School of Archaeology and Ancient History

Lecture 9: Theory and practice in archaeoastronomy: key themes, issues, and case studies

Alleged mountain and sun alignment from Ka Ulu a Pa'oa heiau, Kaua'i Copyright © Clive Ruggles, University of Leicester.


To examine recent developments in a wider theoretical context.

To address a number of general and more fundamental theoretical and methodological issues, using a few final case studies.

Main readings

Chapters 9 and 10 in Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland.

Further information and supporting materials

The work of Hoskin and "Archaeotopography"

The best overall reference here is Michael Hoskin's Tombs, Temples and their Orientations (Ocarina, 2001), but there are also several articles in the Archaeoastronomy supplement to Journal for the History of Astronomy between the mid-1990s and 2002.

Polynesian navigation and sacred astronomy

This topic really belongs to the realm of "historical ethnography", but it raises a number of relevant issues. For classic accounts of Polynesian navigational astronomy see David Lewis's paper in The Place of Astronomy in the Ancient World (see Lecture 1 info) and his book We the Navigators; also Ben Finney's Voyage of Rediscovery, University of California Press, 1994.

On the debate between Marshall Sahlins and Gananath Obeyesekere on the role of "mythopraxis" relating to Lono and the makuhiki festival in the demise of Captain Cook see Sahlins' Islands of History (University of Chicago Press, 1985) and How "Natives" Think (University of Chicago Press, 1995); and Obeyesekere's The Apotheosis of Captain Cook (1997 edn, Princeton University Press).

For a review of Polynesian archaeoastronomy, and a review of the evidence for possible relationships between sacred hula chants and temple platforms in Hawai'i, see Clive Ruggles, "Astronomy, oral literature, and landscape in ancient Hawai'i", Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of Astronomy in Culture , 14(2) (1999), 33-86.

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Last updated: 27 May 2002 16:58
Prof C.L.N. Ruggles
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