Star Stories: Constellations and People

We can see love, betrayal, and friendship in the heavens, if we know where to look. A world expert on cultural understandings of cosmology, Anthony Aveni provides an unconventional atlas of the night sky, introducing readers to tales beloved for generations. The constellations included are not only your typical Greek and Roman myths, but star patterns conceived by a host of cultures, non‑Western and indigenous, ancient and contemporary.
The sky has long served as a template for telling stories about the meaning of life. People have looked for likenesses between the domains of heaven and earth to help marry the unfamiliar above to the quotidian below. Perfect reading for all sky watchers and storytellers, this book is an essential complement to Western mythologies, showing how the confluence of the natural world and culture of heavenly observers can produce a variety of tales about the shapes in the sky.

In The Shadow of The Moon: The Culture and Science behind the Magic, Mystery, and Fear of Eclipses

In the Shadow of the Moon explores the astronomy, history, and the worldwide cultural significance of solar eclipses. From a scientific perspective, Anthony Aveni explains what causes eclipses, what to look for, and the astronomical knowledge we acquire from studying them – like the slowdown in the earth’s rotation and the shrinking and expansion of the sun. Eclipses come in families and by analyzing their patterns astronomers can trace their genealogy, recovering each of their descendants. Accounts of great American eclipses of the past – who saw them, what they thought and felt – provide snapshots of how our history has changed. When the 1806 New England eclipse darkened the day in the midst of one of early America’s religious revival movements there were widespread claims that God had orchestrated the sun’s sudden disappearance to punish the wicked. Three generations later, during a time of rapidly advancing American science, stories of the daring high-tech 1878 eclipse expedition to the wilds of Pike’s Peak read like an Apollo lunar mission. The total darkness that impinged on Central Park on a cold winter morning two generations later conjures up vignettes of urban life in the roaring twenties. 

Originally trained as an astronomer, Aveni’s attraction to anthropology – what the sky means to cultures other than our own – stemmed from his studies of ancient Maya inscriptions and pyramids aligned to celestial phenomena. As a result, he helped establish the field of cultural astronomy. Concerned as much with people watching as eclipse watching, In the Shadow of the Moon takes readers beneath the veneer of reports of superstitious native eclipse witnesses who bang pans together at the darkening sun to shoo away demons, ignorant of what’s really going on. As he probes their accounts, readers acquire a deeper understanding of the meaning of eclipse customs and beliefs about family ties, relations among ancestors, gender role reversal, and incest taboos.

Are we so different? Aveni sees the odd mix of pleasure and fear expressed by contemporary eclipse chasers as a way of attempting to cope with the rarely encountered, vast forces of nature that lie beyond our control.

Apocalyptic Anxiety: Religion, Science, and America's Obsession with the End of the World

Apocalyptic Anxiety traces the sources of American culture’s obsession with predicting and preparing for the apocalypse. Author Anthony Aveni explores why Americans take millennial claims seriously, where and how end-of-the-world predictions emerge, how they develop within a broader historical framework, and what we can learn from doomsday predictions of the past.

The book begins with the Millerites, the nineteenth-century religious sect of Pastor William Miller, who used biblical calculations to predict October 22, 1844, as the date for the Second Advent of Christ. Aveni also examines several other religious and philosophical movements that have centered on apocalyptic themes—Christian millennialism, the New Age movement and the Age of Aquarius, and various other nineteenth- and early twentieth-century religious sects, concluding with a focus on the Maya mystery of 2012 and the contemporary prophets who connected the end of the world as we know it with the overturning of the Maya calendar.

Apocalyptic Anxiety places these seemingly never-ending stories of the world’s end in the context of American history. This fascinating exploration of the deep historical and cultural roots of America’s voracious appetite for apocalypse will appeal to students of American history and the histories of religion and science, as well as lay readers interested in American culture and doomsday prophecies.

The Measure and Meaning of Time in Mesoamerica and the Andes (Edited)

Westerners think of time as a measure of duration, a metric quantity that is continuous, homogeneous, unchangeable, and never ending—a reality that lies outside of human existence. How did the people of Mesoamerica and the Andes, isolated as they were from the rest of the world, conceive of their histories? How and why did they time their rituals? What knowledge can we acquire about their time from studying the material record they have left behind?

This volume brings together specialists in anthropology, archaeology, art history, astronomy, and the history of science to contemplate concrete and abstract temporal concepts gleaned from the Central Mexicans, Mayans, and Andeans. Contributors first address how people reckon and register time; they compare the western linear, progressive way of knowing time with the largely cyclic notions of temporality derived from the Americas, and they dissect, explain, and explore the origins of the complex dynastic and ritual calendars of the Maya, Inca, and Aztecs. They subsequently consider how people sense time and its moral dimensions. Time becomes an inescapable feature of the process of perception, an entity that occupies a succession of moments rather than the knife-edge present ingrained in our Western minds.

Class Not Dismissed: Reflections on Undergraduate Education and Teaching the Liberal Arts

In Class Not Dismissed, award-winning professor Anthony Aveni tells the personal story of his six decades in college classrooms and some of the 10,000 students who have filled them. Through anecdotes of his own triumphs and tribulations—some amusing, others heartrending—Aveni reveals his teaching story and thoughts on the future of higher education.

Although in recent years the lecture has come under fire as a pedagogical method, Aveni ardently defends lecturing to students. He shares his secrets on crafting an engaging lecture and creating productive dialogue in class discussions. He lays out his rules on classroom discipline and tells how he promotes the lost art of listening. He is a passionate proponent of the liberal arts and core course requirements as well as a believer in sound teaching promoted by active scholarship.

Buried Beneath Us: Discovering the Ancient Cities of the Americas

A beautifully illustrated look at the forces that help cities grow—and eventually cause their destruction—told through the stories of the great civilizations of ancient America. 

You may think you know all of the American cities. But did you know that long before New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Boston ever appeared on the map—thousands of years before Europeans first colonized North America—other cities were here? They grew up, fourished, and eventually disappeared in the same places that modern cities like St. Louis and Mexico City would later appear. In the pages of this book, you'll find the astonishing story of how they grew from small settlements to booming city centers—and then crumbled into ruins.

The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012

December 21, 2012. The Internet, bookshelves, and movie theaters are full of prophecies, theories, and predictions that this date marks the end of the world, or at least the end of the world as we know it. Whether the end will result from the magnetic realignment of the north and south poles, bringing floods, earthquakes, death, and destruction; or from the return of alien caretakers to enlighten or enslave us; or from a global awakening, a sudden evolution of Homo sapiens into non-corporeal beings—theories of great, impending changes abound.

In The End of Time, award-winning astronomer and Maya researcher Anthony Aveni explores these theories, explains their origins, and measures them objectively against evidence unearthed by Maya archaeologists, iconographers, and epigraphers. He probes the latest information astronomers and earth scientists have gathered on the likelihood of Armageddon and the oft-proposed link between the Maya Long Count cycle and the precession of the equinoxes. He then expands on these prophecies to include the broader context of how other cultures, ancient and modern, thought about the “end of things” and speculates on why cataclysmic events in human history have such a strong appeal within American pop culture.

People and The Sky: Our Ancestors and The Cosmos

Few people today can accurately identify the stars and constellations or the phases of the moon, but our forebears had an intimate relationship with the heavens. People and The Sky explores how ancient hunters farmers, sailors rulers and storytellers were all cosmically grounded.

Anthony Aveni reveals how Kung and Mursi hunter-gatherers depended on signals in the sky for their survival and sustenance; how Polynesian sailors navigated a seemingly limitless watery world by star bearings; how social cohesion in cultures as diverse as the Pawnee and the Inca was mirrored in celestial imagery; and how the cosmic connection between the arrangement of Chinese and Aztec cities and the constellations served as an expression of political authority.

For most of human history, people found meaning in the dance of the cosmic denizens. Today, many aspects of this intimate contact between daily life and what happens in the sky have disappeared. Did our ancestors have an understanding of the cosmos that we ourselves lack? How and why did it all happen? These are the questions addressed in this engaging and erudite book

Foundations of New World Cultural Astronomy

Gazing into the black skies from the Anasazi observatory at Chimney Rock or the Castillo Pyramid in the Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá, a modern visitor might wonder what ancient stargazers looked for in the skies and what they saw. Once considered unresearchable, these questions now drive cultural astronomers, who draw on written and unwritten records and a constellation of disciplines to reveal the wonders of ancient and contemporary astronomies. 

Cultural astronomy, first called archaeoastronomy, has evolved at ferocious speed since its genesis in the 1960s, with seminal essays and powerful rebuttals published in far-flung, specialized journals. Until now, only the most closely involved scholars could follow the intellectual fireworks. In Foundations of New World Cultural Astronomy, one of cultural astronomy’s founders and top scholars, Anthony Aveni, offers a personal selection of the essays that built the field, from foundational pieces to contemporary scholarship. 

Including four decades of research throughout the Americas by linguists, archaeologists, historians, ethnologists, astronomers, and engineers, this reader highlights the evolution of the field through thematic organization and point-counterpoint articles. Aveni—an award-winning author and former National Professor of the Year—serves up incisive commentary, background for the uninitiated, and suggested reading, questions, and essay topics. 

Students, readers, and scholars will relish this collection and its tour of a new field in which discoveries about ancient ways of looking at the skies cast light on our contemporary views. 

The Russell Colgate Professor of Astronomy and Anthropology at Colgate University, Anthony Aveni is the author of Empires of Time, Behind the Crystal Ball, Conversing with the Planets, Uncommon Sense, and several other books, as well as co-editor of The Madrid Codex.

The First Americans: Where They Came From and Who They Became

For thousands of years nomadic people from east Asia followed caribou walking east. Sometime around 20,000 BCE, they crossed the land bridge into North America. These waves of people are the ancestors to every culture on the continent. Tony Aveni, whose expertise is the scientific, mathematical, and cultural accomplishments of the first Americans, celebrates the disparate cultures by highlighting one or two from each region of the country: the Taino, the Iroquois, the Adena, the Anasazi, the Kwakiutl, and the Timucua.

The Madrid Codex: New Approaches to Understanding an Ancient Maya Manuscript

This volume offers new calendrical models and methodologies for reading, dating, and interpreting the general significance of the Madrid Codex. The longest of the surviving Maya codices, this manuscript includes texts and images painted by scribes conversant in Maya hieroglyphic writing, a written means of communication practiced by Maya elites from the second to the fifteenth centuries A.D. Some scholars have recently argued that the Madrid Codex originated in the Petén region of Guatemala and postdates European contact. The contributors to this volume challenge that view by demonstrating convincingly that it originated in northern Yucatá­n and was painted in the Pre-Columbian era. In addition, several contributors reveal provocative connections among the Madrid and Borgia group of codices from Central Mexico. 

Uncommon Sense: Understanding Nature's Truth Across Time and Culture

Humans are pattern seekers; or maybe we’re pattern creators. Whether our sense of reality—that is to say, our sense of the way the universe, our backyard, or our kinship circle is ordered—is self-created or imposed upon us, as humans operating in a world of uncertainty and chaos, we require patterns. 

Archaeo-astronomer Anthony Aveni’s latest book, called Uncommon Sense: Understanding Nature's Truths Across Time and Culture and published in 2006 by the University Press of Colorado, explores the patterns created by humans of many cultures and time periods—the maps we make, the star charts we follow, the ordering of the universe and our place in it. Along the way, he opens the reader’s mind a little bit to the renderings of the possible universes beyond our Western philosophies.

The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays

Why do we celebrate Easter by telling children that a rabbit will bring them eggs and candy? Why do we make New Year's resolutions? Why do we engage in rituals like bobbing for apples on Halloween, watching football on Thanksgiving, and giving chocolate on Valentine's Day? Anthony Aveni, a professor of astronomy and anthropology at Colgate, provides answers to these and many other questions in this delightful little book about the origins and modern development of our holidays.

Skywatchers : A Revised and Updated Version of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico

Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico helped establish the field of archaeoastronomy, and it remains the standard introduction to this subject. Combining basic astronomy with archaeological and ethnological data, it presented a readable and entertaining synthesis of all that was known of ancient astronomy in the western hemisphere as of 1980. In this revised edition, Anthony Aveni draws on his own and others' discoveries of the past twenty years to bring the Skywatchers story up to the present.

Stairways to the Stars: Skywatching in Three Great Ancient Cultures

For many ancient societies, the movements of the sun, moon, stars, and planets constituted an elaborate language, expressing the intentions of the spiritual forces they believed ruled the world. With little or no technology, these ancient cultures made remarkably detailed astronomical observations and developed intricate belief systems around them. 

Join critically acclaimed author Anthony Aveni, one of the founding fathers of the study of ancient astronomy, as he explores its purpose and uncovers surprising new revelations about three of the most popular and mysterious clues to its interpretation.

Behind the Crystal Ball: Magic, Science, and the Occult from Antiquity Through the New Age

In this fascinating exploration of occult practice, Anthony Aveni takes the reader on a whirlwind tour through time and space to unveil the many ways people have used magic over the millennia in hopes of improving their lives. As Aveni persuasively argues, the ancients sought what we now search for through science and religion - a clearer picture of humanity's place in the cosmos.

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