The Strange History of British Archaeoastronomy
Ronald Hutton [+]
University of Bristol
Between 1965 and 1985, British archaeologists found themselves obliged to study the skies as well as the evidence beneath the earth. The sciences of astronomy, mathematics, and statistics bore down on the study of prehistoric monuments as never before, and a series of impressive books and conferences explored the alignments and proportions of ancient ceremonial sites. A quarter of a century later, all this excitement has arguably evaporated. The four different disciplines have largely separated again, and prehistory has been handed back to the excavators. These developments can be characterised as the result of a series of complex relationships between established experts in British prehistory, academic scholars from other disciplines, and members of a radical counter-culture. Archaeoastronomy became presented as a challenge to the credentials of the established experts, and the apparent lack of absolute proof to its conclusions enabled them to reject it wholesale. In Britain it has effectively been handed over to the counter-culture in which it is retained as a tradition.