The Imagined Sky - Cultural Perspectives - Darrelyn Gunzburg

The Imagined Sky - Cultural Perspectives - Darrelyn Gunzburg

The Strange History of British Archaeoastronomy

The Imagined Sky - Cultural Perspectives - Darrelyn Gunzburg

Ronald Hutton [+-]
University of Bristol
Ronald Hutton is Professor of History at the University of Bristol. He is a leading authority on the history of the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on ancient and medieval paganism and magic, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs. He is also the leading historian of the ritual year in Britain and of modern paganism. His paper The Strange History of British Archaeoastronomy was published in 2014 in the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture.


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.

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Hutton, Ronald. The Strange History of British Archaeoastronomy. The Imagined Sky - Cultural Perspectives. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 1-22 Jun 2016. ISBN 9781781791684. Date accessed: 25 Jun 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.22667. Jun 2016

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