The best books on archaeoastronomy

Why am I passionate about this?

I started my scientific career as an Astrophysicist. However, I have always been interested in Archaeology. This finally led me to conjugate the two passions when I started working in Archaeoastronomy, in 2003. Working in Archaeoastronomy first means having a direct experience of the sites (preferably, of every single stone, although in places like Giza they count in the millions…). So I have made fieldworks in Italy, Egypt, Cambodia, and, recently, on Chinese imperial necropolises. I currently teach Archaeoastronomy as a professor at the Politecnico of Milan. I have always been interested also in scientific communication on TV and social media, and my introductive Archaeoastronomy course is available for free on the Coursera platform.


I wrote...

Archaeoastronomy: Introduction to the Science of Stars and Stones

By Giulio Magli,

Book cover of Archaeoastronomy: Introduction to the Science of Stars and Stones

What is my book about?

This book provides the first complete, easy to read, up-to-date account of the fascinating discipline of archaeoastronomy, in which the relationship between ancient constructions and the sky is studied in order to gain a better understanding of the ideas of the architects of the past and of their religious and symbolic worlds.

The book is divided into three sections, the first of which explores the past relations between astronomy and people, power, the afterworld, architecture, and landscape. The fundamentals of archaeoastronomy are then addressed in detail, with coverage of the celestial coordinates; the apparent motion of the Sun, Moon, stars, and planets; observation of celestial bodies at the horizon; the use of astronomical software in archaeoastronomy; and current methods for making and analyzing measurements. The final section reviews what archaeoastronomy can now tell us about the nature and purpose of sites and structures. The book can be enjoyed in augmented reality through the use of a free app.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland

Giulio Magli Why did I love this book?

Modern Archaeoastronomy was born with the pioneering (and controversial) studies of Gerald Hawkins at Stonehenge and Alexander Thom on the megalithic monuments in Britain and Brittany. This book – although a bit dated with respect to recent research on some sites – remains a milestone to settle the point on debated issues. The technical points are treated in boxes so that the book is readable by the general public. 

By Clive Ruggles,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Do prehistoric stone monuments in Britain and Ireland incorporate deliberate astronomical alignments, and if so, what is their purpose and meaning? This work provides an account of megalithic astronomy debates and examines prehistoric man's concern with celestial bodies and events.


Book cover of Skywatchers: Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico

Giulio Magli Why did I love this book?

Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, although a bit dated on some arguments, is a must-read book on the Archaeoastronomy of the Meso-American people. It includes a fascinating description of the role of astronomical alignments in places like Teotihuacan and the Aztec capital (modern Mexico City), as well as an in-depth exploration of Maya astronomy and of the Maya astronomically-driven architecture.

By Anthony F. Aveni,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Skywatchers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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:

The study of Mesoamerican time and calendrical systems and their unprecedented continuity in contemporary…


Book cover of Skywatchers, Shamans & Kings: Astronomy and the Archaeology of Power

Giulio Magli Why did I love this book?

Monumental architecture was thought up as an explicit manifestation of religious power, and for this reason, it was in uncountable many cases connected with the sky. The key to understanding Archaeoastronomy is therefore to understand the connections between astronomy, power, religion, and architecture. This is exactly the aim of this inspiring book, written by an outstanding astronomer and archaeoastronomer. The author describes from this viewpoint many fascinating places - from Giza in Egypt to Palenque in Mexico - using a narrative that is richly enhanced by more than 150 photographs and illustrations.

By E.C. Krupp,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Skywatchers, Shamans & Kings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover the celestial myths and cosmic rituals of ancient priests and kings . . .
Drawing on intimate knowledge of the more than 1,300 ancient sites he has visited, E. C. Krupp, acclaimed writer and preeminent researcher, takes you to the world's essential sacred places and celestial shrines. Join him on a rich narrative journey to see where the rulers of old communed with the gods of the sky.
""Highly recommended to everyone interested in the culture of astronomy and those peoples who practiced it in their own ways.""-Sky & Telescope
""A lively account of the ways in which our…


Book cover of The Cosmos in Ancient Greek Religious Experience: Sacred Space, Memory, and Cognition

Giulio Magli Why did I love this book?

The last two books I suggest are of fresh press and testify to the modern approach to archaeoastronomy as a multi-disciplinary science. In this book, the aim is to approach Greek religion as a complex mix of rituals, cults, and architecture, identifying the connections with the sky and, more generally, with the “cosmos”. Relevant examples are discussed in detail. 

By Efrosyni Boutsikas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cosmos in Ancient Greek Religious Experience as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this book, Efrosyni Boutsikas examines ancient Greek religious performances, intricately orchestrated displays comprising topography, architecture, space, cult, and myth. These various elements were unified in a way that integrated the body within cosmic space and made the sacred extraordinary. Boutsikas also explores how natural light or the night-sky may have assisted in intensifying the experience of these rituals, and how they may have determined ancient perceptions of the cosmos. The author's digital and virtual reconstructions of ancient skyscapes and religious structures during such occurrences unveil a deeper understanding of the importance of time and place in religious experience. Boutsikas…


Book cover of An Archaeology of the Sacred: Adena-Hopewell Astronomy and Landscape Archaeology

Giulio Magli Why did I love this book?

Two thousand years ago, Native Americans created thousands of mounds and geometrically shaped earthworks across the Eastern Woodlands. In many cases, these structures are connected with the celestial cycles. This book presents a comprehensive study of the Ohio sites, framing them into Adena-Hopewell's religious beliefs and practices and showing how, for these ancient people, the entire landscape – including the sky – was a sacred space.

By William F. Romain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Archaeology of the Sacred as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two thousand years ago, Native Americans created thousands of mounds and geometrically shaped earthworks across the Eastern Woodlands. Many are larger than Stonehenge; most are aligned to celestial events. Among the most impressive of these earthworks were those created by people of the Adena and Hopewell cultures in south and central Ohio. This book presents one of the most comprehensive and detailed studies of the Ohio earthworks ever written. More than one hundred sites are documented using on-site photographs, maps, and LiDAR imagery. Using these data the author assesses each earthwork relative to its astronomy, geometry, mensuration, and landscape setting.…


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I Am Taurus

By Stephen Palmer,

Book cover of I Am Taurus

Stephen Palmer

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Philosopher Scholar Liberal Reader Musician

Stephen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The constellation we know as Taurus goes all the way back to cave paintings of aurochs at Lascaux. This book traces the story of the bull in the sky, a journey through the history of what has become known as the sacred bull.

Each of the sections is written from the perspective of the mythical Taurus, from the beginning at Lascaux to Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, and elsewhere. This is not just a history of the bull but also a view of ourselves through the eyes of the bull, illustrating our pre-literate use of myth, how the advent of writing and the urban revolution changed our view of ourselves, and how even bullfighting in Spain is a variation on the ancient sacrifice of the sacred bull.

I Am Taurus

By Stephen Palmer,

What is this book about?

The constellation we know as Taurus goes all the way back to cave paintings of aurochs at Lascaux. In I Am Taurus, author Stephen Palmer traces the story of the bull in the sky, starting from that point 19,000 years ago - a journey through the history of what has become known as the sacred bull. Each of the eleven sections is written from the perspective of the mythical Taurus, from the beginning at Lascaux to Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Greece, Spain and elsewhere. This is not just a history of the bull but also an attempt to see ourselves through…


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Interested in archaeoastronomy, astronomy, and Ireland?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about archaeoastronomy, astronomy, and Ireland.

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