Astronomy in the Ancient World: Early and Modern Views on by Alexus McLeod

By Alexus McLeod

Alexus McLeod explores each point of the lesser-known historical past of astronomy within the Americas (Mesoamerica and North America), China and India, each one during the body of a specific astronomical phenomena. half One considers the improvement of astronomy within the Americas as a reaction, partially, to the Supernova of 1054, that may have resulted in a cultural renaissance in astronomy. He then is going directly to discover the modern figuring out of supernovae, contrasting it with that of the traditional Americas. half is framed throughout the appearances of serious comets, which had significant divinatory value in early China. the writer discusses the development of observational astronomy in China, its impression on politics and its position within the survival or failure of empires. additionally, the modern figuring out of comets is usually mentioned for comparability. half 3, on India, considers the amazing observatories of the Rajput king Jai Singh II, and the query in their goal. The origins of Indian astronomy are tested in Vedic proposal and its improvement is throughout the interval of Jai Singh, together with the function performed by way of sun eclipses. the writer additionally features a smooth clarification of our knowing of eclipses to this point. within the ultimate element of the publication, McLeod discusses how historic traditions can assist smooth civilization higher comprehend Earth’s position within the cosmos.

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Extra resources for Astronomy in the Ancient World: Early and Modern Views on Celestial Events

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So we have 10, 20, 30, 40, and so on, beginning a new count of 10s for every ten. Although we are so familiar with this system as to completely take it for granted, there is no particular reason we need to count in a decimal system. It is believed that the reason many societies adopted a decimal system is the rather obvious one—we have ten fingers, and thus grouping numbers into units of tens is very intuitive when one is using fingers to count. But say we had eight fingers, or we just decided to adopt a different system.

26 While there is likely Christian influence in the work (which seems obvious when one reads 26 see Tedlock (1996)—this translation of the K’iche’ original includes an introduction discussing influences. Maya Cosmology 29 through the first book, though the clear Christian parallels seem to taper off the deeper one gets into the text), it is also likely that this work preserves some much earlier features of Maya religion. Some of what we find here are likely beliefs that would have been held by the Maya of the Classic Period, during which the Maya intellectual project flourished, and the Maya people developed a complex language and textual tradition, formed a thriving empire, constructed majestic temple cities (even though they were never to become the kind of urban constructionists that their cultural predecessors in Teotihuacan were or the later Aztecs would become), and revolutionized astronomical observation and prediction.

What was the significance of what they built? What were their beliefs, their relationships, and their understanding of the sky? While all of these questions will of necessity be much harder to answer than they are for cultures such as the early Maya, they can be answered to some extent. Why are these questions more difficult when we come to ask them of the Mississippian peoples? There are two major reasons for this. First, the Mississippian cultures, although they built ceremonial centers, pyramids, and majestic cities every bit as large in scale as those of the Maya (and Aztecs), they did not build with stone, but instead with earthen materials, which are naturally less long-lasting than stone.

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