Skywatchers, Shamans, and Kings: Astronomy and the Archaeology of Power

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In Skywatchers, Shamans, and Kings, acclaimed author E. C. Krupp takes us on a fascinating journey to all corners of the world to visit the shrines and temples, tombs and caves where ancient priests and rulers communed with the gods of the sky. These are the sacred places where the magical power of the celestial spheres was encountered and the secrets of the planets and stars were divined. Drawing on his intimate knowledge of more than 1,300 ancient sites he has visited, E. C. Krupp, one of the world's foremost ...
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Overview

In Skywatchers, Shamans, and Kings, acclaimed author E. C. Krupp takes us on a fascinating journey to all corners of the world to visit the shrines and temples, tombs and caves where ancient priests and rulers communed with the gods of the sky. These are the sacred places where the magical power of the celestial spheres was encountered and the secrets of the planets and stars were divined. Drawing on his intimate knowledge of more than 1,300 ancient sites he has visited, E. C. Krupp, one of the world's foremost experts on ancient astronomy, takes us to the essential sacred places - as well as celestial shrines far off the beaten path - in an evocative narrative richly enhanced by more than 150 photographs and illustrations. Through vivid descriptions of the important sites and their ritual meanings, he reveals how the rulers of ancient peoples from the Aztecs to the Mongols built monuments and practiced rituals with which they harnessed the power of the sky and sanctified their authority over their worlds. He decodes enigmatic inscriptions on temples and tombs, interprets the haunting imagery of sand paintings and petroglyphs, and traces the elaborate astronomical alignments according to which monuments and whole cities were constructed so that they mirrored the structure of the cosmos and permitted contact with its power. He describes the constellations and sky gods envisioned by the ancients and recounts the stories told about the characters painted in the stars. We meet shaman-chiefs and storm lords, pharaohs and imperial rulers, medicine men and rain kings, and we learn how the rituals they practiced expressed intriguing beliefs about the cosmic order, from how the celestial powers governed nature - presiding over the rhythms of time in the progression of days and seasons - to the way in which the world was created and what our place is in the sacred landscape.
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Editorial Reviews

Anthony F. Aveni
E.C. Krupp's Skywatchers, Shamans & Kings invites readers to explore how and why the human condition has been influenced by heavenly images cast upon a celestial screen. His text offers readers a lively, well-informed personal tour of many of these places. Krupp leaves it to the individual reader to come up with his or her own cosmic philosophy. Those who sign up or this lively tour will find themselves well informed.
Archeology
Modern Astronomer
It requires rare skill to impart so much information in so vivid a manner.
New Scientist
Beautifully produced, profusely illustrated. . . . It should be read by anyone even remotely interested in the long saga of the Universe's profound and lasting influence on mankind's development.
Parabola
Krupp's indispensable volume is fascinating, well-illustrated, and covers much territory. . . . His keen understanding of myth and archetypal themes in popular culture shines through in these pages.
Ray Bradbury
In an age that spends far too much time looking down, Dr. Krupp teaches us once more to look up at the stars and marvel. For this renewal, many thanks.
San Diego Times
Besides being delightful stories, they confirm just how far back our fascination with the sky goes . . . [Krupp is] a peer of Joseph Campbell.
Skeptical Inquirer
Excellent. . . . An extraordinary collection of folktales and myths and lore relating to the cosmos and our place in it, all placed into context by an astronomer who revels in the wonder and beauty of the natural world.
Sky and Telescope
Krupp's writing is always in the best style, and this work is no exception. . . . This is an impressive, interesting, and useful work whose pages should become worn from use over the many years it will remain a standard, highly treasured source of information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An astronomer with a Jungian streak, Krupp (Echoes of the Ancient Sky), the director of the Griffith Observatory in L.A., synthesizes the study of the heavens with archeology in an intriguing attempt to understand the cultural power of shamans and kings in ancient civilizations. In the tradition of Frazer, Eliade and Campbell, the author seeks commonality in the use of sky myths by shamans from cultures as diverse as the Mayan, Egyptian, Tibetan, Mongolian, Chinese, Turkic, African and Inuit, as well as those of the indigenous peoples of the American plains, Northwest and Southwest. Carefully analyzing sacred petroglyphs, pictographs and statuary, he traces the evolution of culture from hunting bands to the establishment of complex civilizations. The journey includes study of the natural high places of the earth, which direct human awe heavenward toward the sky gods. Alternately, the chthonic depths of caves and grottoes are examined for insight into the traditions of nurturing mother goddesses and fertility cults. Throughout, reference to ancient awareness of the movement of the planets and constellations, especially in regard to the solstices and equinoxes, is highlighted. With an anecdotal style and with reference to myriad illustrations, Krupp enngagingly explores the historic derivation of political control descending from the skies, to rulers. The harmonics of order implicit in the structure of the cosmos, he forcefully contends, are endangered by contemporary reactionary, earthbound cultures, engendering conflicts that are expressed in rising social intolerance and religious fundamentalism. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Is there a connection between political power and the knowledge of astronomy? Krupp (The Moon and You, S. & S., 1993), an astronomer and director of the Griffith Observatory, maintains that throughout history, knowledge of cosmic principles has allowed individuals to attain great political standing. The establishment of dynasties frequently involved the ultimate deification of a monarch or lineage in relationship to celestial myths and was evidenced in cosmic rituals. Krupp describes numerous creation myths from around the world, coupled with sky worship rituals as practiced by shamans and rulers. Common mythic elements are examined, along with the political power that resulted from the mastery of astronomy over the masses. Numerous photographs, drawings, and illustrations provide visual details for the many societies covered here. Krupp also explains how the separation of church and state in this country has taken the use of miracles and sacred power out of the political arena. Krupp's argument would have achieved greater impact with a longer chapter along this vein. This book will appeal to lay readers as well as scholars.Gloria Maxwell, Kansas City P.L., Kan.
Booknews
The release of yet another Star Trek movie gives evidence to the human fascination with the stars. In a more scholarly though not less entertaining manner, Krupp (director, Griffith Observatory) explores the beginnings of this celestial wonderment, visiting the sacred places where ancient priests and rulers communed with the gods and magical powers were harnessed. His descriptions make these ancient places and persons come alive again from their archeological digs and enigmatic inscriptions, including sites such as the tomb of the Maya ruler Six Sky, the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, and the Terrace for Managing Heaven where Khubilai Khan confirmed his divine sanction to rule. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Scientific American
...[A]lthough social structures no longer rest on what people see in the stars...belief in the miraculous lingers on, as evidenced by tales of flying saucers and sightings of Elvis.
Kirkus Reviews
In the latest of his contributions to archaeoastronomy, the study of the astronomy of ancient cultures, Krupp (director, Griffith Observatory; Echoes of the Ancient Sky, 1983, etc.) conducts a compelling survey of sky worship in ancient Egypt, China, Tibet, Mongolia, Anatolia, Africa, and the Americas.

While the details vary, often fascinatingly, from culture to culture, Krupp argues that interest in the night sky always displayed certain themes: Ancient peoples turned to the sky in order to create calendars, read omens for the future, placate the gods, derive power for their chiefs, and obtain insights for their religious, economic, and governmental affairs. Pueblo ruins in New Mexico and petroglyphs in Central America reveal a preoccupation with the sky that probably had to do with a desire to obtain precious rain. At a more sophisticated level, the Chinese emperor claimed his right to rule as a mandate from heaven, and astronomers anxiously studied the movements of planetary bodies to evaluate the emperor's adherence to the celestial will. While touching on such issues as the astronomical significance of pyramids, stone carvings, and monuments in ancient societies, Krupp's survey also includes more complex cosmological topics. For instance, he discusses how the religious beliefs of ancient peoples, which usually put their own landscape at the center of the world, often shaped their astronomy. Also, Krupp describes how kings and shamans sought power by directly communicating with such powerful agents as the sun, the moon, and the stars, and how societies developed special classes that derived their power from their supposed intimate relationship with celestial beings and their superior astronomical knowledge.

Though often straying from a discussion of astronomy in its sociological and anthropological analysis of vanished societies, Krupp's survey is evocative, absorbing, and informative.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471048633
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/11/1996
  • Series: Popular Science Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 7.26 (w) x 9.44 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Table of Contents

Fingerprints of Cosmic Power.
The Center of the World.
Plugging In to Cosmic Power.
Centers of Creation.
Mother Earth.
Agents of Renewal.
Shamans, Chiefs, and Sacred Kings.
Celestial Empires.
Enlightened Self-Interest and Ulterior Motives.
It Pays to Advertise.
Upward Mobility.
Bibliography.
Illustration Credits.
Index.
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