Does everyone see the same Moon around the world? Photo (cc) Luz A. Villa
Last week I put up a review of Ed Krupp’s Skywatchers, Shamans and Kings, which was a book about archaeoastronomy around the world. Next week or the week after, I hope, it’ll be Anthony Aveni’s People and the Sky, which is a book about the various uses people had for the sky using various examples from around the world. I’m also trying to get my hands on Giulio Magli’s new book, Mysteries and Discoveries of Archaeoastronomy. The subtitle is From Pre-history to Easter Island, which should be a hint that he looks at practices around the world, though he has a twist in the second half of the book. It’s an approach you could all World Archaeoastronomy.
Martin Rundkvist has said about Archaeology that it’s a heavily regionalised discipline. His view is that if all Japanese archaeology disappeared overnight, that really wouldn’t have much effect on Viking archaeology. While there may be similar interests like farming, building and burial, you don’t need to know about Japanese farming to understand Viking farming. In fact the difference in foodstuffs means that Japanese agricultural practice tells you nothing of use for Scandinavia. I’d certainly be very wary of a notion of World Archaeology (though I should note that others would certainly not, like a former university where I got an MPhil in the subject). I’m not sure what common theme could meaningfully tie Palaeolithic Europe, Mayan Guatemala and Modern Africa without being somewhat superficial. It raises the question: Does it make sense to pursue a World Archaeoastronomy view? Isn’t a book which draw on lunar markings on Palaeolithic bones, the Mayan Calendar and Mursi marking of time going to be equally shallow? How can you justify taking a global perspective?