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School of Archaeology & Ancient History


Course AR3015

SAMPLE Lecture Notes (2003)



Lecture 1: The nature and development of archaeoastronomy
Objectives
To introduce archaeoastronomy through its "social history", from the Stonehenge and "megalithic astronomy" controversies of the 1960s and 1970s, the rise of "world archaeoastronomy" in the 1970s and 1980s, and its position relative to mainstream archaeology today.
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Lecture 2: Sun, moon and stones: the arguments surrounding "classic" astronomical sites
Objectives
To introduce some fundamental issues of methodology.
To introduce some of the basic astronomical concepts.
This is done through case studies of five monuments that have been intensively discussed in the context of prehistoric astronomy: Newgrange, Ballochroy, Kintraw, Minard (Brainport Bay), and Le Grand Menhir Brisť (Carnac).
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Lecture 3: Going for groups: looking for trends in groups of monuments
Objectives
To introduce you to some simple probability arguments and their potential strengths and their weaknesses.
To introduce you to arguments involving archaeoastronomical evidence from groups of monuments, and to give you an adequate basis to assess their strengths and limitations.
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Lectures 4 & 5: Archaeoastronomy in Britain and Ireland: key ideas, issues and themes
Objectives
To familiarise you with some of the claims relating to astronomy that have appeared recently in the mainstream archaeological literature, and to introduce you to some of the interpretative issues that they raise.
The case studies will be arranged roughly chronologically and span the Neolithic through to the Iron Age.
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Lecture 6: European archaeoastronomy: orientations of tombs, temples and churches
Objectives
To familiarise you with some of the claims relating to astronomy that have appeared within continental Europe and over a much broader chronological period than we have considered so far.
The case studies are chosen so as to raise interpretative issues of a different nature from those we have encountered so far.
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Lecture 7: The rise of American archaeoastronomy and the "green" v. "brown" methodological divide
Objectives
To give you an understanding of the context within which American archaeoastronomy emerged in the 1970s, and in particular its theoretical and methodological starting points and how they differed from "megalithic astronomy" in Britain.
To identify some of the fundamental issues at the heart of the "green" v. "brown" methodological debate of the 1980s.
After a general introduction to Maya astronomy and the Mesoamerican calendar, Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy is introduced through the search for observing instruments: the caracol at Chichen Itza and zenith tubes at Monte Alban and Xochicalco. We shall then discuss two case studies which highlight key methodological issues: the Venus alignment of the Governor's Palace at Uxmal; and the function and meaning of the pecked-cross circles at Teotihuacan.
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Lecture 8: Integrating evidence from art and ethnohistory
Objectives
To give an understanding of the context within which American archaeoastronomy developed in the 1980s and beyond. Today's lecture continues the discussion of different ways in which evidence from other sources can be integrated with evidence from the archaeological record, identifying some of the fundamental methodological issues that arise.
There are two cases studies, which introduce evidence from art and ethnohistory. The first concerns sacred geography in the valley of Mexico in Aztec and pre-Aztec times. The second, more extensive, case study concerns continuity of tradition in southern Peru from pre-Inca to Inca and through to modern times.
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Lecture 9: Astronomy in context: case studies from modern indigenous groups
Objectives
To illustrate, through case studies from modern indigenous groups, the differing nature of astronomies in non-Western cultural contexts and to highlight and question a number of assumptions that are commonly made when studying astronomies in historic or prehistoric contexts.
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