A Tomb with a View: New Methods for Bridging the Gap between Land and Sky in Megalithic Archaeology

Authors: Parracho Silva, F.

Journal: Advances in Archaeological Practice

Volume: 1

Issue: 2

Pages: 24-37

The orientations of European prehistoric structures have been studied independently by landscape archaeologists and archaeoastronomers. Despite their similar interests, the two fields have failed to converge primarily because of their differing epistemologies. This paper argues that archaeology has much to gain by integrating the two fields to provide a fuller and more balanced exploration and understanding of the location and orientation of the European megaliths. It is suggested that prehistoric archaeoastronomy needs to become more grounded on the archaeological record and context of the prehistoric structures it studies. If it is to generate knowledge of value to archaeology it needs to become a “skyscape archaeology.” This paper looks at current archaeoastronomical approaches through the lens of archaeological practice. It identifies some limitations and discusses how landscape archaeology can inform archaeoastronomy on overcoming them. A methodology that attempts this necessary cross-fertilization, by shedding unfounded assumptions and developing a more phenomenological approach to pattern-recognition, is proposed. This methodology is applied to a case study in central Portugal. The emergent narrative, linking a cluster of dolmens to a local mountain range and the star Aldebaran, not only fits the archaeological record, but is mirrored by local folklore, lending further support to the validity of this methodology.

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