Archaeoastronomy is the “science of stars and stones”. It is an interdisciplinary science in between architecture, archaeology, and astronomy. It studies the relationships between the ancient monuments and the sky, in order to gain a better understanding of the ideas of the architects of the past and of their religious and symbolic world. The course provides the first complete, easy introduction to this fascinating discipline.
During the course, many spectacular ancient sites of archaeology – such as Stonehenge in England, Giza and Karnak in Egypt, Chichen Itzá in the Yucatan, Macchu Picchu in Peru and the Pantheon in Rome – will be visited and the fascinating events occurring there in special days of the year (such as solstices, equinoxes, or the day of the foundation of Rome) will be shown and explained. The course also provides the necessary background on Astronomy with the naked eye and a general introduction to the role of Astronomy in religion and in the management of power among ancient cultures.
Week 1 In this week we shall learn the basic tools which are needed for studying Archaeoastronomy. Essentially, this means learning Astronomy with the naked eye, since the ancients did not have telescopes, and becoming acquainted with a simple instrument - the magnetic compass - and amazing softwares: virtual globes and digital planetariums.
Week 2 The core of the course: understanding how astronomy, religion, and the management of power were connected in ancient cultures, and the way in which these connections are reflected in architecture and landscape since the Neolithic. At the end of the week we shall thus visit the places where Archaeoastronomy was born: Stonehenge and Newgrange.
Week 3 An archaeoastronomical tour in a wonderful land: Egypt of the Pharaohs. We shall visit Khufu's (Cheops) Great Pyramid and assist to the spectacular hierophany which occurs every year at Giza at the summer solstice. Then, we shall move to the huge temple of Karnak at the winter solstice, to finally encounter the "heretic" king Akhenaten and the astronomy-related project of his new capital.
Week 4 An introduction to pre-Columbian Archaeoastronomy, with key topics such as the Maya Calendar, the role of astronomy in Maya architecture, and the sacred space of the Incas at Cusco and Macchu Picchu.
Week 5 A fascinating travel in Greek and Roman Italy, in search of astronomy in the project of some of the masterpieces of the classical age, from the Greek temples of Sicily to the Pantheon in Rome.
Astronomy insights Archaeoastronomy is not only "speaking about the Sun and the other stars". Interest in the cumbersome, apparent motion of the Moon and in the alternating behaviour of Venus as morning star/evening star is also present in ancient architecture, for instance in the Americas. This section provides the tools needed to investigate in such cases, as well as insights on the physical effects affecting measures in Archaeoastronomy.
MOOCs stand for Massive Open Online Courses. These arefree online courses from universities around the world (eg. StanfordHarvardMIT) offered to anyone with an internet connection.
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How do these MOOCs or free online courses work?
MOOCs are designed for an online audience, teaching primarily through short (5-20 min.) pre recorded video lectures, that you watch on weekly schedule when convenient for you. They also have student discussion forums, homework/assignments, and online quizzes or exams.
Melissa Rcompleted this course, spending 1 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
This was a very good introductory course with great photos on the videos. The first week might be a little technical, but it's very important to pay attention, and find other resources if needed, in order to be able to answer all the quizzes. The following weeks were really fun as they covered many archaeological sites
This was a very good introductory course with great photos on the videos. The first week might be a little technical, but it's very important to pay attention, and find other resources if needed, in order to be able to answer all the quizzes. The following weeks were really fun as they covered many archaeological sites all over the world.
This course is also available in the university's MOOC portal (POK POLIMI), but the one in Coursera has an additional week about various celestial bodies other than the sun. I really enjoyed this course.