Tuesday 13 Oct, 2020, Time 4 - 6 pm BST
Tuesday 10 Nov, 2020, Time 4 - 6 pm GMT
Tuesday  8 Dec 2020, Time 4 - 6 pm GMT
Tuesday 12 Jan, 2021, Time 4 - 6 pm GMT
Friday 12 Feb, 2021, Time 4 - 6 pm GMT
Friday 12 Jan, 2021, Time 4 - 6 pm GMT

Where: Online via Zoom

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An Online Event!

Programme Schedule

Tuesday, October 13th 2020. 4.00 – 6.00 pm BST

Carolyn Kennett: Insights into the Skyscape at The Hurlers Stone Circle Complex, Cornwall: Mapping the Sun and Reading the Hurlers.

The Hurlers stone circle complex lies in a landscape which is rich in megalithic remains, a granite upland of south east Bodmin Moor. Surrounded by funerary and ceremonial sites; standing stones, stone rows, stone cairns, barrows and stone enclosures; the monument was clearly a major hub in prehistory. This is a rich and uniquely well-preserved early prehistoric upland landscape which includes Cornwall’s largest barrow, Rillaton Barrow, where a unique gold cup was found in the early 19th century. In the 1930s the Hurlers were excavated, but the results were never fully published. Reappraisal of these archives by archaeologists led to two community archaeology projects Mapping the Sun (2013) and Reading the Hurlers (2016). It was an opportunity to have archaeologists, geologists and astronomers work together with volunteers to find out more about the monument. New insights into the construction of the monument have been gained. This talk will consider ancestral links with the sky and how this sits alongside a new landscape narrative and illuminating monument biography. It will also explore the way the Hurlers may have been modelled to work with transformational skyscapes.

Read the biography of Carolyn Kennett.

Alejandro López: Through the eyes of the living. The study of present societies and the future of cultural astronomy

In this lecture we aim to discuss the contributions and possibilities of ethnoastronomy as a subfield of cultural astronomy, from our long term experience in this area. The development of what we know today as cultural astronomy was first dominated by the influence of the history of astronomy and then by archaeoastronomy. Ethnoastronomical studies, in general, have played a secondary role in the overall picture. This is true not only in terms of visibility within the field, but especially in terms of their impact on the methodological development of this interdisciplinary area. We believe that this is a great problem, which deprives the general debate on cultural astronomy of a lot of methodological tools, fresh perspectives and possible areas of impact on the contemporary debate. We will outline some of these characteristics and contributions of ethnoastronomy that may be of great relevance to cultural astronomy as a whole. We will also discuss the challenges that ethnoastronomy represents for those who approach it from the diversity of disciplines and backgrounds that converge in cultural astronomy and consider the impact of various theoretical-methodological currents in the social sciences on the practice of this area of studies. Finally, we will point out the potentiality and challenges for the near future.

Read the biography of Alejandro López.

Tuesday, November 10th 2020. 4.00 – 6.00 pm GMT

Juan Belmonte: From Giza to Petra: land- and skyscapes of the ancient Middle East

The built environment is one the main cultural aspects of an ancient culture. Often, sacred and profane buildings reflected the worldview of the people erecting them. However, construction typology, style and technique are not enough to explain the close relationships between mind, soul and architecture. Two additional variables are to be taken into account: land- and skyscapes. Some of the most outstanding built environments cannot be understood without the landscape embracing them and the skyscape above them. Cultures born in the ancient Middle East are perfect reflections of these premises. After a brief visit to the pre-ceramic sanctuaries of Göbekli Tepe, we will concentrate on some of the wonders of human ingenuity. The behemoths erected by the Fourth Dynasty in Egypt will serve as a perfect first course for our purposes. Our menu will be complemented by such impressive Anatolian sites as Hattusha or Nemrud Dag. The rose city of Petra will be the icing on the dessert cake. A snapshot of a twenty year fieldwork story will show how these sacred sites cannot be understood without looking around, and especially without raising our heads to the firmament above.

Read the biography of Juan Belmonte.

Katya Stroud: A Neolithic World View Lost in Translation: Understanding the Megalithic Temples of Malta

The popular interpretation of Maltese Neolithic Temples is primarily based on ideas formulated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Social trends and perspectives on religion at the time determined academic and popular understanding of these sites and their cosmological aspects. These outdated misconceptions that, in their majority, are not supported by the archaeological record, remain commonplace despite the rise of more dynamic interpretations. In discussing these issues I shall be looking at a number of key artefacts retrieved from these Neolithic sites, looking at their popular interpretation and discussing alternatives based on related archaeological evidence.

Read the biography of Katya Stroud.

Tuesday, December 8th 2020. 4.00 – 6.00 pm GMT

Kenny Brophy: Megalithic overkill and knights on a chessboard: rescuing the multiple stone rows of northern Scotland from Alexander Thom

The multiple stone rows of northern Scotland are one of the most enigmatic classes of prehistoric monument in northern Europe. In the absence of serious archaeological engagement for most of the 20th century, these megaliths became increasingly defined by the eccentric theories of Alexander Thom who believed that they were complex lunar extrapolation sites, machines for monitoring the movement of the moon and predicting eclipses. Aubrey Burl (1993) noted that Thom believed that the multiple stone rows were ‘constructed as a template in which a person could move amongst the stones like a knight on a chessboard forward and sideways to a calculable backsight for a lunar event he could not see’. Despite this bizarre theory, until recently the official Historic Scotland noticeboard for one of these sites, the Hill o’ Many Stanes, told the public that this probably was a lunar device. My own excavations at Battle Moss multiple stone rows in 2003 debunked Thom’s theories (and informed a new noticeboard!). Furthermore, through analysis of Thom’s fieldwork notebooks, I have been able to shed light on Thom’s working approach, and the assumptions and biases that underpinned his survey work. In this talk I will discuss the shortcomings in Thom’s approach in relation to these unusual prehistoric monuments and suggest the role these sites played in Bronze Age society was rooted in the land and family, not the sky.

Read the biography of Kenny Brophy.

Marc Frincu: Revisiting the Armenian highlands. New discoveries and alternative theories

The Armenian highlands are home to numerous archaeological sites, many briefly investigated decades ago. Some, like the Qarahunj are internationally known and their archaeoastronomical purpose are highly debated. Others such as Muradsar, Sevsar, and Hartashen are less known and their relation to the sky has only recently caught the attention of researchers. In this talk I will revisit them in light of new discoveries while not overlooking existing theories. By investigating the surrounding landscape and skyscape I will outline a possible archaeoastronomical destination of these sites where the cosmos was seen as a whole comprising both heaven and the earth.

Read the biography of Marc Frincu.

Tuesday, January 12th 2021. 4.00 – 6.00 pm GMT

Georg Zotti: Stellarium for Cultural Astronomy Research

Over the past years, the open-source computer planetarium program "Stellarium" has gained functionalities which makes it very capable as a research and demonstration tool for cultural astronomy. Its sky simulation aims to be natural and also most computations are accurate enough for celestial simulations that may go back several millennia into the past. One easy way to enhance the immersive look and feel of observing from an interesting location is to display a horizon panorama, called "landscape" in Stellarium's terms. In this lecture we are going to explore several methods as to how such a landscape panorama can be created. If a static panorama is not enough, Stellarium can also work with 3D models. These combine a piece of local topography onto which a reconstruction or representation of the actual monument is placed, so we can then walk around and explore the site and experience celestial views and also light and shadow interaction. A model of a modern site with its architecture governed by key elements which are also frequently discussed in cultural astronomy is included in the download. We are going to explore this model and if time permits, I hope to also give you some outlines of model creation.

Read the biography of Georg Zotti.

Stanislaw Iwaniszewski: Relational fields in archaeoastronomy: the Mt. Tlaloc temple in Central Mexico

It has long been suggested that the ritual Aztec precinct located atop Mt. Tlaloc, in Central Mexico, was designed and constructed to have deliberate relationships with the surrounding natural landscape features. In particular, it has been argued that the temple was carefully located to ensure views of the rising and setting sun on calendrically important dates. Since ethnohistorical sources indicate that the Mexicans (Aztecs) created and maintained contacts with their skyscape features by rituals, these notions allow us to treat the precinct as a place where “a relational field” was once formed. The talk aims to show how Aztec ritual activity atop Mt. Tlaloc articulated the nature of the relationships between the human community and living skyscape.

Read the biography of Stanislaw Iwaniszewski.

Friday, February 12th 2021. 4.00 – 6.00 pm GMT

Ed Krupp: Uplifted and Transported: Encounters at Burro Flats, California

The Burro Flats Painted Cave Complex, one of the most elaborate and significant prehistoric rock art sites in California, hosts fetching winter-solstice and summer-solstice light-and-shadow events. The presenter was present for their discovery in 1979/1980 and between then and 2004, he systematically monitored the astronomical performance of the painted rock shelter and other nearby zones on 37 visits and also assessed the impact of the 17 January 1994 Northridge earthquake on the site. The astronomical dimensions of the site will be illustrated and described, including details learned in the field from 2011 to 2018 and since the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, where it's located, closed. This Chumash/Tongva archaeological site, near Chatsworth, California, is just a ridge away from the stands on which the huge moon-rocket and Space Shuttle engines were test fired. The test stands and the Burro Flats Painted Cave site, in fact, comprise the only place on earth where our modern world heritage in space converges with the prehistoric reach for the sky. The rock art and the test stands therefore make Burro Flats irreplaceably significant in the history of space exploration, in the history of NASA, in the history of California, in American history and in the history of the world.

Read the biography of Ed Krupp.

Steven Gullberg: Astronomy of the Inca Empire

Astronomy in the Andes was well developed by the time the Spaniards arrived in the Inca empire. This was due in large to the accumulation of knowledge through observations made by the many civilisations preceding the Incas. Astronomy was not simply observing and understanding celestial movement, however, as it was integrally woven into the very fabric of Andean existence throughout myth, cosmology and culture, thereby playing an important role in daily life. The Incas were a Sun-worshipping people and their emperor was said to be “the son of the Sun”. Their cosmology begins with the primordial rising of the Sun and also that of the Moon. In their astronomy they were aware of many stars and planets and paid particular attention to the Milky Way and the Pleiades. In a practical sense this knowledge was put to work via horizon astronomy as the Incas marked the passage of sunrises and sunsets on their horizons in order to keep time for agriculture and religion. Ultimately, celestial alignments were integrated into their temples and huacas, as well as with other constructs such as solar pillars built more specifically for astronomical purposes. This presentation will explore numerous aspects of the fascinating astronomy of the Inca empire

Read the biography of Steven Gullberg.

Friday, March 12th 2021. 4.00 – 6.00 pm GMT

Duane Hamacher: “It doesn't have to be like that” - Safeguarding Humanity from Stellar Erasure

Elders from cultures around the world explain that everything on the land is reflected in the sky. The stars serve as a map, a scientific text, a law book, and a memory space. Emerging research in collaboration with Indigenous and First Nations communities is revealing a wealth of knowledge about the movements of the stars and the myriad ways changes in stellar properties are “read” to interpret seasonal change, atmospheric conditions and much more. Western science is also realising that many of the “discoveries” attributed to European thinkers had been observed, understood and encoded to traditional knowledge long ago but was never given proper recognition or credit due to the casual dismissal of non-Western ways of thinking as “myth and legend”. But our connection to the stars, and the foundations of these ancient knowledge systems, are under constant threat. The advent of rapidly growing satellite networks overlapping the rapidly decreasing numbers of stars we can see due to light pollution is actively erasing this connection. This talk will discuss some of the ways the stars are a celestial map of the terrestrial world and why preserving the visibility of the cosmos is at the core of the human experience and is critical for our future survival.

Read the biography of Duane Hamacher.

Frank Prendergast: Light and Shadows in Antiquity—inferring meaning expressed in past materiality and practices

Our visual awareness of the universe relies on light acting on the eye to perceive materiality and colour. Post-medieval thought and understanding wrestled to articulate its nature. The notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, for example, included descriptions to define light and comparisons to differentiate between light and shadow. His focus was on the illumination of surfaces from the perspective of a painter. He perceived shadows as ‘the diminution of light by the intervention of an opaque body’ and being ‘the counterpart of luminous rays’. In his mind, a shadow ‘stood between light and darkness’, with darkness being ‘the absence of light’. The anthropological record provides another gateway to such enquiry, providing oral or textual evidence on the meaning of light and cast shadows in the belief systems of some cultures. In one such example recorded in the late nineteenth century, an observed reflection of self in water was regarded as the person’s spirit and, significantly, the shadow cast by the body was imagined as the person’s soul. But how might such phenomena have been comprehended and used in the prehistoric past? Without ethnographic evidence the answer is unknowable and any conclusions are potentially conjecture. Researchers strive to overcome such hurdles using a suite of scientific tools and reasoning, applied to a wide diversity of ancient architecture and constructs. This talk will use selected archaeological case studies of solar illumination and shadow casting to explore the qualitative duality of both phenomena.

Read the biography of Frank Prendergast.

Each Zoom session will consist of two 45 minute lectures, each followed by questions from the audience and the schedule is as follows:

Each lecture will last for approximately two hours. All sessions will be recorded and you will have access to the recordings for a month afterwards (useful if you can't join live).

The cost is £10 per session or £50 for all six.

For booking, please click here.

Please join us for a great chance to find out about skyscape archaeology worldwide.

With our best wishes

Liz Henty

Journal of Skyscape Archaeology

Nick Campion

Sophia Centre, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

The Journal of Skyscape Archaeology is the only academic journal in the world to explore the relationship between archaeolgical sites and the sky, stars and planets, including archaeoastronomy. The journal’s advisory board includes senior academics and researchers from across the field.

The Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture is a research and teaching centre at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. It examines the relationships between cosmology and culture through history, anthropology philosophy and archaeology. and teaches the Master’s degrees in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology and Ecology and Spirituality.

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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