1993) and Archaeoastronomy in the 1990s, edited by Clive Ruggles (Group D Publications, 1993).
These two volumes arising from the third 'Oxford' International Conference on Archaeoastronomy, held in St. Andrews in 1990, contain a variety of papers that are still widely cited. A&Cs contains ten longer overviews papers while AA90s contains 31 shorter research reports. Together, the various contributions cover theory, method and practice and give an excellent insight into the scope of work in archaeoastronomy as well as some of the main issues of contention.

Highly desirable

Each of the following three volumes, arising from major archaeoastronomy conferences, contains a selection of papers demonstrating a variety of study areas and approaches within the subject.

Astronomy, Cosmology, and Landscape, edited by Clive Ruggles, Frank Prendergast and Tom Ray (Ocarina Books, 2001). SEAC is the leading organisation for European archaeoastronomy, and this is the proceedings of the SEAC98 meeting held in Dublin.

Astronomy and Cultural Diversity, edited by Juan Belmonte and César Esteban (Organismo de Museos del Cabildo de Tenerife, La Laguna, Tenerife, 2000). The SEAC99 (European) meeting was combined with the triennial 'Oxford' International conference and this is one of two volumes of papers arising from this joint meeting. The remaining, keynote papers have been published in volume 15 of Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of Astronomy in Culture (2001).

World Archaeoastronomy, edited by Anthony F. Aveni (Cambridge University Press, 1989). The Proceedings of the Second 'Oxford' International Conference on Archaeoastronomy, held in Mérida (Mexico) in 1986. The best compendium of research in archaeoastronomy in the mid-1980s.

See also

Stairways to the Stars, by Anthony F. Aveni (Wiley, 1997). Based around three case studies -- "megalithic astronomy" in prehistoric Britain, the ancient Maya, and the Inca empire -- this book is aimed at the non-specialist and provides a highly readable introduction to the principles and scope of archaeastronomy. However, for more up-to-date and detailed material in the first two areas see Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland and Skywatchers respectively (for details see above). And for a different perspective on Incaic archaeoastronomy see Astronomy and Empire in the Ancient Andes (for details see below).

Conversing with the Planets, by Anthony F. Aveni (Times Books, 1992) and Empires of Time, by Anthony F. Aveni (Basic Books, 1992). Two excellent books discussing the social context of astronomy. Second editions of both have recently appeared, published by the University Press of Colorado.

Astronomy and Empire in the Ancient Andes, by Brian S. Bauer and David S.P. Dearborn (University of Texas Press, 1995). An examination of the place of ancient astronomy in the Inca world.

Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe, by Stephen C. McCluskey (Cambridge University Press, 1998). This new book covers the development of astronomies in Europe from Celtic Gaul through to late Medieval times. It is important in addressing questions that normally fall outside the remit of history of astronomy and until now have been largely ignored by archaeoastronomers.

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures (in 3 volumes), edited by Davíd Carrasco (Oxford University Press, 2001), which is available in the reference section of the library, contains several useful articles on, or relevant to, Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy. The entries on "Astronomy" and "Festivals and festival cycles" make good starting points: then use the "see also" lists to roam more widely.

Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia, edited by Susan T. Evans and David L. Webster (Garland, 2001), next to the above on the reference shelves, also contains a number of relevant entries. Start at the entry on "Astronomy, archaeoastronomy, and astrology" or look up "Astronomy" in the index.

Astronomy across Cultures, edited by Helaine Selin (Kluwer, Dordrecht, 2000). This is a very useful compendium of preliterate astronomical traditions amongst human societies in places as diverse as central and southern Africa, the Islamic world, south-east Asia, aboriginal Australia, and ancient Polynesia. However, it is shockingly expensive and only a single copy is likely to be available in the library.

Astronomy before the Telescope, edited by Christopher Walker (British Museum Press, 1996). This book mainly concerns topics within the history of astronomy, but the chapters on archaeoastronomy in Europe, astronomy in the Americas, and indigenous astronomy in Africa, Australia and Polynesia are all relevant.

Useful journals

The two main journals in archaeoastronomy are Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of Astronomy in Culture, published by the University of Texas Press, Austin, and the Archaeoastronomy supplement to the Journal for the History of Astronomy, published in Cambridge. Both are available to students and staff in the University of Leicester's library.

Back to Top