Conference, SEAC, Scholarship
Malta, Fabio Silva, Kim Malville, Tore Lomsdalen, Frank Ventura

The Materiality of the Sky

Proceedings of the 22nd Annual SEAC Conference, 2014

Edited by Fabio Silva, Kim Malville, Tore Lomsdalen, and Frank Ventura
ISBN: 978-1907767-09-8
12 Sept 2016
£25.46 – £37.98
Paperback, ebook; 362 pages

From the earliest times, human beings have been driven by the basic needs to procure food and water, shelter and defence, and communication with other members of the group. The skyscape was different from these, as it was beyond the reach of people and could not be manipulated. Yet, the innate imagination of human beings could not be unmoved by the sun and the moon, which dominate the day and night and apparently move in a well-ordered fashion, and the stars, which provide a splendid canopy on clear dark nights. Although celestial objects could not be handled and exploited in a tangible manner, people’s creativity sought to understand them, to find some use for them in relation to one’s needs and activities and to generate ideas about their nature and their meaning for humanity. In addition, concepts, patterns, myths and other creations of this intangible culture could be transformed into material culture, including iconography, calendars, structural orientations and other human creations. These manifestations constitute the materiality of the sky and bear witness to human beings’ interest in the sky. The chapters in this volume illustrate the variety of research activity generated in this field of study across a broad spectrum of ages, cultures, and geographical regions.


Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables

Introduction: The Materiality of the Sky
~ Frank Ventura


Maltese Archaeoastronomy

  • Reading Messages from the Past: Interpreting Symbols
  • Possible Archaeoastronomical Significance in Malta
    ~ Frank Ventura
  • The ‘Oracle Holes’ of the Maltese Prehistoric Temples: An Investigation of their Astronomical/Solar Alignments
    ~ Tore Lomsdalen
  • Inclusion and Exclusion of Sunlight and Moonlight From Temples of the Ggantija and Tarxien Phases
    ~ John Cox

Cosmology and Cosmovision

  • Cosmovisions Put Upon a Disk: Another View of the Nebra Disk
    ~ Michael A. Rappenglück
  • Astronomy and Landscape in Carthago Nova
    ~ Juan Antonio Belmonte, José Miguel Noguera Celdrán, A. César González García & Andrea Rodríguez-Antón
  • Status Report: A Review of Research on the Origins and Diffusion of the Belief in a Sky Bear
    ~ Roslyn M. Frank
  • In Search of Päivätär, the Finnish Solar Goddess
    ~ Marianna Ridderstad
  • The Nordic Calendar and the Great Midwinter Sacrifice at Old Uppsala
    ~ Göran Henriksson
  • Fire from the Heavens: The Idea of Cosmic Fire across Archaic Cultures
    ~ Michael A. Rappenglück

Astronomical Orientations

  • On the Orientation of the Historic Churches of Lanzarote:
    When Human Necessity Dominates over Canonical Prescriptions
    ~ Alejandro Gangui, A. César González García, Ma Antonia Perera Betancort & Juan Antonio Belmonte
  • Orientation of Roman Camps and Forts in Britannia:
    Reconsidering Alan Richardson’s Work
    ~ Andrea Rodríguez-Antón, Antonio César González-García & Juan Antonio Belmonte
  • Evidence for the Existence of Solar and Lunar Alignments in Western Scotland:
    The Contrasting Nature of Backsights, Foresights and Alignments
    ~ Thomas Gough
  • Architecture, Illumination and Cosmology:
    the Arles-Fontvieille Monuments, Archaeoastronomy and Megalithic Studies
    ~ Morgan Saletta
  • An Ethnoastronomy Study on the Astronomical Orientation and Astral Decoration of the Stone Granaries (Hórreos) of Vilaboa (Galicia, Spain)
    ~ Fátima Braña Rey & Ana Ulla Miguel
  • Connections: The Relationships between Neolithic and Bronze Age Megalithic Astronomy in Britain
    ~ Gail Higginbottom & Roger Clay
  • Winter Solstice at the Iberian Cave-Sanctuary of La Nariz
    ~ César Esteban & José Ángel Ocharan Ibarra
  • Raising Awareness of Light Pollution by Simulation of Nocturnal Light of Astronomical Cultural Heritage Sites
    ~ Georg Zotti & Günther Wurchterl
  • New Findings at the ‘Petre De La Mola’ Megaliths
    ~ L. Lozito, F. Maurici, V.F. Polcaro & A. Scuderi

Astronomy and Culture in Historical Times

  • Sirius (al-/Abūr) Proper Motion as Recorded in the Arabic Star Mythology
    ~ Flora Vefea
  • The Stones of Penas de Rodas:
    Can the ‘Spell of Archaeo-astronomy’ Create a Contemporary Sacred Place?
    ~ Benito Vilas Estevez
  • The Sphere of Antiquity
    ~ Ma Pilar Burillo-Cuadrado

North and South America

  • Houses of the Sun and the Collapse of Chacoan Culture
    ~ J. McKim Malville & Andrew Munro
  • Astronomy and the Ceque System of Cusco
    ~ Steven R. Gullberg
  • The Temple of the Inscriptions in the Spiritual Landscape at Palenque
    ~ Stanisław Iwaniszewski

Egypt, The Mediterranean and Asia

  • A Comparative Study of Megalithic Monuments in Sardinia and Beyond
    ~ A. César González-García, Mauro P. Zedda & Juan A. Belmonte
  • Archaeoastronomy In Sicily: Megaliths And Rocky Sites>
    ~ Andrea Orlando
  • The Tall Gnomon of Guo Shoujing: An Astro-Archaeological Analysis
    ~ Vance Tiede


Fabio Silva is a Senior Lecturer in Archaeological Modelling at Bournemouth University and co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Skyscape Archaeology. His primary research interest is how societies have perceived and conceived their world(s) and used that to time and adjust social, productive and magico-religious behaviours. This steered him to focus his research along two distinct yet complementary strands: archaeological modelling and skyscape archaeology.


Professor J. McKim Malville is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado. Malville is Adjunct Professor of Astronomy in the Center for Astronmoy of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia. He is also a tutor at the Sophia Center for the Study for Cosmology in Culture, Lampeter at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK.


Tore Lomsdalen began the Cultural Astronomy and Astrology MA programme in 2008 and graduated in 2013. His MA dissertation, Sky and Purpose in Prehistoric Malta: the Sun, Moon and the Stars the Temples of Mnajdra, was recently published by the Sophia Centre Press. Since then Heritage Malta have bought 300 copies which are now for sale at bookshops at all their archaeological sites. Tore also lectures on archaeoastronomy and cosmology at conferences and universities, and has recently been accepted to start a PhD in ‘Cosmologies of Prehistoric Malta’ at the University of Malta.

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