Can you spot the Moon in this photo? Photo (cc) Andréia.
One of the reasons I’m putting up more stuff recently is that it’s a spin-off from polishing the thesis. Reasonable questions would be: What do is Social Astronomy? and Why is that Archaeoastronomy and not History of Astronomy? The answers to both questions are connected.
Social Astronomy is the study of astronomy as used for social purposes. This fits very neatly with Archaeoastronomy which these days tends also to be referred to as Cultural Astronomy. In contrast History of Astronomy, especially in the ancient world, has tended to be the story of how Astronomy in its modern sense grew from ancient practices. An example of very good History of Astronomy in an ancient context would be James Evans’s book The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy. It’s a very good book covering the mathematical basis ancient astronomy and how people got progressively more accurate at predicting the movement of the planets. I think that’s going to be a defining work on ancient astronomy for a generation, but there’s still things it misses. The quest for accuracy is the underlying narrative of a lot of ancient astronomy books. It misses the factor that people, especially the ancient Greeks, might have also wanted and aimed for inaccurate astronomy. That is an odd claim, after all isn’t astronomy a science?