Fulfills Course Outcome: 3. Process theories of cultural evolution and major transformative processes experienced by the human species in differing environmental contexts.

Please read over all instructions first before proceeding and ask if you have questions.

Discussions consist of 4 main parts: A. research/reading; B. writing and making an initial post; C. reading the initial posts of others; and D. replying to others’ initial posts. Please see the “Discussion Guidelines” for full information.


One of the great discoveries that humans have made is that the skies hold vast information about the universe, and that celestial bodies and their cycles have a bearing on human lives. Natural phenomena have been given deep cultural meanings for eons. Today the science of astronomy is greatly aided by high tech, but our observations go back far in time with far less sophisticated equipment.

Archaeoastronomy is the study of how people in the past understood astronomy and the night sky. Many ancient monuments appear to have astronomical significance; for example, Stonehenge, England (Chapter 6) aligns with both the sunrise of the summer solstice and sunset of the winter solstice. Structures at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico (Chapter 7) have solar and lunar orientations. Monk’s Mound and Woodhenge at Cahokia, Illinois (Chapter 8) were built to have astronomical alignments. Even marking a few astronomical events using structures would require knowledge, planning, and extensive labor.

Regularly recurring astronomical events are the vernal equinox, summer solstice, and the position of Polaris (the North Star). Others are the revolutions of planets, comets, and stars. Meteors have held great significance in prehistoric and historic cultures alike, and meteor showers are watched by millions of people around the world. The phases of the moon affect Earth and have been noted for thousands of years. Solar and lunar eclipses were tracked by many ancient peoples and continue to hold significance today.

For this discussion, you will explore the field of archaeoastronomy by investigating a site of your choice (pertaining to Chapters 6, 7, or 8), and come to appreciate the skills and intellect of peoples of the past.

(quoted materials from Olszewski, Deborah. 2020. Archaeology and Humanity’s Story: A Brief Introduction to World Prehistory, 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.)


Read Chapters 6, 7, and 8 of your textbook (Archaeology and Humanity’s Story, 2nd) to get a background on the archaeological evidence for archaeoastronomy at various ancient sites. You can also refer to information from PowerPoints posted in Module 2.
Read this summary article about the significance of winter solstice celebrations in the past and today: https://www.sapiens.org/culture/winter-solstice-celebrations/ (Links to an external site.)
Here is a website with information from a wide swath of cultures around the world: https://hraf.yale.edu/winter-solstice-celebrations-around-the-world/ (Links to an external site.)
Explore the fascinating field of archaeoastronomy from this reliable website: https://www.archaeoastronomy.org/ (Links to an external site.)
Conduct further research on ONE particular site that interests you from Chapters 6, 7, or 8 by consulting at least THREE reliable sources.  For example, here is a link to more in-depth information about Chaco Canyon: https://www.nps.gov/chcu/index.htm (Links to an external site.). Use only reliable sources (please consult this handout: Evaluating Sources-CRAAP Test Never use Wikipedia as a source.)



Answer each question with a few paragraphs. A single sentence answer is not sufficient. Please remember to number your responses according to the question asked.

Tell us two significant facts you discovered about the field of archaeoastronomy from the website links posted above.
Which site from the textbook did you choose? First, tell us why you chose this site. Then, provide basic information about it: location, environment, chronology, cultural affiliation, types of remains, etc.
Embed a photo of the site you chose into the discussion board. (Please do not attach the photo as attachments are not opened.)
How and why is this site astronomically significant? Report on the structures or features that align with particular astronomical phenomena.
How do you think the people living in this ancient community would have created this site? Outline the steps they would have had to take to build an astronomically-significant building or feature.
What are the sources you used? Following the Chicago style, record the complete references for all materials used.

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