Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, Vol 3, No 1 (2017)

Reflecting the Sky in Water: A Phenomenological Exploration of Water-skyscapes

Ilaria Cristofaro


From a phenomenological perspective, the reflective quality of water has a visually dramatic impact, especially when combined with the light of celestial phenomena. However, the possible presence of water as a means for reflecting the sky is often undervalued when interpreting archaeoastronomical sites. From artificial water spaces, such as ditches, huacas and wells to natural ones such as rivers, lakes and puddles, water spaces add a layer of interacting reflections to landscapes. In the cosmological understanding of skyscapes and waterscapes, a cross-cultural metaphorical association between water spaces and the underworld is often revealed. In this research, water-skyscapes are explored through the practice of auto-ethnography and reflexive phenomenology. The mirroring of the sky in water opens up themes such as the continuity, delimitation and manipulation of sky phenomena on land: water spaces act as a continuation of the sky on earth; depending on water spaces’ spatial extension, selected celestial phenomena can be periodically reflected within architectures, so as to make the heavenly dimension easily accessible and a possible object of manipulation. Water-skyscapes appear as specular worlds, where water spaces are assumed to be doorways to the inner reality of the unconscious. The fluid properties of water have the visual effect of dissipating borders, of merging shapes, and, therefore, of dissolving identities; in the inner landscape, this process may represent symbolic death experiences and rituals of initiation, where the annihilation of the individual allows the creative process of a new life cycle. These contextually generalisable results aim to inspire new perspectives on sky-and-water related case studies and give value to the practice of reflexive phenomenology as crucial method of research.

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DOI: 10.1558/jsa.32170


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