Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, Vol 3, No 2 (2017)

Beyond Orientations and Intentions Towards Motivation and Meaning: An Enduring Challenge and a Possible Response

Frank Ventura
Issued Date: 24 Jan 2018

Abstract


The possibility that archaeoastronomy could make a valid contribution to archaeology was questioned some years ago. This article suggests that this can be the case provided that, particularly in the context of prehistoric monuments, investigations do not stop at the measurement of orientations and the determination of intentionality, but move on to seeking the motivation for choosing the orientations and the meaning and effect of this choice for a prehistoric society. This approach requires different methodologies involving various conceptual schemes, skills and competences in several fields of knowledge. A case study is then presented to show how archaeoastronomy can contribute tentatively to an understanding of the mysterious end of the Temple Culture in the Maltese Islands.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/jsa.34684

References


Agius, G. and F. Ventura, 1980. Investigation into the Possible Astronomical Alignments of the Copper Age Temples in Malta. Malta: Malta University Press.


Agius, G. and F. Ventura, 1981. “Investigation into the Possible Astronomical Alignments of the Copper Age Temples in Malta”. Archaeoastronomy, The Bulletin of the Center for Archaeoastronomy 4 (1): 10–21.


Albrecht, K., 2001. Maltas Tempel: Zwischen Religion und Astronomie. Potsdam, Germany: Sven Näther.


Albrecht, K., 2007. Malta’s Temples: Alignments and Religious Motives, trans. by A. Loughran of Maltas Tempel: Zwischen Religion und Astronomie. Potsdam, Germany: Sven Näther.


Aveni, A. F., 1992. “Nobody Asked, but I Couldn’t Resist: A Response to Keith Kintigh on Archaeoastronomy and Archaeology”. Archaeoastronomy & Ethnoastronomy News 6 [online]. Accessed August 2016, https://terpconnect.umd.edu/~tlaloc/archastro/ae6.html


Bonanno, A., T. Gouder, C. Malone and S. Stoddart, 1990. “Monuments in an Island Society: The Maltese Context”. World Archaeology 22 (2): 190–205. https://doi.org/10.1080/00438243.1990.9980140


Bonanno, A., C. Malone, D. H. Trump, S. Stoddart and T. Gouder, 2005. “The Death Cults of Prehistoric Malta”. Scientific American 15 (1): 14–23. https://doi.org/10.1038/scientificamerican0105-14sp


Carroll, F. A., C. O. Hunt, P. J. Schembri and A. Bonanno, 2012. “Holocene Climate Change, Vegetation History and Human Impact in the Central Mediterranean: Evidence from the Maltese Islands”. Quaternary Science Reviews 52 (2): 24–40. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2012.07.010


Cazzella, A. and G. Recchia, 2012. “Tas-Silġ: The Late Neolithic Megalithic Sanctuary and Its Re-use during the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age”. Scienze dell’Antichità 18: 15–38.


Cilia, D., ed., 2004. Malta Before History: The World’s Oldest Free-standing Stone Architecture. Malta: Miranda.


Cox, J., 2001. “The Orientations of Prehistoric Temples in Malta and Gozo”. Archaeoastronomy: Journal for Astronomy in Culture 16: 24–37.


Dawson, H., 2016. Mediterranean Voyages: The Archaeology of Island Colonisation and Abandonment. UCL Institute of Archaeology Publications 62. London and New York: Routledge.


Evans, J. D., 1971. The Prehistoric Antiquities of the Maltese Islands. London: Athlone Press.


Foderà Serio, G., M. Hoskin and F. Ventura, 1992. “The Orientations of the Temples of Malta”. Journal for the History of Astronomy 23: 107–119.


Gambin, B., V. Andrieu-Ponel, F. Médail, N. Marriner, D. Peyron, V. Montade, T. Gambin, C. Morhange, D. Belkacem and M. Djamali, 2016. “7300 Years of Vegetation History and Climate for NW Malta: A Holocene Perspective”. Climate of the Past 12: 273–297.


Hawkins, G. S. and S. K. Rosenthal, 1967. 5000- and 10,000-Year Star Catalogs. Smithsonian Contributions to Astrophysics 10 (2). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.


Heggie, D. C., 1981. Megalithic Science: Ancient Mathematics and Astronomy in Northwest Europe. London: Thames and Hudson.


Hoskin, M., 2001. Tombs, Temples and their Orientations: A New Perspective on Mediterranean Prehistory. Bognor Regis, UK: Ocarina Books.


Hughes-Clarke, M., 2004. “Natural Earth Events in Malta’s Prehistory”. In Malta Before History, edited by D. Cilia, 399–407. Malta: Miranda.


Kintigh, K. W., 1992. “I Wasn’t Going to Say Anything, But Since You Asked: Archaeoastronomy and Archaeology”. Archaeoastronomy & Ethnoastronomy News 5 [online]. Accessed August 2016, https://terpconnect.umd.edu/~tlaloc/archastro/ae5.html


Lomsdalen, T., 2014. Sky and Purpose in Prehistoric Malta: Sun, Moon and Stars at the Temples of Mnajdra. Ceredigion, Wales: Sophia Centre Press.


Malone, C., A. Bonanno, D. H. Trump, J. Dixon, R. Leighton, M. Pedley, S. Stoddart and P. J. Schembri, 2009. “Material Culture”. In Mortuary Customs in Prehistoric Malta: Excavations at the Brochtorff Circle at Xagħra (1987–94), edited by C. Malone, S. Stoddart, A. Bonanno and D. H. Trump with T. Gouder and A. Pace, 219–313. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.


Malone, C. and S. Stoddart, 2011. “Maltese Prehistoric Religion”. In The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion, edited by T. Insoll, 758–774. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199232444.013.0048


Malone, C. and S. Stoddart, 2013. “Ritual Failure and the Temple Collapse of Prehistoric Malta”. In Ritual Failure: Archaeological Perspectives, edited by V. K. Koutrafouri and J. Sanders, 63–84. Leiden: Sidestone Press.


Malone, C., S. Stoddart, A. Bonanno and D. H. Trump with T. Gouder and A. Pace, eds, 2009. Mortuary Customs in Prehistoric Malta: Excavations at the Brochtorff Circle at Xagħra (1987-94). Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.


Micallef, P., 1990. Mnajdra Prehistoric Temple: A Calendar in Stone (2nd edition). Malta: Union Print.


Pace, A., ed., 2000. The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum 4000 BC – 2000 AD. Malta: National Museum of Archaeology, Museums Department.


Pace, A., 2004. “Mnajdra”. In Malta Before History, edited by D. Cilia, 127–141. Malta: Miranda.


Peiser, B. J., 1998. “Comparative Analysis of Late Holocene Environmental and Social Upheaval: Evidence for a Global Disaster around 4000 BP”. In Natural Catastrophes during Bronze Age Civilizations: Archaeological, Geological, Astronomical and Cultural Perspectives, edited by B. J. Peiser, T. Palmer and M. E. Bailey. British Archaeological Reports, International Series 728: 117–139. Oxford: Archaeopress.


Prendergast, F., 2015. “Architectural Perspective on Structured Sacred Space – Recent Evidence from Iron Age Ireland”. In Skyscapes: The Role and Importance of the Sky in Archaeology, edited by F. Silva and N. Campion. Oxford: Oxbow Books.


Prendergast, F., 2016. “Interpreting Megalithic Tomb Orientations and Siting within Broader Cultural Contexts”. In Journal of Physics: Conference Series 685: Art. 012004 [online]. Accessed February 2016, http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1742-6596/685/1/012004


Richards, M. P., R. E. M. Hedges, I. Walton, S. Stoddart and C. Malone, 2001. “Neolithic Diet at the Brochtorff Circle, Malta”. European Journal of Archaeology 4 (2): 253–262. https://doi.org/10.1179/eja.2001.4.2.253


Ruggles, C. L. N., 2011. “Pushing Back the Frontiers or Still Running Around the Same Circles? ‘Interpretative Archaeoastronomy’ Thirty Years On”. In Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy: Building Bridges Between Cultures: Proceedings of the 278th Symposium of the International Astronomical Union and “Oxford IX” International Symposium on Archaeoastronomy, held in Lima, Peru, January 5–14, 2011, edited by C. L. N. Ruggles, 1–18. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1743921311012427


Ruggles, C. L. N., ed., 2015. The Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy. New York: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6141-8_2


Ruggles, C. L. N. and H. A. W. Burl, 1985. “A New Study of the Aberdeenshire Recumbent Stone Circles, 2: Interpretation”. Archaeoastronomy: Supplement to Journal for the History of Astronomy 16 (8): S25–S60.


Trump, D. H., 2002. Malta Prehistory and Temples. Malta: Midsea Books.


Trump, D. H., 2015. Skorba 1961-63 Excavations: A Revisit to the Report and Site After 50 Years. Malta: Mġarr Local Council / Heritage Malta.


Vassallo, M., 2000. “Sun Worship and the Magnificent Megalithic Temples”. Sunday Times (Malta), 23rd January, 40–41; 30th January, 44–45; 6th February, 36–37.


Vella, N., 1999. “Trunkless Legs of Stone: Debating Ritual Continuity at Tas-Silġ, Malta”. In Facets of Maltese Prehistory, edited by A. Mifsud and C. S. Ventura, 225–239. Malta: Prehistoric Society of Malta.


Ventura, F., 2016. “Reading Messages from the Past: Interpreting Symbols of Possible Archaeoastronomical Significance in Malta”. In The Materiality of the Sky, edited by F. Silva, K. Malville, T. Lomsdalen and F. Ventura, 3–19. Ceredigion, Wales: Sophia Centre Press.


Ventura, F. and G. Agius, 2017. “An Investigation of the Possible Equinox Alignment at Mnajdra, Malta”. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology 3 (1): 79–92. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsa.32149


Ventura, F., G. Foderà Serio and M. Hoskin, 1993. “Possible Tally stones at Mnajdra, Malta”. Journal for the History of Astronomy 24: 171–183. https://doi.org/10.1177/002182869302400302


Whitehouse, H., 2002. “Modes of Religiosity towards a Cognitive Explanation of the Socio-political Dynamics of Religion”. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 14 (3–4): 293–315 [online]. Accessed July 2016, https://www.icea.ox.ac.uk/fileadmin/ICEA/ICEA_publication_pdfs/HW_2002_Modes_of_Rel__cognitive_explanation.pdf


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.





Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email: info@equinoxpub.com

Privacy Policy