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Description - Living the Sky by Ray A. Williamson

Imagine the North American Indians as astronomers carefully watching the heavens, charting the sun through the seasons, or counting the sunrises between successive lumar phases. Then imagine them establishing observational sites and codified systems to pass their knowledge down through the centuries and continually refine it. A few years ago such images would have been abruptly dismissed. Today we are wiser.Living the Sky describes the exciting archaeoastronomical discoveries in the United States in recent decades. Using history, science, and direct observation, Ray A. Williamson transports the reader into the sky world of the Indians. We visit the Bighorn Medicine Wheel, sit with a Zuni sun priest on the winter solstice, join explorers at the rites of the Hopis and the Navajos, and trek to Chaco Canyon to make direct on-site observations of celestial events.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780806120348
ISBN-10: 0806120347
Format: Paperback
(230mm x 150mm x 22mm)
Pages: 404
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
Publish Date: 30-Jun-1987
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - Living the Sky by Ray A. Williamson

Book Reviews - Living the Sky by Ray A. Williamson

US Kirkus Review » Lessons in "archaeoastronomy" and "ethnoastronomy": a rich, suggestive but sometimes incoherent collection of sky-lore. There is no gainsaying Williamson's central thesis that "whether as architects, weavers, hunters, potters, or storytellers, traditional Native American men and women weave their perceptions of the celestial patterns into their lives in order to participate directly in the ways of the universe." The problem is that almost all of those traditional Indians are now dead, so that students attempting to explain the precise astronomical function of, say, the Bighorn Medicine Wheel (an elaborate arrangement of cairns in the mountains of Wyoming) or the "Castle" in Hovenweep National Monument, have to rely on a combination of guesswork and speculative reconstruction that will leave most lay readers cold. On the other hand, we have plenty of solid evidence that American Indians were keen empirical astronomers. Agricultural peoples, like the ancient Anasazi in the Southwest, carefully calculated the summer and winter solstices and planted their crops accordingly. Hunting-and-gathering tribes, like the Cahuilla in California, used a celestial calendar as well as terrestrial signs to ascertain the time when edible plants would ripen, animals would give birth, etc. All Indians were (and some still are) closely integrated through myth and ritual into the seasonal cycles of sun, moon, planets, and stars. To this day Hopi kivas, Sioux tipis, and Navaho hogans serve to orient their occupants to the entire cosmos. Williamson (a contributing editor of Archaeoastronomy) might have organized his material more clearly and might have provided a glossary (for technical terms like incursion and ecliptic), but he writes with enthusiasm and expertise about a promising interdisciplinary field. (Kirkus Reviews)


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