Symbolism and Archaeoastronomy in Prehistory

Authors: Parracho Silva, F., Pimenta, F. and Tirapicos, L.

Editors: Gontier, N., Lock, A. and Sinha, C.

Publisher: Oxford University Press

DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198813781.013.23


The study of how people engage with the sky is known as cultural astronomy, a term that comprises any field concerned with sky and culture, including the history of astrology, the history of astronomy, ethnoastronomy and archaeoastronomy. The latter focuses on analysing the archaeological record for evidence of past skyscapes, i.e. past forms of engagement with the sky and the celestial objects, and how they would feature in the cosmologies of the societies under study. In this chapter we explore the relations of prehistoric groups with the sky in their symbolic and conceptual implications. This is followed by six case studies from the western part of the Iberian Peninsula, representative of prehistoric contexts found in other parts of the world, that range from megalithic structures to rock art and caves. These case studies illustrate how prehistoric skyscapes provided not only spatial axes for the construction of structures that align with celestial objects and events but, perhaps more importantly, how they also served as temporal anchors moored to important environmental and social moments of transition.

Source: Manual