This review rounds off a trilogy to go with Skywatchers, Shamans and Kings and People and the Sky. Like the other two books this could be said to be part of a World Archaeoastronomy approach, but Giulio Magli adds a twist. Some of this is down to the approach he’s taken to archaeoastronomical sites, but he also adds a bit more.
Magli’s approach is similar to what I would have done if I was writing an introduction to archaeoastronomy book. He tackles the sites around the world. So take a deep breath because in his opening section of twelve chapters — slightly over half the book — he covers. Palaeolithic Europe, Prehistoric Britain, the temples of Malta, Egypt, Babylon, East North America with the Hopewell and Cahokia, West North America with Chaco and the Anasazi, Northern Mexico and Tenochtitlan, The rest of Mesoamerica and Palenque, The Incas, Nazca and Polynesia. That leaves massive holes where you would expect to find India, China, Korea and Japan and a lack of African material. That’s more due to the state of play in academic archaeoastronomy at the moment than a fault of Magli. In general Africa has been greatly overlooked and there’s not a lot of integration between Asian astronomy and the rest of the world. It’s getting better, but it’s still under-represented compared to the Mayans and Prehistoric Europe.
If this had been the sum total of the book I wouldn’t be that enthusiastic about it. It’s not bad. It’s written from an astronomical point of view with some amusing digs against archaeologists. If you were interested in archaeoastronomy and approaching it from astronomy and not anthropology I’d recommend this over Aveni or Krupp’s book as an introduction to the field. What really marks out the book as worth reading is section 2.