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The Imagined Sky

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The sky forms fifty percent of our visual world and has a voice across cultures. This complex sky-voice contains great diversity and is informed by human images, dreams, and aspirations. The inherent nature of this sky-voice is transmitted from one generation to another through text, image, oral tradition, physical mapping, and painted description.

This volume is written by some of the most noted scholars in their fields of British history, history of art, social anthropology, Greek horoscopes and narratology, globe cartography, comets and Irish mythology, western astronomy, Australian aboriginal sky astronomy and mythology, and cultural astronomy and astrology. These scholars acknowledge the presence of such a voice, in the sky’s movement mirrored in the archoeastronomy of British prehistory, the apocalyptic myths of comets and meteors, the sky cartography reflected in European globes and frescoes, the Australian aboriginal sky myths, the issue of disappearing dark skies, and in contemporary reflections on the sky. It recognises that sky imagery has persisted in similar forms since its potential roots in the Palaeolithic period.

These eleven essays offer critical engagement in understanding the sky in human imagination and culture and contribute to the new fields of cultural astronomy and skyscapes emerging within the academy.

Published: Jun 15, 2016

Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgments Darrelyn Gunzburg
Introduction Darrelyn Gunzburg
The Strange History of British Archaeoastronomy Ronald Hutton
Comets and Meteors: The Ignored Explanations for Myths and the Apocalypse Patrick McCafferty
Imagery and Narrative in an Ancient Horoscope: P.Lond. 130 (Greek Horoscopes No. 81) Roger Beck
Reflections on the Farnese Atlas: Exploring the Scientific, Literary and Pictorial Antecedents of the Constellations on a Graeco-Roman Globe Kristen Lippincott
Giotto’s Sky: The Fresco Paintings of the First Floor Salone of the Palazzo della Ragione, Padua, Italy Darrelyn Gunzburg
Astrology as a Social Framework: The ‘Children of Planets’, 1400–1600 Geoffrey Shamos
Mapping the Heavens: The Ceiling of the Sala Bologna in the Vatican Palace Emily Urban
Cosmos, Culture and Landscape: Documenting, Learning and Sharing Australian Aboriginal Astronomical Knowledge in Contemporary Society John Goldsmith
At Night’s End Tyler Nordgren
Reach for the Stars! Light, Vision and the Atmosphere Tim Ingold
Images in the Heavens: A Cultural Landscape Bernadette Brady
End Matter
Index Darrelyn Gunzburg


This is a rich and varied collection of eleven essays dealing with the role of the sky in human imagination and culture. The disciplinary mix is wide, including history and history of art, classics, cartography and social anthropology. Collectively the authors make a compelling case for the importance of the sky and its interpretation in human cultures from the beginning of recorded history, and almost certainly well before that, to the present.
Journal of Skyscape Archaeology