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The Astronomy of Many Cultures: A Resource Guide


B. General Web Sites

Ancient Observatories, Timeless Knowledge (Stanford Solar Center): An introduction to ancient sites where the movements of celestial objects were tracked over the years (with a special focus on tracking the Sun.)

Astronomy Before History by Clive Ruggles and Michael Hoskin (from the Cambridge Concise History of Astronomy) -- a nice pdf file with a well-written introduction to ancient astronomy:

The Center for Archaeoastronomy at the University of Maryland:
Good site to learn more about the serious study of the astronomical relics of ancient cultures; some parts for the public, some for professionals in the field.

Cultural Astronomy Web Exhibit:
Modules and resources created with the assistance of Chicago's Adler Planetarium.

Indiana Jones and the Astronomy of Yore:
Issue of a newsletter on teaching astronomy, focusing on archaeaoastronomy.

An Introduction to Archaeoastronomy (Clive Ruggles' 2003 Introductory Course Notes and Images at the University of Leicester):

Multicultural Cosmology Education Resource Center at Pomona College: Bryan Penprase and his collaborators have made this useful introductory site, which includes a world atlas of ancient astronomy, course outlines, a timeline and links to other resources.

Solar Folklore from the Stanford Solar Center:
Myths and legends about the Sun from cultures around the world.

Traditions of the Sun:
The NASA Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum site offers virtual visits to Mayan astronomical sites and Chaco Canyon placed in appropriate historical, cultural, and scientific contexts.

Using Multicultural Dimensions to Teach Astronomy: Issue of a newsletter on teaching astronomy, with suggestions for classroom activities and topics.

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C. Resources about Specific Cultures

1. Astronomy and People of Color in the U.S.

Ferris, Jeri What Are You Figuring Now?: A Story about Benjamin Banneker. 1988, Carolrhoda Books. Children's book about 18th century black astronomer, mathematician, surveyor.

Oluseyi, H. & Urama, J. "Participation and Research of Astronomers… of Black African Descent (1900-2005)" in Holbrook, Jarita, ed. African Cultural Astronomy. 2008, Springer.

Price, J., et al. "American Minorities in Astronomy: Some Gains, A Long Way to Go" in Mercury, May/June 1995, p. 11. Multi-author report, with some poignant anecdotal notes.

Rall, Gloria "The Stars of Freedom" in Sky & Telescope, Feb. 1995, p. 36. On how slaves used songs with the Big Dipper to show them escape routes from the South.

Stassun, Keivan "Building Bridges to Diversity" in Mercury, May/June 2005, p. 20. The Chair of the Committee on the Status on Minorities in Astronomy for the American Astronomical Society discusses what could be done to increase the number of minority astronomers.

"Have Minorities Broken Astronomy's Glass Ceiling" -- a roundtable in Astronomy magazine, May 2003, pp. 55-58.

Committee on the Status of Minorities (AAS) Web site:
Discussions of and resources about minority issues in the training of professional astronomers in the U.S.

Follow the Drinking Gourd Educator's Guide (about how slaves used a song about the Big Dipper to find their way North in the U.S.; note however, the next reference in our list for some doubts about the modern song's antiquity):

Follow the Drinking Gourd Website:
An amateur music scholar has researched the history of the song about the Big Dipper more thoroughly and presents his work here.

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2. Astronomy of Native North American Cultures

Canby, T. "The Anasazi: Riddles in the Ruins" in National Geographic, Nov. 1982, p. 554.

Carlson, J. "America's Ancient Skywatchers" in National Geographic, vol 177, #3, Mar 1990, p. 76.

Krupp, E. "Whiter Shade of Pale" in Sky & Telescope, July 2000, p. 86. A rock that looks like the Milky Way and was used in ceremonies by Native Americans in California.

MacDonald, John The Arctic Sky: Inuit Astronomy, Star Lore and Legend. 1998, Royal Ontario Museum. Astronomical stories and explanations from Northern Canada and Alaska, including a discussion of interpretations of the aurora.

Malville, J.M. & Putnam, Claudia Prehistoric Astronomy in the Southwest. 1993, Johnson Books. A nice introductory book about cultures and monuments in the Arizona area.

Maryboy, Nancy & David Begay Sharing the Skies: Navajo and Western Cosmos. 2006, Indigenous Education Institute & World Hope Foundation (available from An authoritative compilation by Navajo and Western astronomers of illustrations, stories, and observations of Navajo constellations coupled with stories from corresponding Greek constellations and Hubble Space Telescope images of objects found in that part of the sky. This is a kit that includes an audio CD, a small poster of the Dine Universe, and learning activities.

McLeary, Timothy The Stars We Know: Crow Indian Astronomy and Lifeways. 1997, Waveland.

Miller, Dorcas Stars of the First People: Native American Star Myths and Constellations. 1997, Pruett.

Monroe, Jean & Williamson, Ray They Dance the Sky: Native American Star Myths. 1987, Houghton Mifflin. Skylore from a number of tribes retold.

Williamson, Ray Living the Sky: The Cosmos of the American Indian. 1984, Houghton Mifflin/University of Oklahoma Press. The sky world of the Native Americans, through their tales and their observing sites.

Aboriginal Star Knowledge: Native American Astronomy:

Exploratorium Chaco Canyon Site:

Meteors and Native Americans (Gary Kronk):

Solar Astronomy in the Pre-historic Southwest (P. Charbonneau, et al):

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