Abstract: Study of African and Australian Archaeoastronomy

Archaeoastronomy is the study of how past peoples have understood and used astronomical phenomena and incorporated them into their culture. Ancient architecture is commonly studied, as the majority of archaeoastronomical data emerges from the study of building alignments in relation to celestial objects. For example, Newgrange, a large tomb built in Ireland over 5000 years ago, contains an interior passageway which is illuminated near the winter solstice as the sun reaches a specific alignment with the tomb, resulting in a dramatic illumination of the tomb center which lingers for a few moments. The Governor’s Palace at the Maya site of Uxmal is aligned with the southerly rising of Venus, an event which occurs every eight years. Various artifacts are studied in the realm of archaeoastronomy, such as artwork depicting the heavens. Archaeoastronomy is a truly interdisciplinary field, frequently providing insight into various archaeological and anthropological studies. Research in archaeoastronomy provides new perspectives for the history of human interactions with the cosmos. As most well-known archaeastronomical studies are in Mesoamerica, Europe, and the Mediterranean, I intend to focus on two regions studied less frequently – Australia and Sub-Saharan Africa. I will begin my studies by gaining a broader understanding of archaeoastronomy by reading In Search of Ancient Astronomies by E.C. Krupp, which provides an archaeoastronomical overview of various cultures over a large range of time. Then, I will study numerous articles focused on specific topics within African and Australian archaeoastronomy studies, with the eventual goal of producing a presentation intended to introduce the topics of African and Australian archaeoastronomy to the layperson with limited knowledge of the subject.