The goal of this course is to examine the role of astronomy and astronomers in early human cultures through an analysis of the scientific, historical, and social contexts in which these cultures existed. In addition, we will be studying the tools and techniques of astronomy, anthropology, and archeology, as each is applied to expanding the general body of knowledge about the lives of early peoples through the consideration of this single, narrowly defined topic. One of our tasks will be to develop a firm grounding in celestial mechanics as it is necessary for understanding the motions of the stars, planets, sun, and moon through the sky, as well as the appearance of rare events such as eclipses, comets, and supernovae. Concurrently, we will explore ancient astronomies of several past civilizations – Babylonian, Chinese, Mayan, Native American, Neolithic British, and others. Topics to be addressed will include cosmology and creation legends, cultural myths associated with celestial objects and events, the design and use of ancient calendar systems, ancient religions and the role of priests, and surveying and navigational techniques of early peoples. Throughout the course we will be paying special attention to the historical and archeological evidence, including discussions about the limits of our knowledge of these early cultures.
- Teacher: Matthew Beaky