World Archaeoastronomy

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?
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