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People and the Sky: Our Ancestors and the Cosmos

Overview

From the Neolithic era to the Aztecs, the story of how our ancestors engaged with the heavens.

Few of us can accurately identify the stars and constellations, the phases of the moon, or the hour and position of sunrise, but our forebears had an intimate relationship with the heavens. People and the Sky explores how ancient hunters, farmers, sailors, rulers, and storytellers ...
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Overview

From the Neolithic era to the Aztecs, the story of how our ancestors engaged with the heavens.

Few of us can accurately identify the stars and constellations, the phases of the moon, or the hour and position of sunrise, but our forebears had an intimate relationship with the heavens. People and the Sky explores how ancient hunters, farmers, sailors, rulers, and storytellers were all once cosmically connected.

Anthony Aveni reveals how !Kung and Mursi hunter-gatherers depended on signals in the sky for their survival and sustenance; how master Polynesian sailors navigated a seemingly limitless watery world by star bearings; how social cohesion in cultures as diverse as the Pawnee and the Inca was mirrored in celestial imagery; and how the cosmic connection between the arrangement of Aztec and Chinese cities and the constellations served as an expression of political authority.

Through most of human history, people found meaning in the dance of the cosmic denizens. Today, many aspects of this intimate contact between daily life and what happens in the sky have disappeared. Did our ancestors have an understanding of the cosmos that we ourselves lack? How and why did it all happen? Aveni addresses these questions and more in this engaging and erudite book. 67 illustrations, 9 in color.

"If you've ever wondered how the Maya calculated their calendar or exactly what it was that those Babylonian astronomers were doing ontop of their towers, this is the book for you."—James Trefil, author of Why Science? and The Nature of Science
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780500051528
  • Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Anthony Aveni is the Russell Colgate Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Anthropology and Native American Studies at Colgate University. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including Ancient Astronomers and Behind the Crystal Ball: Magic, Science and the Occult from Antiquity through the New Age.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Sky, a Legacy Lost     6
The Storyteller's Sky     14
Patterns in the Sky     31
The Sailor's Sky     53
The Hunter's Sky     70
The Farmer's Sky     93
The House, the Family, and the Sky     111
The City and the Sky     129
The Ruler's Sky     157
The Astrologer's Sky     173
The Timekeeper's Sky     193
The Western Sky     212
Epilogue: Distancing the Sky     231
Notes     237
Bibliography     242
Acknowledgments     248
Sources of Illustrations     248
Index     249

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