Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland

Clive Ruggles

View Inside Price: $95.00


May 11, 1999
300 pages, 9 x 11 1/2
130 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300078145
Cloth

Out of Print

Do prehistoric stone monuments in Britain and Ireland incorporate deliberate astronomical alignments, and if so, what is their purpose and meaning? This book by Clive Ruggles is the first to approach this topic—a subject of controversy between astronomers and archaeologists—from a perspective that incorporates both disciplines.

The book is divided into three parts. The first is a detailed account of the megalithic astronomy debates of the 1960s to the 1980s and the lessons—both interpretative and methodological—that can be learned from them. The second describes the present state of ideas and evidence concerning prehistoric people’s concerns with celestial bodies and events, drawing particularly on work in British and Irish archaeoastronomy in the past fifteen years, including many years of fieldwork by the author. The third section sets new agendas for the future. The book also includes an appendix on field techniques.

The author establishes the importance of studies of astronomy in the context of broader questions of cosmology, ideology, and cognition that are of central interest to prehistorians at the end of the twentieth century. It also makes clear that cross-disciplinary perspectives are necessary in tackling an innately interdisciplinary problem.

Clive Ruggles is senior lecturer in archaeological studies at Leicester University. ; He has trained as a mathematician and astrophysicist. ; He is also a professor of Archaeoastronomy at the School of Archaeological Studies, University of Leicester.


"A rich repository of factual information—maps, sketches, and various numerical tables—that reflect in particular the author’s own fieldwork. Remarkably, Ruggles does not demand that the reader possess an in-depth background; on the contrary, his book will be comprehensible to a broad audience, not just specialists. . . . A splendid treatise that is not destined to get dusty on bookshelves."—Alexander Gurshtein, American Scientist



"This book is a landmark. It is a splendid pioneer in a subject tainted with prejudice and escapism. It will become a standard reference and has few predecessors."—Aubrey Burl, British Archaeology

“No one with an interest in this field could afford to be without this book.”—L.V. Morrison, Astronomy

“An exceptionally important, wide-ranging, and critical contribution to the field that has come to be called ‘archaeoastronomy.’ . . . A short review cannot do justice to the richness, depth, or scope of a book that looks like a landmark in the investigation of megalithic monuments. Whether skeptics or enthusiasts, all specialists with a stake in this project will need to come to terms with Ruggles—and so should every lecturer who broaches the subject of prehistoric astronomy.”—Michael H. Shank, Physics Today



“A short review cannot do justice to the richness, depth, or scope of a book that looks like a landmark in the investigation of megalithic monuments. Whether skeptics or enthusiasts, all specialists with a stake in this project will need to come to terms with Ruggles—and so should every lecturer who broaches the subject of prehistoric astronomy.”—Michael H. Shank, Physics Today

“This is an important and well produced book that will remain the standard work for many years to come.”—John C. Barrett, Albion

“This excellent book . . . takes a balanced and holistic view of the evidence. . . . Any student of the framework of meanings within which prehistoric people attempted to make sense of the world around them should read this book—which is an essential aid to making up their own mind.”—Antiquaries Journal

Awarded the 1999 Association of American Publisher’s–Professional /Scholarly Publishing Annual Award in the Physics and Astronomy category