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TOPS 2000 - Session 44 Description

Archaeoastronomy - June 19, 2000 13:00-14:00

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Humans are at their best when they are stretching for new frontiers - since at our core we have a basic need to dream and to seek out answers. Astronomy is unique and privileged among the sciences to have played a fundamental role in humanity's quest for new frontiers - extending from our earliest beginnings as intelligent creatures and continuing to the present. In the deepening colors of the evening twilight, as the first stars and the planetary wanderers began to appear, primitive man turned his attention to the heavens and perhaps to speculate on the character of the lights that appeared to fill the infinity of the night - to begin to wonder about his origins and the relationship of his world to the nighttime splendor. Whereas the most primitive cosmologies, or search for one's place in the universe, were probably not documented, the early observation of the heavens was documented as early as 30,000 BC as lunar cycles carved into animal bones. As civilization and culture grew, so did the oldest of sciences through the meticulous observation of the diurnal and annual motion of objects in the heavens, coupled with the development of rich cosmologies and mythologies.

Images from Avebury and Stonehenge.
Images credit: Andy Burnham.

Image credit: Ron Lussier
Astronomical observation was the tool by which time and calendars were kept, and insight into the natural world was developed, nurturing the infant sciences of mathematics and physics. This powerful lure of the heavens is still present in the modern society, even though most don't take the time or have the opportunity to recognize it unless one can escape from the light-polluted cities - if even only in a local planetarium. Both the child in the planetarium as the lights dim and the astronomer high atop a mountain suspended between the desert haze far below and the twilight palette above will feel the same mesmerizing wonder about the vault of the heavens. In this way we are all alike, and in many ways unchanged from the first primitive intelligence to view the night sky. Karen Meech will discuss the basic ideas of ancient astronomies - Archaeoastronomy in this session and relate them to our understanding of the celestial sphere.

Additional Archaeoastronomy links are found here.

Location - New Lecture Hall

Participation Matrix

Subject Astr Phys Math Chem Env Bio
Level Novice Intermediate Advanced
Target Group Teachers Students  
X X  
Prerequisites None

This page has been visited times since March 2000.
Last Updated on June 8, 2000
Karen Meech, Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii