Welcome to this issue of the Sophia Project News, dedicated to the work of the Sophia Centre at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and all our associated activities.
The winter solstice approaches in the northern hemisphere, heralding a time for feasting and festivals of rebirth.
In the southern hemisphere, the longest day is drawing near. And, in both, the seasons turn.
And to all, season's greetings from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Dr Nicholas Campion
Senior Lecturer, Sophia Centre
'Clavis coelestis' The Key to the Heavens.
Thomas Wright 1742. Library of Congress Archive.
Thick, Deep, Rich;
Researching Contemporary Cosmologies
By Dr Bernadette Brady
One of our compulsory modules in the MA Cultural Astronomy and Astrology is 'Researching Contemporary Cosmologies'. Many people associate the idea of research with the science of statistics. Research, however, has different forms and to borrow some words often associated with Albert Einstein, 'Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.' In this module, quite simply, we deal with researching that which counts but cannot be counted.
There are in fact two different types of research. The first is quantitative research, which deals with numbers. For example, there may be fifty people in a village and thirty-two believe that dreams tell them the future. Based on these numbers the quantitative researcher can produce the probability of any one villager believing in the efficacy of dreams. Yet there is more to learn about these dreams. Exploring the stories and beliefs of the people will reveal what Clifford Geertz called a 'thick description'. Such a description, which is rich with personal stories and thus filled with hopes and fears, can slowly allow the researcher to see through the villager's eyes. Only then can the researcher begin to appreciate the role that dreams hold for the group. Collecting this 'thick' description therefore provides a deeper understanding of people's beliefs and actions, not the 'what' but rather the 'why' people do as they do. This is the domain of the second type of research, qualitative research.
With the focus of this module being on this style of research it brings the cultural tools of anthropology to the study of personal cosmologies, the beliefs of the individual and how these beliefs inform their life. This blending of anthropology with cosmology provides a broad focus for possible areas of research, which is reflected in the variety of projects undertaken by the students. Some of these are: the example given earlier of a small group and their dreams, the attitude of astrophysicists to non-scientific cosmologies, the place of good luck charms in people's lives, the creative process of composers and performers, the beliefs of astrologers about the nature of the time when Mercury goes retrograde, and a small island community's relationship to the sky.
Furthermore, once the research is completed the best work is published in our student journal Spica. Thus they are contributing to the academic knowledge in the area of their research- the true aim of all research. Yet the research module does not end there, for the anthropological skills gained can then be transferred into other modules. The student, for example, learns an approach to 'interviewing' a stone circle, or how to record their own feelings while engaging with a starry night sky, or how to walk a landscape, ancient or modern, and have the eyes to see it, the questions to ask of it, and how to place their feelings into the academic discourse.
Additionally, with our global campus in the cloud, many students engage in the new emerging field of digital anthropology, using the environment of the cloud to communicate with others for their qualitative research projects.
Thus some students conduct their research through social media such as Facebook, Skype, emails or even text messages. Hence the module enables students to work in a variety of 'fields', for one students may sit in their local coffee shop and talk to the other regulars about their beliefs or thoughts on a subject, while another will be in the cloud engaging with an equally small group spread around the world. Nevertheless like the coffee shop students, they will also be collecting thick descriptions of their community.
I proudly and passionately teach this module with fellow anthropologists Dr Alie Bird and Dr Amy Whitehead and we run it once a year in the January through to May term.
Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic books, 1973.
 Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic books, 1973), 6.
The 2014 Online Open Day
The 2014 Online Open Day for the MA (Masters of Arts) in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David
Lampeter Campus. Wales.
Saturday 13 December 2014 Online 3 - 6pm GMT
New York: 10am - 1pm
Los Angeles: 7 - 10am
Cape Town: 5 - 8pm
Melbourne: 2 - 5am
To register, go to the Registration page
This unique MA is a global community of scholars and students and thus is taught totally online. The Open Day, chaired by Dr Nicholas Campion, is an opportunity for you to encounter some of the material of the MA while actually visiting our Online Campus. This half day event consists of four online seminars as well as a general introduction to the MA's programme. Apart from listening to the presentation you will have a chance to meet some of the tutors and ask questions.
The presentations are:
The Soul and the Horoscope - reflections of an ethnographer
Qualitative research, which includes collecting the beliefs and opinions of others, can offer insights into what would largely be considered unanswerable questions. One of the insights gained from my fieldwork with astrologers was the perceived relationship between the soul and the horoscope. How these astrologers understood this relationship had profound consequences for both the astrologer and the nature of the astrology they practiced. This presentation offers of these findings and thus offers a snap shot of astrology in our contemporary culture.
The 'Madonna of the Zodiac' as the visual intersection of astrology, theology and cartography in the fifteenth century
This presentation focuses on the cultural role of astrology in fifteenth-century religious cosmology through the lens of two particular pieces of art, the two images of the 'Madonna of the Zodiac' painted by Cosmč Tura (c.1431-1495). The central question applied to these pieces is: What were the astrological and theological circumstances of the mid-fifteenth century in which these two imagesof the 'Madonna of the Zodiac' came to be painted and what do the two paintings tell us about the religious-astrological tradition and its reception in the mid-fifteenth century.
Materializing Skyscapes: from prehistory to the modern world
When one looks up to the sky one doesn't experience the objective, mechanical and geometrical sky of modern astronomy; one experiences the sun, moon and stars in a very subjective and meaningful way that relates directly to one's culture - i.e. one experiences it as a "skyscape". All human societies engage with it, in one way or another, and since late prehistory some have tried to materialize it in the structures they built and associated rituals and belief systems. This talk will look at some of those structures - from megalithic passage graves to modern-day Manhattanhenge - and explore how they reveal a deep connection to the cosmos.
Grand Conjunctions in Medieval Astrology - The Rabbi, the Pope and the Black Death
Many of the astrologcial texts available to us from the medieval period are essentially textbooks full of hard and fast rules that do not provide insight into the practice of astrology. One remarkable astrologer, mathematician, theologian, philosopher and rabbi - Levi ben Gerson - does provide this insight. He wrote a report, apparently for the Pope, about a Jupiter/Saturn conjunction of 1345 that grants us a rare insight into the workings of a fourteenth century astrologer. This presentation looks at those techniques, and shows how assumptions by historians can skew the perspective that we have today of medieval astrology.
From The Book of Miracles an illustrated manuscript, which was created in the Swabian Imperial Free City of Augsburg around 1550.
Borchert, Till-Holger, Joshua P. Waterman, and Rebekka Elsässer. The Book of Miracles. Köln: Taschen, 2013.
The Steering Committee of the MA CAA AA (or in the words of Steve Judd, the MAC 4A) will be meeting close to Christmas to consider possible networking, promoting and funding mechanisms. We aim to have a structured plan in the March 2015 Newsletter. Meanwhile we are proud to announce the Alumni Association lecture at the Sophia Conference, news of which follows below.
We are also delighted to begin our short interview series with Alumni, 'Where Are They Now?', seeing what past Alumni are doing now and how the MA CAA has influenced their lives. We thank current student, Kate Namous, who is a trained journalist, for taking on the responsibility and, we hope, joy of managing these interviews. Our first interview is with a graduate from one of the MAC 4A's earliest intake when the MA CAA was situated at Bath Spa University, Faye Cossar. Faye is now a valued member of the Alumni Steering Committee.
Dr Darrelyn Gunzburg
Alumni Association Steering Committee
Alumni Association lecture
at the Sophia Conference
The Alumni Association Steering Committee has proposed, and the suggestion has been accepted by Nick Campion, that there be one lecture slot set aside each Sophia Conference for an Alumnus to present a lecture that is relevant to the theme of the Conference. Applicants still need to go through the formal application process but should indicate on their application that they are an Alumnus. This is to encourage all Alumni to continue researching. It also offers all MA CAA Alumni a platform at the Sophia Conference that acknowledges their educational pathway.
If this is something that interests you and you wish to apply to speak at this upcoming Sophia Conference Astrology as Art: Representation and Practice27-28 June 2015, as an Alumnus, then please send an abstract of 100-200 words and a biography of 50-100 words to Dr Nicholas Campion, School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology.
Deadline for applications to speak: 31 December 2014
Where are they now?
Photograph: Faye Cossar (front row second from right) at her graduation
In 2004, Faye Cossar was one of the first six students to graduate from the Cultural Astronomy and Astrology MA programme. As well as running an astrology school (www.asastrology.nl) and a private practice, Faye is now the founder and owner of Juxtaposition (www.juxtaposition.nl), a consultancy that uses astrological principles as a tool to advise businesses on a range of management, human resources, IT and PR issues, including management and branding strategy, positioning, and determining timing for mergers, campaigns and new product launches. In 2012, Faye published her first book, Using Astrology to Create a Vocational Profile.
Ten years on from gaining her MA, Kate Namous interviewed Faye to talk about the impact of the MA on her life and work.
KN: Why did you do the MA?
FC: At the time, I'd been a practicing astrologer for nearly twenty years, something I had combined with my work as a business consultant and my training in therapy. I really wanted to write a book and to be in an environment that would develop my writing and research skills - and give me a deadline, so I'd actually get down to work and start writing!
KN: What modules did you find most interesting?
FC: They were all interesting! For my optional modules I chose History, taught by Nick Campion and Stellar Religion, taught by Michael York, as well as doing the compulsory research and overview modules. The MA then consisted of four papers plus a dissertation. With a small number of students on the whole MA, of course the class sizes were small. Many of the students were so knowledgeable and academic and at moments I felt out of my depth. But what was fantastic was that we went to the pub after class and the discussion really got going - at that time the MA was taught at Bath Spa University College. It was amazing to be with a group of people who really wanted to discuss the topic. Everyone had his/her opinion and it really sharpened my thinking.
KN: How did the MA affect your attitudes to astrology?
FC: It clarified for me where my real strengths are, which is as a practicing astrologer. I am not particularly academic and the MA allowed me to discover and hone my strengths. The MA is one of the best things I've ever done, partly because of that, but also because it forces you to form an opinion and get straight about what you do, about what you believe and think. Also, after the discipline of writing all the essays, writing my book became so much easier. Another aspect is I learned to question all my sources, to check the accuracy of quotes. All this gave me a solid foundation for my research and writing.
KN: What did your dissertation focus on?
FC: My dissertation focused on a real-life question, because I wanted it to be relevant to my work. I researched the Huber life cycle to see if it could be applied to businesses, and developed what I call the 'Company Clock', which is based on a 72-year cycle, with 12 phases of 6 years each based on the order of the zodiac. Certain planets are triggered at certain phases in the life span of a company and this provides a framework for looking at organizational development. It's a very useful tool for understanding patterns and helping business achieve their potential.
KN: What doors have opened since doing the MA?
FC: The MA has been very useful in my work with business - just having an MA opens doors, it makes you look more professional and people tend to take you more seriously. Because this MA is the only one of its kind and it opens a dialogue with people - most people don't know you can do a programme like this- they find it fascinating and it becomes a great talking point. It also gave me the impetus to start my own business. It is fantastic that the Sophia Centre at the University of Wales at Lampeter is making the study of the cultural nature of astrology a serious academic subject.
KN: What books are you reading now?
FC: America in 1927 by Bill Bryson. I'm reading it with my 'astrology eyes' - it's got to be interesting astrologically - and he's funny. I also read papers published on The Scientific and Medical Network (www.scimednet.org), an interdisciplinary networking forum exploring medicine, science, philosophy and spirituality. Right now I'm reading papers on epigenetics (how genes are influenced by the environment), and placebo effects - the latter is about the role belief and thought play in healing. And.... Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter by Karl Kerényi et al. and Essays on a Science of Mythology by Carl Jung and Carl Kerényi, because I am researching for a book on Ceres. The MA certainly opened my eyes to authors I hadn't encountered before.
KN: Any new books in the pipeline?
FC: Yes, I'm researching different stories about Ceres, which has been upgraded from asteroid to dwarf planet status. In the 1800s it was considered a planet and was discovered before Neptune. Pluto is currently considered a dwarf planet by some and so Cees and Pluto are on the same level, which I find very interesting in terms of morphic field theory - 'as a bove so below!'. Ceres represents older women who are studied and wise, so my research includes interviews with older women of our times who are speaking out as activists and educators.
KN: Many thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Faye, and for your involvement with the Alumni Association of the MA CAA. We wish you all the best with your business and your book writing.
Sophia Centre Master Monographs,
University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Wales.
Tore Lomsdalen (2014)
This interesting book re-kindles a debate that started in 1980 with the publication of a report on the possible astronomical significance of the orientations of the prehistoric temples of Malta. That report showed that the orientations had a distinctive signature with a clear preference for directions between southeast and southwest, with one remarkable exception which triggered the debate. The Mnajdra South temple, which is one of a cluster of three temples at Mnajdra faces East and its central axis is undoubtedly directed towards sunrise at the equinox. This unique alignment immediately raised a question on whether it was intentional or merely a chance occurrence. Some effort has already been made to answer this question but Tore Lomsdalen's work is the latest, most focused and detailed attempt to resolve this issue and to go beyond it.
Before delving directly into the question of intentionality, the author introduces readers to the rich Maltese prehistory, which deserves to be better known. He starts with an overview of the first phase of human occupation when the first settlements appeared on the island around 5000 BC and some speculative ideas about the origins of the first settlers. This is followed by a brief review of the second phase (4100 - 2500 BC), known as the Temple Period, during which the prehistoric communities in various parts of the island built monumental megalithic structures of impressive dimensions. Naturally, the main focus is on the structure of the Mnajdra East, Middle and South temples. This is beautifully illustrated by a means of series of photographs, including some taken in 1868 and others taken by the author. He then turns to a review of ideas about the location of the temple sites in the landscape and how an analysis of their relationship to land and sea shows that the sites were chosen carefully. Previous work on the possible connection with celestial objects receives more attention with a mention of weakly supported conjectures, which were proposed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and a number of more recent systematic investigations of orientations.
Lomsdalen then proceeds to explain his comprehensive research methodology which included measurements of the orientations of several temples, observations and photography of sunrise at the spring and autumn equinoxes and at the solstices at Mnajdra, as well as the rise of Jupiter and the Moon at specific declinations to confirm his results and observations. However, little attention is given to stars and the possible connection with the tally stones in the East temple. Along with the orientations of the central axes of the temples, the author includes orientations of cross-jamb illumination at sunrise of what are considered significant areas of the temples particularly at the solstices and the equinox but also on cross-quarter days. Cross-jamb illumination refers to the lighting by the sun's rays entering diagonally through the doorway. A discussion of why this illumination was considered would have been appropriate since it is not normally included in archaeoastronomical research. Besides orientations, observations were made of oracle holes in the temple walls and post holes on the horizon to assess their possible astronomical significance.
The results confirm the known alignments with sunrise at the Mnajdra South temple and add new alignments at the Mnajdra Middle temple. With an array of supporting evidence at hand, Lomsdalen concludes that the South and the Middle temples are intentionally oriented towards sunrise on significant days of the year. The investigation is then taken a step further by suggesting how archaeoastronomy can assist in determining the construction sequence of the temple structure. In fact, from possible alignments with the sun and particular construction features in the various chambers and the entrance, Lomsdalen hypothesises that the South and Middle temples were built in five phases. This original hypothesis has potential for opening a new area of study which can be tested not only on other Maltese temples but also on prehistoric structures in other countries. In conclusion, this book is a valuable addition to the study of archaeoastronomy in Malta and to archaeoastronomy in general.
Reviewed by Frank Ventura, University of Malta
Photograph: The Spring equinox sunrise seen from inside the Mnajdra South Temple. Tore Lomsdalen.
The Star of Bethlehem:
Historical and Astronomical Perspectives.
October 23-24, 2014. Groningen
Chris Mitchell reports on this Two-day Colloquium
The Groningen Academy where the Colloquium was held
Given the traditional hostility between astronomers and astrologers, I was intrigued to see a conference - which I saw advertised on a history of astronomy e-mail list - hosted by the University of Gronigen to celebrate a double anniversary. 2014 is the 400th anniversary of the founding of the University of Gronignen, and is also the 400th anniversary of Kepler's 1614 work "De vero anno quo aeternus dei filius humanam naturam in utero benedictae Virginis Mariae assumpsit" about the true year of Jesus's birth in connection with the Star of Bethlehem, where he concluded that Jesus had actually been born in 4 BCE. The reason I was intrigued about this is that this conference, initiated by astronomers - those bastions of hard-core science - was bringing together specialists in astronomy, astrology, history and religion under one roof, in the splendid setting of the Academy building at the university.
The focus of the conference was the controversial theory espoused by astronomer, author and presenter Michael Molnar that the Star of Bethlehem was not the visually impressive astronomical event that it is normally depicted as, but an astrological configuration that would have been loaded with significance to astrologers of the time, such as the Persian Magi. Owen Gingerich, a former professor of Astronomy at Harvard, hailed Molnar's 1999 work as "the most original and important contribution of the 20th century" on the topic.
The list of delegates due to attend the conference was impressive: Molnar and Gingerich themselves; the historian of classical astrology Kocku von Stuckrad; Roger Beck, an expert on the Roman cult of Mithras; Bradley Schaefer, the historian of astronomy who rather controversially claimed in 2005 that the Farnese Globe, a marble statue in a museum in Naples, was actually the long-lost star catalogue of Hipparchus; David Hughes, the Sheffield professor of astronomy who published a survey of theories about the Star of Bethlehem in 1976 and is considered the leading expert on the subject; Antonio Panaino, a professor of Iranian Studies at Bologna; and a range of other speakers, together with a number of us delegates eager to hear the theories.
Unfortunately, some speakers were unable to attend, including Michael Molnar who had suffered an injury - a great pity, as much of the conference revolved around the theories espoused in his book "The Star of Bethlehem - the Legacy of the Magi", and which certainly divided the conference, with speakers like the author Aaron Adair and the professor of Iranian studies, Antonio Panaino, roundly criticising most of his conclusions, while Owen Gingerich was left trying to defend them in Molnar's absence.
Theories about the Star of Bethlehem fall into three broad categories: it was a divine miracle, beyond any attempt at scientific analysis; it was a visually impressive astronomical event, such as a supernova, a comet or a very close visual conjunction of bright planets; or it was an astrological event that wouldn't be noticed by most people, but which would have been laden with significance to an astrologer. The miraculous interpretation is not likely to be widely accepted by an academic scientific audience (although, unusually for a professor of astronomy, Gingerich is an evangelical Christian). Theories about astronomical events are verifiable and provide an interesting insight into historiographical methodology: firstly, anything impressive visible more or less worldwide was often recorded by other cultures, such as the Chinese observation of a supernova in 185 CE; secondly, even in the absence of written contemporaneous reports, modern astronomical techniques can identify remnants of supernovae even two thousand years after the event was visible. Although a supernova would be a good candidate for a visual Star of Bethlehem, there is no evidence that one appeared in the right time-frame. Comets did - indeed, Halley's Comet was visible in 12 BCE - but in classical astrology comets were generally considered bad omens, and not something to rejoice about. This leaves the third option, that the Star of Bethlehem was not a visual event, but an astrological one, and this was the main topic of the conference. Molnar's theory was that an occultation of Jupiter by the Moon in Aries on 17 April 6 BCE was the event in question, backed up by Firmicus Maternus's assertion that an occultation of Jupiter in Aries signified the birth of a divine king.
The problem of dating the Star of Bethlehem is that nobody knows precisely when Jesus was born, nor whether Persian Magi actually visited Bethlehem (one attendee pointed out that Persian emissaries walking into the Roman empire and declaring the birth of a new king would be tantamount to a declaration of war), and even if they did visit, the Gospel accounts of how old Jesus was at the time of the Magis' visit are ambiguous. It is also easy with hindsight to find any number of interesting astrological configurations over, say, a ten year period. Indeed, the astronomer Percy Seymour wrote a book at about the same time as Molnar and came up with some equally plausible arguments for a date of 15 September 7 BCE, Kepler used a series of Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions to argue for a 4 BCE date, and other authors with differing theories have all come up with different dates. Trying to judge which is the most plausible is a purely subjective exercise.
There is of course a fourth category for the Star of Bethlehem: perhaps it is simply a story without any basis in astronomy or astrology at all. After all, the biblical account only appears in the Gospel of Matthew, written at least 80 years after Jesus's birth, and even if there had been talk of some interesting configuration at the time, there is no guarantee that the details reported in the Gospel account decades later would be accurate enough to date the event. An astrologer friend also attending the conference whispered to me "why have none of them mentioned it might not be true?", and while such an Emperors' New Clothes moment might have caused some amusement, I don't think either of us felt brave enough as the token astrologers in the audience to play the role of sceptics in front of a group of hardened academic scientists!
Chris Mitchell MA
Chris Mitchell has an MA from Bath Spa University College in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology, and is currently studying for a PhD at the University Leicester where he is exploring how astrological of ideas from the Jewish and Islamic world found their way into Christian Europe in the twelfth century. He has spoken on medieval astrology at the various conferences in the UK and internationally, gives regular talks to local astrology groups, and holds a diploma in Medieval Astrology from Astrologos.
All Photos by Chris, including the University Foyer and the Delegates Meeting Room.
The SEAC 2014 conference in Malta
Malta was the host for the annual SEAC (European Society for Astronomy in Culture) 2014 Annual Conference held at University Campus Valletta, popularly known as the Old University Building, going back to the 16th Century. As a Venue it was a perfect setting for our gathering, with modern facilities located in an historical building in the heart of Valletta. Nearly 120 delegates coming from all over the world attended the 5 day conference which was official opened by Hon Dr Owen Bonici, the Maltese Minister responsible for Cultural Affairs.
The theme of the Conference was, Materiality of the Sky, which subdivided into the following areas:
- Cosmology and Cosmovision
- Maltese Archaeoastronomy
- Astronomical orientations
- Astronomy in Culture in Historical Times
- Egypt and Mediterranean
- Eastern Europe and Asia
- Myth, Symbols and their Meaning and a Poster Presentation
There were nearly 80 papers and poster presentations in total, divided into the above-mentioned classifications. After each session, time was set aside for discussion and at the end of the conference, a Panel discussion took place.
In this review, I find it appropriate to mention that more than 20 % of the total number of conference delegates actually were Sophia Centre related participants, including their companions.
Beside the scholarly side of the conference, there were also several tours and excursions visiting various prehistoric temple sites of which the main attraction for many was the observation of the Autumn Equinox Sunrise seen from inside the Mnajdra Temple. The general consensus from the delegates seems to be that the conference held a high scholarly level with a series of interesting presentations and was overall well-organized. Delegates left with an unforgettable experience of Maltese history and culture, and above all a memory of a friendly and hospitable nation. Welcome back to Malta!
Group photograph of SEAC delegates in the Temple of Mnajdra taken by Daniel Cilia
Tore Lomsdalen MA
Secretary to LOC
Poetic Astronomy in the Ancient Near East
Jeffrey L. Cooley
Jeff Cooley, Poetic Astronomy in the Ancient Near East: The Reflexes of Celestial Science in Ancient Mesopotamian, Ugaritic, and Israelite Narrative. (2013, Eisenbrauns; ISBN: 978-1-57506-262-4), 396 PP, $49.05.Read more
Mesopotamian astrology is the ancestor, or perhaps best to say, an ancestor, of the later traditions of India, Persia and the classical world. Jeffrey Cooley's book is a most welcome and innovative addition to the scholarly literature on the subject. Cooley is Assistant Professor in Theology at Boston College.
The key to the book's radical approach lies in its title. First, the complexity of categorising the material is used by the use of the twin terms, 'Poetic Astronomy', and 'Celestial Science': is Mesopotamian astrology, poetry or science, or is it anachronistic to distinguish the two? Second, Cooley extends the geographic and cultural range to the wider Near East, removing the boundaries between the Mesopotamian (and Ugaritic), on the one hand, and the Israelite, on the other. Cooley's subtly understated approach is actually part of a revolutionary challenge to the once solid line drawn between Biblical and Mesopotamian studies, a distinction challenged so well by Finkelstein in 1981 (Finkelstein, J, 'The Ox That Gored', Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 71, part 2, 1981, Philadelphia 1981)./p>
Cooley begins by considering the methodological complexity and literary history of previous scholarly studies, and here is where he attacks both of his targets in previous research: 'Science historians imagined science to be completely separate from and above historical and cultural considerations, while theologians rendered the Israelite God completely separate from and above nature and history' (p. 17). Cooley then positions himself within the more recent generation of scholars such as David Brown, Frank Cross, Mark Smith, Frederick Cryer and Ann Jeffers who, over the last couple of decades, have questioned rthe old consensus. The bulk of the book is then devoted to a close analysis of celestial texts from the three cultures in the title; Mesopotamia, Ugarit and Israel. I will just mention his conclusion that in biblical literature the celestial bodies act as agents. That is, within the context of early Jewish polytheism, they have autonomy as celestial members of God's pantheon, rather than being blind, mechanical instruments of his will.
Tomnaverie Paper Published
Congratulations to Sophia Centre PhD student Liz Henty, whose study of the Tomnaverie Recumbent Stone Circle in Scotland, has been published in Papers from the Institute of Archaeology.
The full citation is, Henty, L 2014. 'The Archaeoastronomy of Tomnaverie Recumbent Stone Circle: A Comparison of Methodologies'. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 24(1):15.
Click to read it online : Liz Henty, Tomnaverie.
The Archaeoastronomy of Tomnaverie Recumbent Stone Circle: A Comparison of Methodologies
Since the beginning of the 20th century the two disciplines of archaeology and archaeoastronomy have flirted with one another but there has never been a satisfactory marriage. This paper looks at the Recumbent Stone Circles of north-east Scotland to examine the methodologies and compare the results of both disciplines. In particular in focuses on Tomnaverie Recumbent Stone Circle which was excavated by Richard Bradley in 2005.
The paper details new archaeoastronomical research which departs from the traditional lunar narrative. The results suggest a new explanation for the orientation of the recumbent arrangement, an explanation which is more in line with the archaeology of the site. The use of detailed excavation data, the awareness of location and landscape and the integration of the sky with all its associated events, creates a multivalent approach to prehistoric archaeoastronomy which has no written history or ethnography to support cultural interpretation. This new approach (Silva, 2014; Henty, 2014) which moves archaeoastronomy away from orthodoxy and outdated paradigms could be better named as 'skyscape archaeology'; similar in scope to taskscape and landscape archaeology, but in relation to the sky.
1. Bradley, R. 2005, The Moon and the Bonfire: An Investigation of Three Stone Circles in Aberdeenshire. Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
2. Henty, L.2014, 'Review of the 35th Annual Conference of the Theoretical Archaeology Group, TAG 2013'. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 24 (1), 2. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/pia.453
3. Silva, F. 2014, 'A Tomb with a View: New Methods for Bridging the Gap between Land and Sky in Megalithic Archaeology'. Advances in Archaeological Practice: A Journal of the Society for American Archaeology. 2/1, 24-37.
Photograph: Tomnaverie Recumbent Stone Circle. Liz Henty.
Sophia Centre conference 2015 Call for Papers
University of Wales Trinity Saint David
The Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture,
School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology
Annual Sophia Centre Conference
Astrology as Art: Representation and Practice
27-28 June 2015
Venue: Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, Bath, England
Professor Hilary Carey, University of Bristol. Professor of Imperial & Religious History, University of Bristol.
Dr. Catarina Guenzi, Director, Centre d'Études de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud, Paris.
Astrology as Art: Representation and Practice
Astrology is often described as an art. However, the implications of this statement are rarely, if ever, discussed. At the same time the zodiac, stars and planets have often been a source of inspiration for artists. Yet the meaning of what is portrayed, and the intent of the artist, are rarely considered. In what sense is astrology an art, and in what ways does it become the subject of artistic representation?
This academic conference will consider the relationship between astrology and art.
We invite submissions for lectures of thirty minutes in two areas: the practice of astrology and the representation of images depicting, representing or referring to the zodiac, stars and planets in any media. Speakers are invited to consider the nature and definitions of art.
When considering the practice of astrology, questions might include the nature of astrological texts and the assumptions they reveal, the ways in which astrologers work with clients and identify meaning in the cosmos. When examining the depiction or representation of the zodiac, stars and planets, questions may arise concerning the nature of signification, symbolism, agency or magic. Submissions may tackle any period or culture: for example, Babylonian, Hellenistic, Medieval, Modern, Chinese, Indian or Mesoamerican.
Please send an abstract of 100-200 words and a biography of 50-100 words to Dr Nicholas Campion, School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, firstname.lastname@example.org
Deadline for applications to speak: 31 December 2014
The Programme will be confirmed by 31 January 2014
The Proceedings will be published by the Sophia Centre Press.
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