Stairways to the Stars

Stairways to the Stars

Skywatching in Three Great Ancient Cultures

Book - 1997
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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?

A timeless, towering enigma, Stonehenge has mesmerized people for centuries. As Aveni takes us on a tour around the legendary structure, he describes how it was constructed in multiple stages over thousands of years, and critiques the many theories posited to explain its form and function. Through his eyes, Stonehenge comes alive as a meeting place, an observatory, a calendar, and a sacred temple.

In the rain forests of Central America, the great Mayan civilization advanced the study of ancient astronomy through a sophisticated system of mathematics designed to calculate celestial movements. Here, the revered king Netzahualpilli would ascend to the roof of his palace to converse with the stars on matters of state. The Mayan codices speak of Kukulcan, the feathered-serpent deity who represented Venus, and whose presence permeated Mayan society, and influenced methods of agriculture, warfare, and rituals of human sacrifice. So powerful was the influence of Venus among the Mayans that the architecture and designs of buildings and monuments were skewed to focus attention on its wanderings.

The prominent role of astronomy in ancient cultures reached its zenith, perhaps, with the mighty Inca Empire in western South America. The Incas incorporated their knowledge of the sky into the very plan of their capital city of Cuzco. Aveni details the astounding ceque system of city planning that was based on astronomical observations and unified Inca ideas about celestial events, religion, social organization, time-keeping, and agriculture.

Taking readers on a stimulating journey through time and space, Stairways to the Stars is science writing at its very best, deftly linking past and present, while deepening our understanding of our ancestors and how they lived, as well as our sense of our own humanity.

On Behind the Crystal Ball:

"A vastly entertaining inquiry into the roots of magic and science . . . with unflagging wit and a sharp critical eye." - Evan Hadingham Coexecutive Producer, Discovery Magazine

On Empires of Time:

"One of the best books on a scientific theme for the serious general reader that I have read for some time." - John Barrow, author of Pi in the Sky

"The author is obviously in command of his material. . . . His exploration of the mysteries of time provides an eminently stimulating read." - Nature

On Conversing with the Planets:

"A popular synthesis of the ancient search for celestial order." - Scientific American

"In this intriguing work, Anthony Aveni writes with a mastery and polish that is wonderfully accessible, akin to an engaging classroom lecture." - The New York Times Book Review

Publisher: New York : John Wiley & Sons, c1997.
ISBN: 9780471159421
0471159425
Characteristics: ix, 230 p. :,ill. ;,25 cm.

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