Keynote Lectures in Skyscape Archaeology

Tuesday 23 Jun, 2020, Time 4 pm BST

Where: Online via Zoom

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An Online Event!

Sophia Centre Online Seminar

Skyscape Archaeology is a new way of exploring the relationship between people, land and sky, moving beyond the old discipline of Archaeoastronomy. It has been developed by teaching and research within the Sophia Centre, and by the Journal of Skyscape Archaeology. For an introduction read Fabio Silva’s blog post here. These lectures showcase some of the best work being done in the area from staff, students and graduates of the Sophia Centre in the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. We are proud to welcome Professor Kim Malville, one of the most distinguished scholars in the field, and Nicholas Campion, Programme Director of the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology.


Kim Malville

University of Boulder, Colorado and Sophia Centre, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Entangling the Cosmos: The Astronomy of the Ancestral Pueblos
III. Sacred Skyscapes and Medicine Bundles

The rising or setting of the sun and moon over sacred features of the horizon may have been experienced as performative rather than predictive events. They may have been hierophanies rather than horizon calendars or clocks. Building upon the ideas of Timothy Pauketat in his book "An Archaeology of the Cosmos" I suggest that the archaeoastronomy of the Ancestral Pueblos can best be understood as a bundling of the sun, moon, landscape, ritual, pilgrimages, great houses, and most of the other features we archaeoastronomers have studied. Such bundles, not individual alignments, are the key to accessing the sacred realms of Native American people. For many of them cosmic power resided in convergences of human bodies, souls, and objects, which were symbolically wrapped in a bundle. When opened the bundle became a portal to the seen and unseen superhuman powers in the cosmos. Experiencing a sunrise/sunset or moonrise/moonset from a special location may have been equivalent to the opening of such a bundle.

Fabio Silva

Bournemouth University

Passage Mounds: Symbolism, Skyscape and Ritual Sodalities

Passage mounds are a monumental architectural form that first appears in the Neolithic period. The earliest examples appear in Brittany around 4300 BC, followed by the UK and Ireland around 4000-3700 BC. They typically consist of one or more orthostatic chambers with a narrow access passage, which is covered in earth or stone. Some of the most famous examples include Newgrange, Knowth, Maeshowe, Barclodiad y Gawres and Bryn Celli Ddu. The intentions behind the sudden appearance and vast geographical distribution of this type of structure are one of the most hotly debated topics in prehistoric archaeology. That they were the site of ritual actions and possible worship is widely acknowledged, but the motivation behind their construction, the meaning of their architectural elements, and their dynamics of use remain largely inaccessible. This talk will provide a critical review of some of these themes while, at the same time, drawing attention to, and connecting, threads that have hitherto been largely explored in isolation. The potential role played by ritual sodalities ("secret societies") in the creation and use of prehistoric monuments, as suggested by recent ethnographic surveys, is presented as a possible unifying framework to push forward academic thinking surrounding these iconic structures.


The Key Concept lectures are part of the Sophia Centre's public outreach programme and draw on material in the University of Wales Trinity Saint David's programme in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. The programme is distance-learning and online and offers flexible options for study: take one or two modules as an Occasional Student, three modules for a Certificate, six modules for a Diploma and write a 15,000 word dissertation to gain the full MA. For further information e mail the Programme Director, Dr Nicholas Campion.

Welcome to the public outreach page of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, with information about studying with the University, as well as links to related conferences, classes, publications and events. To go straight to the Sophia Centre's University page please go here.

Lampeter Campus

University of Wales Trinity Saint David
Lampeter Campus
Ceredigion SA48 7ED
Tel: 01570 422351

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University of Wales Trinity Saint David
London Campus, Winchester House
11 Cranmer Road
London, SW9 6EJ
Tel: 0207 566 7600

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