ChapterPDF Available

Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy


Abstract and Figures

Whether the positioning of ancient Greek temples was deliberate and facilitated astronomical observations has been a concern for scholars since the nineteenth century. Twenty-first-century research on Greek archaeoastronomy has identified the shortcomings of earlier approaches and has built on a new methodology which integrates archaeological, epigraphical, and literary evidence on the astronomical observations, in order to create interpretations that improve our narrative, understanding, and reconstruction of the role of astronomy in ancient Greek cult practice.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Greek Temples and Rituals 140
Efrosyni Boutsikas
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1573
Astronomy in Ancient Greek Cult Practice .. ................................................. 1574
The General Orientation of Greek Temples .................................................. 1575
The Astronomy of Certain Festivals of Apollo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1576
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1579
Cross-References ............................................................................... 1580
References ...................................................................................... 1580
Whether the positioning of ancient Greek temples was deliberate and facilitated
astronomical observations has been a concern for scholars since the nineteenth
century. Twenty-first-century research on Greek archaeoastronomy has identi-
fied the shortcomings of earlier approaches and has built on a new methodology
which integrates archaeological, epigraphical, and literary evidence on the
astronomical observations, in order to create interpretations that improve our
narrative, understanding, and reconstruction of the role of astronomy in ancient
Greek cult practice.
Work carried out in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries focused on the precise
orientation of temples (calculated with an accuracy of a few minutes of arc) with the
aim to identify direct alignments with celestial bodies (stars and sun) seen to rise in
front of the temple. Studies linking the alignment of a star or the sun with the
E. Boutsikas
University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
C.L.N. Ruggles (ed.), Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy,
DOI 10.1007/978-1-4614-6141-8_155,
#Springer Science+Business Media New York 201
temple’s axis concluded that Greek temples were aligned to sunrise on the day of
the god’s major festival (Dinsmoor 1939, pp. 122, 133; Nissen 1873, pp. 527–528;
Penrose 1893, p. 380). Using these alignments and taking into account the preces-
sion of the equinoxes and/or changing obliquity of the ecliptic (see Chap. 31,
“Long-Term Changes in the Appearance of the Sky”), the argument was taken
further to produce a date for the temple’s construction to the exact day and year
(Penrose 1892,1893). The absence of contextual evidence to support these inter-
pretations resulted in arguments that were far from convincing. For example, the
Hekatompedon temple in the Athenian Acropolis was dated to 1150 BC, the temple
of Athena in Sounio to 1125 BC, and the Argive Heraion to 1760 BC.
A study of the role of astronomy in ancient Greek religious practice must involve
more than the direct orientation of religious structures; it must consider other
available evidence, archaeological and/or literary, and must incorporate the reli-
gious structures in their surroundings; both immediate (i.e., the spatial layout of
a sanctuary) and wider (i.e., landscape and skyscape). This results to a better
understanding of the ancient Greek experience and of the ways in which ancient
cosmological ideas were imbedded in religious practice. The layout and positioning
of Greek temples and altars is considered, but in conjunction with the timing,
nature, and associated mythology of the rituals taking place in these specific
Astronomy in Ancient Greek Cult Practice
Astronomical knowledge and practice in ancient Greece was not restricted to
specific classes or groups. The widespread use of astronomical observations in
navigation and agricultural activities is well attested from at least as early as the
seventh-century BC (e.g., Homer, Odyssey, 5. 269–81, Hesiod, Works and Days,
383). From the sixth-century BC onward, astronomy contributes to the develop-
ment of Greek cosmological ideas and beliefs (e.g., the Milesians), down to
the composition of fifth- and fourth-century BC cosmologies and philosophies
(e.g., those of Dimokritos and Plato) (see Chap. 137, “Greek Cosmology and
Cosmogony”). Despite these developments, archaeological and literary evidence
attest that the practical uses of astronomical observations continued to be part of
daily life. The use of mythology as a memory device for the constellations popu-
lating the ancient Greek sky meant that constellations were linked with ancient
Greek religion through catasterism myths. The extent of this is witnessed in myths
associated with cults, some of which included catasterism myths, while others had
astronomical references (e.g., the Hyades and Athenian cults (Euripides,
Erechtheus, fr. 370.71–74; Boutsikas and Hannah 2012)).
Beyond myth, astronomy was also linked to cult practice in terms of religious
timekeeping. This is well attested in epigraphical and literary sources and in
archaeological finds (see Chap. 139, “Ancient Greek Calendars”). Artifacts
such as parapegmata, calendars, and sundials recovered in religious sites would
have assisted in timekeeping (see Chap. 142, “Material Culture of Greek and
1574 E. Boutsikas
Roman Astronomy”). An example of this are the Hibeh papyri (third-century BC),
which recorded astronomical movements associated with religious festivals to
Athena, Prometheus, and Hera (Grenfell and Hunt 1906), while direct references
to the role of astronomy in Greek religious practice are also present in literature: the
inhabitants of Keos watched the sky for the arrival of Sirius and offered sacrifices to
the Dog Star and Zeus (Ap. Rhod. Argon. 2.516–27; Diod. Sic. 4.82.1–3; Theophr.
De ventis 14). The rite dates to at least the fourth-century BC (Davidson 2007,
p. 207). In later periods, the role of stars in Greek cosmology is explicit: there are
references to the divinity of stars (e.g., Plato, Timaeus, 41d–e, 42b; Chrysippus,
Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, 810–11, 813–15, 1076–7), although direct star
worship was not practiced in Greece. These beliefs would have influenced the
way the Greeks viewed themselves in the cosmos, and the role they believed their
rituals had in maintaining cosmic order. This latter concern was predominant in the
performance of rituals, which were aimed at linking the world of men with the
cosmos (the divine realm).
The performance of Greek religious rituals was the manifestation and expres-
sion of these beliefs, and the location where the rituals took place was the space
where these beliefs were enacted. Because rituals were open air, performed around
the altar, in front of the temple, the orientation of Greek temples has attracted much
interest. In terms of ritual though, the space in front of the temples, marked by the
altar, where all cult activity would have been directed and performed was of
greater significance. This activity took place usually during the night, when the
skyscape would have been directly visible and linkable to these performances. The
timing of these performances aimed at linking the cosmos to the sanctuary through
the rituals performed there. So the picture comprises of several elements: the exact
location chosen and orientation of the temple-altar group, which would have
directed the participants to viewing specific parts of the visible night sky; the
time of the day/night the rituals took place; the month in the year; the myths
associated with the cults and the specific rituals performed. All these elements are
of equal significance in recreating the ritual experience, which reaffirms religious
and cosmological beliefs, and helps us reconstruct ancient Greek cosmological
The General Orientation of Greek Temples
Common perception of the predominant eastern orientation of Greek temples
oversimplifies a much more complex pattern. Approximately 58% of Greek tem-
ples face toward the east (Boutsikas 2009), a much smaller percentage than that
previously thought (Dinsmoor 1939, pp. 115–116). In addition, no correlation
seems to exist between the orientation of temples and sunrise at the equinoxes
(Boutsikas 2009, p. 10), an unexpected occurrence if interpreting the orientation of
Greektemplesinrelationtothesun.Amuchlarger variation is present that cannot
be simply explained in terms of the orientation of Greek temples to the rising
sun (e.g., ca. 26% of temples have a southern orientation). As a result,
140 Greek Temples and Rituals 1575
all-encompassing interpretations do not apply to Greek temples. More contextual
evidence is needed that considers local variations, traditions, and landscapes in
Greek cult, in order for archaeoastronomical analyses to make sense and improve
our narrative.
The Astronomy of Certain Festivals of Apollo
Archaeoastronomy of the current era has moved beyond direct decontextualized
alignment studies. It has in recent years become a subdiscipline that can contribute
to our understanding of ancient cognition. The site of Delphi and rituals in ancient
Greece that were associated with the Delphic oracle are distinct examples of this.
Earlier research associated the temple of Apollo in Delphi with the rising sun and
the heliacal setting of stars of bLup and kCen (Penrose 1896, pp. 384–385), later
corrected to be associated with the heliacal setting of eCMa (Penrose 1900,
pp. 612–613). These links were based solely on the alignment of the temple and
considered no contextual evidence for the festival time or associated myths.
The timing of the operation of the Delphic oracle, the Pythian Games in Delphi
and Apollo’s birthday and his return to Delphi at the end of his stay in the land of
the Hyperboreans overlapped with the timing of the major astronomical phases of
the celestial dolphin, the constellation of Delphinus (ancient Greek for dolphin)
(Table 140.1). According to the Delphic foundation myth, Apollo transformed into
a dolphin and then to a shooting star to guide the Cretan sailors to his oracle
(Homeric Hymn to Apollo, 399–401, 440–443). The temple of Apollo in Delphi
faces an unusually high horizon of 25–27, resulting to the delay in observing the
rising of celestial bodies from this location by ca. 2 weeks (Fig. 140.1). The annual
operation of the Delphic oracle, on Apollo’s birthday, on the seventh of Bysios (our
February), was the first full month in which Delphinus was visible in the Delphic
sky after its heliacal rising. Observing Delphinus’ heliacal rising and setting across
Greece could act as the signifier of the period of the oracle’s consultation (Salt and
Boutsikas 2005). The delayed viewing of the heliacal rising of the constellation in
Delphi by 2 weeks compared to a lower horizon would offer advance warning for
visitors travelling from across the Greek world to consult the oracle, in order to
arrive at the oracle on time for the annual consultation. Likewise, the Delphic
Pythia festival held in Boukatios (C.I.A. 2.545) was timed on the first month after
Delphinus’ cosmical setting (Table 140.1).
For the Athenian delegation to depart for the annual consultation of the Delphic
oracle from Athens, the Pythaistai group spent 3 days and nights in each of
3 months watching the sky in anticipation of a divine sign (a lightning) (Strabo,
IX.2.11). The watch lasted from late Boedromion (our October) to Poseideon
(December–January) (Lambert 2002, p. 392) and can be associated with the move-
ment of Delphinus; the end of this period overlaps with Delphinus’ heliacal rising
and setting as visible in lower horizons, as is that of Athens (Boutsikas 2013). This
is the only time in the year when Delphinus is seen to set in the west toward the
direction that the Pythaistai were observing (Strabo, 9.2.11). A second occurrence is
1576 E. Boutsikas
Table 140.1 The timing of relevant festivals and sacrifices against the movement of Delphinus
Attic months
months Delian months
of Delphinus
Hekatombaion Apellaios Hekatombaion Cosmical
(6–8 August)
Metageitnion Boukatios Metageitnion Pythia, Delphi
Boedromion Boathoos Bouphonion Beginning of
Pythaistai watch
(end of month)
Pyanepsion Heraios Apatourion October–
Maimakterion Daidaphoros Aresion November–
Poseideon Poitropios Poseideon End of Pythaistai
watch (end of
(1–3 January)
(3–5 January)
Gamelion Amalios Gamelion Sacrifices to
Delphinios in
Erchia (7th–8th)
rising in
Cities start
choruses for the
Anthesterion Bysios Hieros Delphic oracle
operation/ Delia
or Apollonia in
Delos (7th)
Elaphebolion Theoxenios Galaxion March–April
Mounychion Edyspoitropios Artemision April–May
Thargelion Herakleios Thargelion Sacrifice to
Apollo in Erchia
(1–3 June)
Athens (7th) (to
Birthday of
Apollo, Delos
Skirophorion Ilaios Panimos Daphnephoria,
rising in
(15–17 June)
140 Greek Temples and Rituals 1577
that of Erchia, another Greek city, which offered sacrifices to Apollo Delphinios
annually on the seventh of Gamelion (January–February), before a procession
departed for Delphi to consult the oracle. This timing overlaps also with the
observation of Delphinus’ heliacal rising from the lower horizon of Erchia. The
Athenian delegation and the Erchian procession would have departed for Delphi as
soon as the heliacal rising of Delphinus became visible from these horizons.
The same event would become visible in Delphi approximately 2 weeks later,
and the oracle would offer consultation on the first month after this, allowing
enough time for oracle seekers to arrive in Delphi on time for the consultation.
Of equal interest is the festival of the Daphnephoria celebrated in Delphi and
Thebes and focusing on Apollo’s cosmological attributes. The festival included
a procession that carried symbols of the sun, moon, and planets (Proclos,
Christomatheia). The timing of the Delphic Daphnephoria was a month later to
that of Thebes. Both festivals occurred at the time of Delphinus’ acronychal rising,
as visible from each location (i.e., delayed in Delphi).
The other major Greek sanctuary of Apollo was in Delos and had close associ-
ations with Delphi. The most important festival of Apollo in Delos was called Delia
(or Apollonia). The temples of Apollo in Delos are oriented SW, to the opposite
direction of that in Delphi, toward the setting point of Delphinus (Fig. 140.2).
Fig. 140.1 The horizon of
the temple of Apollo in
1578 E. Boutsikas
Starry symbolism is also present in the foundation myth of Delos: Asteria (She-
star), trying to avoid Zeus’ advances, leapt from heaven in the shape of a star,
turning into Delos upon her arrival on earth. Asteria was the deity of the altar of
Apollo’s temples in Delos (Kallimachos, Hymn to Delos, 312). The temples of
Delphi and Delos then are orientated toward altars dedicated to gods who in myth
changed temporarily to a star, before landing on the sacred spot. Apollo’s birthday
in Delos was different to that in Delphi, on the seventh of Thargelion (May–June)
(Diogenes Laertios, 3.2), but here too, it was timed during a significant phase of the
constellation of Delphinus (Table 140.1). The choruses the Greek cities sent to
Delos for the Delia needed to depart well in advance of the festival. The cities had to
start preparing for the departure of the choruses in early spring, and based on
ancient references (Theognis, 775; Dionysios Periegetes, 527), the beginning of
this preparation is calculated to sometime between February and March (Farnell
1907, p. 289–290), i.e., approximately in the first month after Delphinus’ heliacal
rising and heliacal setting (Table 140.1). The sacrificial calendar of Athens agrees
with this timing, as it records the departure of the theoˆria for Delos in early
Anthesterion (Fragment 8.2; Lambert 2002, p. 393), approximately a month after
the constellation’s heliacal rising and setting in the Attic horizon.
The end of the Pythaistai watch, the timing of the Erchian sacrifices to Apollo,
the Thargelia in Athens, the timing of Daphnephoria (in Thebes and Delphi), the
beginning of the preparations for the Delia in Delos, and the Pythia in Delphi
overlap with all four phases of Delphinus (Table 140.1)
Epigraphical evidence confirms that Delphinus was recognized and used as
a calendrical marker in ancient Greece, but also that these phases were known to
and watched for by the ancient Greeks. The first three phases were recorded in the
parapegma of Geminos (first-century BC) (Evans and Berggren 2006). Delphinus is
also mentioned in the two earlier parapegmata of Demokritos and Euktemon, which
date to the fifth-century BC, testifying that the constellation was known to the Greeks
and was used for calendric purposes from at least as early as the Classical period.
Past approaches and methodologies were viewed with suspicion by scholars,
because they contained no contextual evidence for the proposed astronomical
Fig. 140.2 Horizon of Delian temples
140 Greek Temples and Rituals 1579
links (Boutsikas and Ruggles 2011, pp. 56–60). By enriching archaeoastronomical
data with literary and archaeological evidence, we are in a position to explain the
importance and reasons why such a practice may have been used by the Greeks.
Such considerations improve our understanding of the culture and our reconstruc-
tions of Greek religious practice and cosmological beliefs.
Archaeoastronomy in Greek religion has greater potential when targeting spe-
cific cults as opposed to analyses of data in terms of general trends. Although this
latter type of analysis is valuable for preliterate cultures, in Greece, where there is
an abundance of literary and epigraphical evidence, archaeoastronomy can achieve
contextual interpretations. This type of analysis is significant also because it
manages to blend our knowledge of the development of Greek astronomy with
the application of this knowledge in Greek daily life.
More work in this field will improve our knowledge of the extent of the practices
discussed here. Investigations that consider spatial movement within the sanctuary
during the time the festivals were held will offer a better understanding of the
experience of the ancients who participated in these rituals, while investigations
dealing with sites where the Greeks worshipped their gods in the same space as non-
Greeks will enlighten on interactions and influences between cultures.
Analyzing Orientations
Ancient Greek Calendars
Calendars and Astronomy
Concepts of space, time, and the cosmos
Greek Constellations
Greek Cosmology and Cosmogony
Orientation of Egyptian Temples: An Overview
Boutsikas E (2009) Placing Greek temples: an archaeoastronomical study of the orientation of ancient
Greek religious structures. Archaeoastronomy: the Journal of Astronomy in Culture 21:4–19
Boutsikas E (2013) Landscape and the Cosmos in the Apolline rites of Delphi, Delos and Dreros.
In: Pothou V and K
appel L (eds) Human Development in Sacred Landscapes. De Gruyter
Verlag, Berlin (in press).
Boutsikas E, Hannah R (2012) Aitia, astronomy and the timing of the Arrhe¯phoria. The Annual of
the British School at Athens (in press).
Boutsikas E, Ruggles CLN (2011) Temples, stars, and ritual landscapes: the potential for archaeo-
astronomy in ancient Greece. Am J Archaeol 115(1):55–68
Davidson J (2007) Time and Greek religion. In: Ogden D (ed) A companion to Greek religion.
Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, pp 204–218
Dinsmoor WB (1939) Archaeology and astronomy. Proceedings of the American Philosophical
Society 80:95–173
1580 E. Boutsikas
Evans J, Berggren JL (2006) Geminos’s introduction to the phenomena. A translation and study of
a hellenistic survey of astronomy. Princeton University Press, Princeton
Farnell LR (1907) The cults of the Greek states, vol IV. Clarendon, Oxford
Grenfell BP, Hunt AS (1906) The Hibeh Papyri. Pt. 1. Horace Hart, Oxford
Lambert S (2002) The sacrificial calendar of Athens. The Annual of the British School at Athens
Nissen H (1873)
Uber Tempel-Orientierung: Erster Artikel. Rheinisches Museum 28:513–557
Penrose FC (1892) A preliminary statement of an investigation of the dates of some of the Greek
temples as derived from their orientation. Nature 45:395–397
Penrose FC (1893) On the orientation of Greek temples. P Roy Soc Lond 53:379–384
Penrose FC (1896) Note sur l’orientation du temple de Delphes. Bulletin de Correspondance
´nique 20:383–385
Penrose FC (1900) Orientation des temples grecs. Delphes. Te
´e. De
´los. Bulletin de
Correspondance Helle
´nique 24:611–614
Salt A, Boutsikas E (2005) Knowing when to consult the oracle at Delphi. Antiquity 79:564–572
140 Greek Temples and Rituals 1581
Full-text available
The Romanesque churches dotted along the Way of Saint James are magnificent examples of cultural heritage, and their analysis from the perspective of cultural astronomy may, in an unobtrusive manner, provide information of hitherto unexplored facets of these treasures. This study aims to examine the pilgrimage road as a communication channel and to seek possible regional variations in the Christian kingdoms of Leon, Castile, Navarre and Aragon. Seen as a whole, the Romanesque churches of our sample present two main orientation patterns: towards either the ecclesiastical and astronomical equinox or to certain Easter Sunday celestial phenomena. However, equinoctial orientations are present only in Leon and Navarre, while Easter appears with more or less significance in every kingdom. The Camino de Santiago constitutes a sacred landscape with a common heritage, with a certain degree of cultural diversity that depends on the territory. These subtle differences have surfaced only in light of archaeoastronomical investigations.
Efrosyni Boutsikas, Stephen C. McCluskey and John Steele (eds), Advancing Cultural Astronomy: Studies In Honour of Clive Ruggles Springer International Publishing, 2021. Hardback 319 pages, illustrated, ISBN: 978-3-030-64605-9. £109.99; eBook 978-3-030-64606-6. £87.50.
Over the past decade the free and open-source cross-platform desktop planetarium program Stellarium has gained not only most of the computational accuracy requirements for today’s amateur astronomers, but also unique capabilities for specialized applications in cultural astronomy research and astronomical outreach. A 3D rendering module can put virtual reconstructions of human-made monuments in their surrounding landscape under the day and night skies of their respective epochs, so that the user can investigate and experience the potential connection of architecture, landscape, light and shadow, and the sky. It also played a key role in an exhibition about Stonehenge in Austria. Exchangeable “skycultures” allow the presentation of constellation patterns and mythological figures of non-Western cultures. Stellarium’s multi-language support allows community-driven translation of the whole program, which predestines its use in education also in minority languages. Stellarium is developed by a very small core team, but is open to external contributions.
Full-text available
This paper provides a brief overview of the many facets of astronomy education and heritage, and how the IAU stimulates them. Activities range from training in astronomy through scientific meetings and schools for young astronomers, to using astronomy as a tool for development and for stimulating science education at school level. Communicating astronomy with the public and engaging in outreach activities with children to inspire curiosity is yet another way of how astronomy can help build a literate society and install a sense of global citizenship. The involvement of many people at all levels is key to success.
We present the data related to the revealed astronomical oldest observatories at the territory of Ukraine and describe briefly the principles of observations which could be realized at these sites with usage of megalithic stones. Among these oldest observatories are as follows: the stone complex at the Lysyna Kosmatska mountain (Charpatian region); Bakhchysaray Menhir in Crimea; a complex of shafts at the Mavrin Maidan near Pavlograd city.
Native and Indigenous peoples’ critiques of archaeological research address both methodological approaches to data recovery and the way data is interpreted. This paper addresses two such critiques concerning invasive excavation methods and static interpretations of the past. The authors argue that non-invasive archaeological techniques such as mapping are beneficial when investigating sacred sites. In addition, this paper argues that interpretations of data should not only rely on standardized categories for identification but also consider the specific environmental, historical, and cultural context of sites. This paper takes as a case study the investigation of pre-Contact Keahuamanono heiau (place of worship, shrine) in Haleakalā National Park, using plane table mapping paired with ethnohistorical data to interpret the structure within its local context. The resulting evidence supports the interpretation that Keahumanono heiau does not neatly fit into any existing Hawaiian heiau categories and was most likely used for celestial and political observation.
Full-text available
Emerging forms of alternative or even niche tourism represent a dynamic trend in tourism development. Astrotourism is completely off the beaten path. The aim of this study is to provide a deeper insight into this phenomenon. It strives to reveal motivations, experiences, and perceptions of its participants. It also aspires to propose its complex definition as an activity including both terrestrial astrotourism and space tourism. It is suggested to perceive it not only as a form of alternative and/or niche tourism, but also that of mass and professional tourism. To reach these objectives, the authors analyzed relevant published studies and astrotourism products presented on relevant websites and social media. They elaborated the collected secondary data by mental mapping and the comparative analysis of terrestrial and space tourism products. Moreover, the authors collected primary data through a survey with open-ended questions addressed to persons interested in astrotourism and through semi-structured interviews with terrestrial astrotourism participants and personalities. The results provide insight into both the specifity and variability of astrotourism and their typical products, as well as a discussion of their future trends. They also bring a motivation spectrum for the astrotourism participants and benefits perceived by them.
Ihad been sitting in a coffee shop in Reykjavik, Iceland, cycling through my photographs of the aurora borealis from the night before in Njardvik, when a man at the next table struck up a conversation. Recognizing his familial ties to the location in my photographs, he began to share stories that his grandfather told him as a child regarding the often-seen, but still mysterious, northern lights. The story I was told that day, and stories shared with me while visiting northern and remote Indigenous communities in Canada, inspired me to write this paper.
Using computer simulations, this paper explores and quantifies the accuracy and precision of two approaches to the statistical inference of the most likely targets of a set of structural orientations. It discusses the curvigram method (also known as kernel density estimation or summed probability distribution) in wide currency in archaeoastronomy, and introduces the largely unutilised maximum likelihood (ML) method, which has popularity in other academic fields. An analysis of both methods’ accuracy and precision is done, using a scenario with a single target, and the resulting equations can be used to estimate the minimum number of surveyed structures required to ensure a high-precision statistical inference. Two fundamental observations emerge: firstly, that although both approaches are quite accurate, the ML approach is considerably more precise than the curvigram approach; and secondly, that underestimating measurement uncertainty severely undermines the precision of the curvigram method. Finally, the implications of these observations for past, present and future archaeoastronomical research are discussed.
Full-text available
p>This paper describes developments in virtual archaeology that started in a research project about the possible astronomical entrance orientation of Neolithic circular ditch systems (German Kreisgrabenanlagen, KGA) of Lower Austria. Starting from data analysis in a Geographical Information System (GIS), we will cover a simple way of modelling, and discuss three ways of visualisation for the combination of landscape and human-made buildings together with celestial objects. The first way involves extensions to the modelling program SketchUp to bring in just enough astronomical data for scientific evaluation. The second introduces a set of extensions to the open-source desktop planetarium program Stellarium, which can meanwhile be used to load a standard 3D model format to allow detailed research in astronomical orientation patterns, and light-and-shadow interaction over many millennia, even for researchers less familiar with astronomical programming. The third presents a “serious gaming” approach, which can provide the most natural view of the landscape, but requires at least some, if not deep, familiarity with astronomical and 3D computer graphics programming and, therefore, due to this considerably larger effort, appears to be mostly useful for outreach of high-profile results to the public. The entrances to the KGA of Lower Austria turned out to be mostly oriented following a purely terrestrial pattern of up- and downward sloping terrain, but with one noteworthy exception. Highlights: Virtual archaeology can help to better understand archaeological remains embedded in the landscape. Occasionally, the “landscape” concept must be extended to include the celestial landscape. Open-source development allowed the combination of a desktop planetarium with 3D landscape and architecture visualisation. Also, datable changes in the landscape can meanwhile be simulated. Astronomical elements added to a game engine can also be used to faithfully provide important insights while providing the most appealing visualisation environments so far, but with considerably more effort. </ul
Full-text available
The study of astronomical knowledge and observations in ancient cultures has enabled and enriched archaeological interpretations in contexts as diverse as pre-Columbian America, later prehistoric Europe, Egypt, Babylonia, and the Far East. The application of archaeoastronomy to the study of ancient Greek religion has been less successful and has been hampered by poor practice. Through a case study that investigates the astronomy in Alcman's Partheneion and its possible relationship with the Artemis Orthia rites carried out at her sanctuary in Sparta, we aim to show that a robust and methodologically sound archaeoastronomical approach can contribute to a better understanding of the role of astronomy in Greek religious practice and perceptions of the cosmos.
The cities of Greece had their own calendars, so how did they all know when the god Apollo had returned from the northern realms and it was time to consult the oracle at Delphi? The authors show that the heliacal risinig of the constellation Delphinus probably provided the annual marker, and that because of the mountains it appeared to rise a month later at Delphi than elsewhere, giving would-be visitors time to travel. The landscape of Delphi was itself instrumental in creating or enhancing the cosmology of Apollo.
This article presents the first ever full edition of the fragments of one of the most important documents of ancient Greek religion, the sacrificial calendar of Athens as it was inscribed on stone as part of the revision of Athenian Law in 410/9–405/4 and 403/2–400/399 BC. All these fragments, where they survive, are in Athens (the Agora and Epigraphical Museums). The edition contains many new readings, restorations and interpretative points (in particular the identification of festivals). In addition to a line-by-line commentary, a translation is included and there are explanatory notes on linguistic features, animal and non-animal items listed in the calendar and payments to priests and other officials.
Aitia, astronomy and the timing of the Arrhe ¯phoria. The Annual of the British School at Athens
  • E Boutsikas
  • R Hannah
Boutsikas E, Hannah R (2012) Aitia, astronomy and the timing of the Arrhe ¯phoria. The Annual of the British School at Athens (in press).