Using This Book

The entries in this encyclopedia fall into three categories. First, there are those that elaborate upon some of the key themes and issues relating to ancient astronomy, many of which have been introduced above. They include, for example, LUNAR AND LUNI-SOLAR CALENDARS, PALAEOSCIENCE, and ASTRONOMICAL DATING. Other entries in this category relate to particular objects or phenomena in the sky and their cultural significance (for example, ORION and LUNAR ECLIPSES). Also included are broad definitions and explanations of key concepts (such as archaeoastronomy, cosmology, and alignment studies), brief descriptions of procedures and techniques (for example, field survey and statistical analysis), and a few people who have been important in the overall development of the subject, such as sir norman lockyer and ALEXANDER thom. The second category comprises case studies of a variety of types of human society, from hunter-gatherer groups to urban city-states, and spanning a chronological and geographical range that stretches from upper Palaeolithic Europe through Polynesia and other remote parts of the world prior to European contact. Though the case studies are far from exhaustive, they have been carefully selected to illustrate particular issues and themes, with an emphasis upon cultures and places that are less well known outside the specialist literature of archaeoastronomy. The final category of entries consists of short, nontechnical explanations of basic concepts like solstices, heliacal rise, and declination. At the end of each entry is a list of related entries divided into three parts: themes, case studies, and basic concepts. Straightforward definitions of terms are given in the glossary.

We have avoided drawing sharp divisions between ancient and modern—divisions that only serve to mask the rich variety of human ways of understanding and appreciating the sky. For this reason, we include topics such as church orientations and astrology, which extend into relatively recent and even modern times, together with examples of traditions that live on still among modern indigenous peoples, such as barasana "caterpillar jaguar" constellation, mursi CALENDAR, and PAWNEE COSMOLOGY.

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