Archaeology & Astronomy in Culture (SEAC-EAA)

J. Nicolás Balbi (SEAC-EAA Community chair – Colchester Archaeological Group UK, Argentina), Hans Martz de la Vega (Escuela Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Mexico), Stanislaw Iwaniszewski (State Museum of Archaeology, Warsow, Poland) and Javier Mejuto (National Autonomous University of Honduras, Spain)

After several previous attempts, in 2019 the Societé Europénne pour l’Astronomie dans la Culture (SEAC) and the EAA made a historic decision, arranging their Annual Meetings to coincide in Bern, Switzerland. As a result of this meeting, a group of like-minded colleagues began to query how we might study landscape and sky through an archaeological context. Over the year that followed, several projects promoted by Professor José Nicolás Balbi were carried out, bringing together a community of archaeologists who promoted that research agenda. After much debate, the SEAC Board of Directors authorized the use of the SEAC name for the formation of a new EAA Community on Archaeology & Astronomy in Culture on May 15, 2021.

Archaeology & Astronomy in Culture (SEAC-EAA) proposes the study of landscapes from different perspectives in relation to their cultural context. For example, one of the aspects of the relationship between material archaeology and cultural astronomy has been the interconnection between heavenly bodies and humans. By studying the stars and their relationship with ancient constructions, we can learn about the relationships that past human societies had with celestial bodies and celestial phenomena. Understanding the sky in this way is just one way to relate human experience to the celestial landscape. Astronomically-aligned constructions or topographic features provide places where the connections between humans and the landscape were created and recreated. We hold that the sky, clouds, rain, wind, earth and people themselves are connected in a way that shapes human actions in the world.

As such, we propose that places with celestial connections have generated “New assemblages” that go beyond material archaeology (borrowing the term from Gilles Deleuze and Feliz Guattari’s work on Assemblage Theory) and which reveal various aspects of ancient cultures. Examination of these principles should enable archaeologists and cultural astronomers to understand ancient cultures and address questions about their personalities and the physical and celestial landscapes in which they lived, and to which they related. Archaeology & Astronomy in Culture (SEAC-EAA) attempts to construct ontological understandings of archaeological contexts rooted in their conclusions from each of main study area. We will use the methods and knowledge of different disciplines to try to comprehend ancient people’s understandings of their world. Archaeology, anthropology, astronomy, geography, philosophy and history each have a role to play in this.

The core investigative questions for Archaeology & Astronomy in Culture (SEAC-EAA) are:

  1. Is it possible to understand how people lived in their environment by observing and studying the landscape through astronomy or any other aspect of an archaeological site?
  2. What is the relationship between the sky, astronomy, landscape and human culture?
  3. Why does the study of astronomy and the landscape allow us to add new dimensions to archaeological research?
  4. How do technology and new techniques allow us to better understand known data?
  5. What is the ontological relationship between people and their environment(s)?

Only by examining all possible areas can we understand how people interacted with the landscapes in which they lived, which may perhaps give us a more profound appreciation of their culture and rituals. Our goal is to achieve archaeological research with complementary and multidisciplinary contributions from the other scientific areas mentioned above.

Since 2020, the Community on Archaeology & Astronomy in Culture (SEAC-EAA) has presented scientific sessions at each of the EAA’s AMs. Over the last years, and in anticipation of 2023, the Community has contributed with:

  • 2023 (Belfast, North Ireland): Session #002 “Archaeology, landscape and Skyscape, How Material Archaeology is woven with different ontological and cultural interpretations”
  • 2022 (Budapest, Hungary): Session #032 “Skyscape, Landscape and Archaeology. Study of Ancient Buildings from Different Perspectives and Disciplines to Give Them a Cultural Meaning”
  • 2021 (Kiel, Germany): Session #046 “Advancing Skyscape and Landscape archaeologies: relations with the sky”
  • 2020 (Virtual): Session #175 “From Skyscape to Archaeology: A Dynamic Interaction between Disciplines”

Each of these previous sessions were presented by José Nicolás Balbi as primary author, and Stanislaw Iwaniszewsky (Poland) and Hans Martin de la Vega (Mexico) as co-authors, and each session holds true to community objectives to conduct ethno- and archaeoastronomy. We intend to continue adding presentations, papers, and publications on the topics that guide our community of archaeological studies in our continual quest to study landscapes from different perspectives and to investigate them within their appropriate cultural and ontological background.

Future sessions will be discussed during the 2023 AM in Belfast. Persons wishing to contribute papers should consider the Community’s main research objectives and apply them to their own research or topical specialization. As the object of the Community for Archaeology & Astronomy in Culture (SEAC-EAA) is to perform archaeological research with contributions from various other disciplines, we welcome new colleagues and new perspectives, and look forward to examining archaeological data through the lens of other sciences. At the time of writing (July 2022), the community has 46 official members and a large number of followers both within archaeology as well as from many other scientific disciplines.

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