An accessible exploration of how diverse cultures have explained humanity’s origins through narratives about the natural environment
Drawing from a vast array of creation myths—Babylonian, Greek, Aztec, Maya, Inca, Chinese, Hindu, Navajo, Polynesian, African, Norse, Inuit, and more—this concise illustrated book uncovers both the similarities and differences in our attempts to explain the universe.
Anthony Aveni, an award-winning author and professor of astronomy and anthropology, examines the ways various cultures around the world have attempted to explain our origins, and what roles the natural environment plays in shaping these narratives. The book also celebrates the audacity of the human imagination.
Whether the first humans emerged from a cave, as in the Inca myths, or from bamboo stems, as the Bantu people of Africa believed, or whether the universe is simply the result of Vishnu’s cyclical inhales and exhales, each of these fascinating stories reflects a deeper understanding of the culture it arose from as well as its place in the larger human narrative.
Follow an epic animal race, a quest for a disembodied hand, and an emu egg hunt in constellation stories from diverse cultures
"Aveni skillfully guides us around the awesome night sky through the imagination of different peoples around the world, past and present. A wonderful treasury of cultural astronomy."—Jacqueline Mitton, author of Zoo in the Sky
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 anticipation of solar eclipses visible in 2017 and 2024, an exploration of the scientific and cultural significance of this mesmerizing cosmic display
Since the first humans looked up and saw the sun swallowed by darkness, our species has been captivated by solar eclipses. Astronomer and anthropologist Anthony Aveni explains the history and culture surrounding solar eclipses, from prehistoric Stonehenge to Babylonian creation myths, to a confirmation of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, to a spectacle that left New Yorkers in the moon’s shadow, to future eclipses that will capture human imaginations.
In one accessible and engaging read, Aveni explains the science behind the phenomenon, tracks eclipses across the ancient world, and examines the roles of solar eclipses in modern times to reveal the profound effects these cosmic events have had on human history. Colored by his own experiences—Aveni has witnessed eight total solar eclipses in his lifetime—his account of astronomy’s most storied phenomenon will enthrall anyone who has looked up at the sky with wonder.
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 MEASURE AND MEANING OF TIME IN MESOAMERICA AND THE ANDES
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?
CLASS NOT DISMISSED: REFLECTIONS ON UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION AND TEACHING IN 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.
BURIED BENEATH US: DISCOVERING THE ANCIENT CITIES OF THE AMERICAS
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
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 magnentic 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.
FOUNDATIONS OF NEW WORLD CULTURAL ASTRONOMY: A READER WITH COMMENTARY
Gazing into the black skies from the Anasazi observatory at Chimney Rock or the Castillo Pyramid in the Maya ruins of Chichen Itza, 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, Anthony Aveni, one of cultural astronomy's founders and top scholars, offers a selection of the essays that built the field, from foundational works to contemporary scholarship.
PEOPLE AND THE SKY: OUR ANCESTORS AND THE COSMOS
Oxbow says: In the modern world technology has meant that night no longer means darkness, we don't rely on the sun to keep us warm and the celestial sky, and what is beyond, is there to be quantitifed and theorised about. Although modern science means that we can explain a great deal about the sky, as individuals we no longer rely on it to guide our lives. Written by the renowned archaeoastronomer Anthony Aveni, this book describes what we have lost - how our ancestors used, and relied upon the sky in their everyday lives. Written in an informal and engaging style, each chapter takes a different theme beginning with stories from a number of different cultures about the sky. Aveni discusses why constellations were invented, how stars were used in navigation, how the cosmos acted as a seasonal clock for farmers, the importance of the sky in urban design and in legitimating the power and ancestry of rulers, and the development of timekeeping. Covering a broad range of cultures, the book explores different views of the sky by different people, and different places and different points in history.
UNCOMMON SENSE: UNDERSTANDING NATURE’S TRUTHS ACROSS TIME AND CULTURE
The divide between teaching “intelligent design” and evolution in U.S. schools has brought to the public eye a struggle that archaeoastronomer Anthony Aveni argues is as old as culture itself. All societies seek to understand the natural world, but their search is shaped by culturally distinct views and experiences. In Uncommon Sense, Aveni explores the common and conflicting ways that ancient and contemporary societies have searched for the literal truth about the natural world’s mysteries, from dinosaur bones to the Star of Bethlehem. Aveni demonstrates that a society’s approach to making sense of the natural world can serve as a working definition of its culture, so strongly does it resonate with fundamental values and assumptions.
In ten fascinating essays, Aveni examines topics that have absorbed scientists, religious figures, and ordinary citizens over the centuries. He traces the tug of war between astronomy and astrology, reveals the underpinnings of our notions of cartography and the representation of space and time, and much more.
Readers interested in science, history, and world cultures will revel in this celebration of different cultures’ common and uncommon questions and conclusions about the natural world.
THE FIRST AMERICANS: THE STORY OF 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.
THE BOOK OF THE YEAR: A BRIEF HISTORY OF OUR SEASONAL HOLIDAYS
In The Book of the Year, Anthony Aveni offers fascinating answers to these questions and explains the many ways humans throughout time have tried to order and give meaning to time's passing. Aveni traces the origins of modern customs tied to seasonal holidays, exploring what we eat (the egg at Easter, chocolate on St. Valentine's Day), the games we play (bobbing for apples on Halloween, football on Thanksgiving), the rituals we perform (dancing around the Maypole, making New Year's resolutions), and the colorful cast of characters we invent to dramatize holidays (Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the witches and goblins of Halloween). Along the way, Aveni illuminates everything from the Jack 'O Lantern and our faith in the predictive power of animals to the ways in which Labor Day reflects the great medieval "time wars," when the newly invented clock first pitted labor against management. The calendar and its holidays, Aveni writes, function as "a kind of metronome that keeps the beat of human activity tuned to the manifold overlapping cycles of life," to the ebb and flow of birth, growth, decay, and death.
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. He offers new data and interpretations in many areas, including:o The study of Mesoamerican time and calendrical systems and their unprecedented continuity in contemporary Mesoamerican cultureo The connections between Precolumbian religion, astrology, and scientific, quantitative astronomyo The relationship between Highland Mexico and the world of the Maya and the state of Pan-American scientific practiceso The use of personal computer software for computing astronomical dataWith this updated information, Skywatchers will serve a new generation of general and scholarly readers and will be useful in courses on archaeoastronomy, astronomy, history of astronomy, history of science, anthropology, archaeology, and world religions.
BETWEEN THE LINES: THE MYSTERY OF THE GIANT GROUND DRAWINGS OF ANCIENT NASCA
The Nasca Lines are one of the world's great enigmas. Who etched the more than 1,000 animal, human, and geometric figures that cover 400 square miles of barren pampa in southern Peru? How did the makers create lifelike images of monkeys, birds, and spiders without an aerial vantage point from which to view these giant figures that stretch across thousands of square yards? Most puzzling of all, why did the ancient Nasca lay out these lines and images in the desert? These are the questions that pioneering archaeoastronomer Anthony Aveni seeks to answer in this book.
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. What was the meaning of Stonehenge? What was the Mayan Code? Why was the elaborate Incan city of Cuzco built?
BEHIND THE CRYSTAL BALL: MAGIC, SCIENCE AND THE OCCULT FROM ANTIQUITY THROUGH THE NEW AGE
1996 (Revised 2002)
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.