The 'Dark Sky' character of archaeologically important landscapes—cultural meaning and conservation strategies.
Archaeoastronomy and Cultural Astronomy - the Astronomy of Skyscapes
Frank Prendergast
Dublin Institute of Technology
Cultural astronomy is a well-established research field incorporating archaeoastronomy, ethnoastronomy and ancient cosmology. Collectively, such approaches add depth and understanding to our knowledge of the prehistoric past—the so-called non-material culture of ancient societies as expressed in how humans engaged with the seasonally changing sky. There is also the recognition that the relationship between mankind and the sky is embedded in the local natural landscape surrounding an ancient megalithic monument or complex. This makes such an entity ‘cultural’ in a sense and worthy of safeguarding as much as the physical structure(s) themselves.
Accordingly, the sky and, by inference, skyscapes have now become an integral part of UNESCO’s Thematic Initiative ‘Astronomy and World Heritage’. It exists to raise awareness of, and protect, designated cultural properties and entities worldwide for present and future generations. The International Dark Sky Association (IDA, http://darksky.org) similarly encourages the conservation and protection of the character of the night sky at such locations through responsible lighting policies and public education. The sky at places of prehistoric archaeological importance is therefore argued as a cultural resource to be preserved through conservation and planning measures.
This presentation will use the idea of a tri-partite model of the cosmos (underworld, landscape and skyscape) to explore its elements, and consider the likely role and meaning of such a worldview amongst earliest pre-literate societies. This will be followed by a review of current remedial and conservation measures that can potentially protect such entities, and which are an immutable link to the prehistoric past.


13:30 - 15:00
EX - C3 (150)