2010 Archaeoastronomy Workshop

A two-day workshop on archaeoastronomy was held at Pueblo Grande Museum, Phoenix, Arizona, on March 11 and 12, 2010. This workshop was designed to provide technical training on how to record ancient and historic astronomy sites in the American Southwest region, and was organized by Ken Zoll, Todd Bostwick, and Bryan Bates. More than 50 people attended.

A dozen well-qualified speakers – including professional surveyors, computer programmers, astronomers, archaeologists, and other scholars – provided expert advice on a variety of important archaeoastronomy topics at the workshop. These topics include:

  • The use of ethnographic analogy and consultation; and obtaining research permits to work on public lands
  • Establishing criteria for the attribution of intent to archaeoastronomical alignments, and modeling expectations for confirmation of proposed alignments
  • Preparing research designs and developing recordation forms that meet federal and state standards
  • Conducting systematic archival research on previously examined archaeological sites, with tips on how best to use the World Wide Web (Legacy Documentation)
  • Digital photography equipment, techniques and archival issues, as well as the challenges of photographing the sun
  • Using Microsoft Movie Maker for displaying archaeoastronomy light and shadow effects recorded with digital images
  • Strengths and weaknesses of determining field azimuth and horizon-line dynamics with different types of surveying instruments (compass, transit, theodolite), including measurement errors and correction processes, and the hands-on use of instruments outside the museum.
  • Using 3-D computer modeling techniques to identify the precision of light and shadow calendars
  • 3-D scanning technology and geodetic referencing applied to archaeoastronomy sites for determining alterations in light and shadow effects caused by erosion (The Sun Dagger Site at Chaco Canyon), and for public exhibits

Our presenters were:

  • Bryan Bates, Chair, Oxford VII International Conference on Archaeoastronomy
  • Dr. Carol Ambruster, Assistant Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Villanova University
  • Dr. Tony Hull, Department of Physics and Astronomy University of New Mexico & Rock Art Archive University of California Los Angeles
  • Dr. Beth Jewell, Department of Astronomy and Physics, Villanova University
  • Todd Bostwick, Ph.D., City Archaeologist, Pueblo Grande Museum
  • J. McKim Malville, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy University of Colorado
  • Andrew M. Munro, Centre for Astronomy, James Cook University
  • Ron Sutcliffe, Chimney Rock researcher and Colorado College lecturer
  • Gregory Munson - Architectural Documentation Specialist
  • Ron Barber, Stone Calendar Project, Los Alamos New Mexico
  • John Ninnemann and Michael Aljets, 2009 Conference Presenters
  • James Holmlund, President,  and Joe Nicoli, Director of Laser Scanning Services, Western Mapping Company
Our guest speaker was Professor Nicholas Champion, from the University of Wales, who talked about the Cultural Anthropology of archaeoastronomy in the United Kingdom (including the appropriation of archaeoastronomy data by New Age and other popular festivals).

The conference organizers presented a Lifetime Achievement Award in archaeoastronomy research in the American Southwest to Dr. J. McKim (Kim) Malville, Professor of Astronomy at University of Colorado-Boulder. Dr. Malville, who has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his work on solar physics, has been conducting archaeoastronomy research for more than 20 years and is the author of the book, A Guide to Prehistoric Astronomy in the Southwest (2008). A part of his ongoing mission to ensure that archaeoastronomy is conducted as a scientific endeaver, Dr. Malville presented a paper at the workshop titled "The Seven Deadly Sins of Archaeoastronomy."

In addition, a discussion forum for workshop attendees identified critical needs, including a concern that Southwest universities are not teaching archaeoastronomy classes and that training is not available to graduate students (and others) who have a research interest in the subject matter despite its increased importance both regionally and internationally.
© Society for Cultural Astronomy in the American Southwest
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