Archaeoastronomy in the Ancient Americas
Since its popular resurgence in the 1960s, the interdisciplinary field of archaeoas- tronomy, which seeks evidence from the written as well as the unwritten record to shed light on the nature and practice of astronomy and timekeeping in ancient civ- ilizations, has made ever-increasing significant use of the archaeological record. This essay briefly touchesonthe originandhistory of these developments, discusses the methodology of archaeoastronomy, and assesses its contributions via the dis- cussion of selected case studies at sites in North, South, and Mesoamerica. Specifi- cally, archaeology contributes significantly to clarifying the role of sky events in site planning. The rigorous repetition of axial alignments of sites and individual oddly shaped and/or oriented structures can be related to alterations in the calen- dar often initiated by cross-cultural contact. Together with evidence acquired from other forms of the ancient record, archaeology also helps clarify the relationship between functional and symbolic astronomical knowledge. In state-level societies, it offers graphic evidence that structures that served as chronographic markers also functioned as performative stages for seasonally timed rituals mandated by cosmic connections claimed by the rulership.