Ancient Astronomy

An Encyclopedia of Cosmologies and Myth

by Clive Ruggles


Long before astronomy was a science, humans used the stars to mark time, navigate, organize planting, and dramatize myths. In fact, some lunar calendars may date back over 30,000 years. From Stonehenge to Angkor Wat, many of the world's most famous ancient monuments owe their existence to humanity's mastery of and reverence for the night sky.

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October 2005


Pages 518
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Science/General
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An authoritative introduction to the fascinating topic of archaeoastronomy—ancient peoples' understanding and use of the skies.

Ancient Astronomy: An Encyclopedia of Cosmologies and Myth draws on archaeological evidence and oral traditions to reveal how prehistoric humans perceived the skies and celestial phenomena. With over 200 entries, it offers a number of ways to approach ancient astronomy, from key examples and case studies worldwide (Stonehenge; Mexican and Egyptian pyramids; Chaco Canyon, New Mexico; the Nazca lines in Peru) to general themes (cosmologies, calendars, ancient ideas of space and time, origin myths), to fundamental concepts and methods (how the sky has changed over the centuries, how to survey a site), and to the field's most frequently asked questions (How did ancient peoples navigate the ocean using the stars? How does astrology relate to ancient astronomy? Can ancient sites be dated astronomically?)

By revealing the astronomical significance of some of the world's most famous ancient landmarks and enduring myths and by showing how different themes and concepts are connected, Ancient Astronomy: An Encyclopedia of Cosmologies and Myth brings a unique authoritative perspective to an area too often left to speculation and sensationalism.


  • Over 200 A–Z entries covering broad definitions and concepts, case studies from five continents, themes and issues, objects in the sky as the focus of myth, basic concepts, and influential people
  • Vibrant illustrations including the stone circles at Avebury, comets, novae, and meteors
  • Simple, jargon-free explanations of basic astronomical concepts
  • Over 40 images including the Stonehenge Heelstone at dawn; the Cosmic Axis at the Forbidden City, Beijing; the Temple of the Sun at Teotihuacan; Ahu Huri at Urenga, Easter Island; the Aboriginal stone configuration at Lake Bolac, Victoria, Australia; and more


  • Written by the world's foremost expert in archaeoastronomy (the only professor in the world to hold a chair in the subject)
  • Equally suitable for the general reader, subject specialist, or anyone eager to distinguish sound evidence and key themes of archaeoastronomy from unsupported speculation and common misperceptions
  • Worldwide coverage including descriptions of sites and practices that are linked to critical discussions of themes and issues
Author Info

Clive Ruggles is professor of archaeoastronomy at the University of Leicester, Leicester, England. His published works include Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland, which won an honorable mention in the Association of American Publishers' Professional/Scholarly Publishing Awards in 1999.



"Ancient Astronomy is a first-class introduction to this fascinating subject."The Observatory

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