Occasionally, I will come across a book that makes me say, “I wish I wrote this!” Such is the case with Ken Taylor’s book, Celestial Geometry: Understanding the Astronomical Meanings of Ancient Sites.
This book will take you across continents, into urban and suburban areas, into the countryside, into museums and tombs, and into the myths of ancient cultures around the world to introduce you to ancient archaeoastronomy sites. It fits right in line with what readers of Night Sky Tourist have grown to love.
Right from the beginning pages, the Introduction spells out the powerful message that these ancient sites whisper to us today.
“Today we live secure in the knowledge that the sun will always rise in the morning, and the moon and stars won’t fall from the sky, but these facts have only be understood in the last few centuries. Before the laws of gravity and motion were discovered, people really had no idea what kept the sun on track and held the stars aloft. These mysteries were the stuff of legend, and the heavens were the abode of gods. It may seem absurd to us that our ancestors thought the sun traveled over the sky in a chariot and back under the Earth in a boat, to re-emerge in the dawn sky. Yet the intense energy that sinks below the Earth to be magically reborn is an evocative symbol of human death and resurrection or reincarnation. The name of the Roman sun god Sol Invictus (“the unconquerable sun”) capitalizes on this powerful metaphor, and there is no gainsaying the influence such religious metaphors have wielded throughout the millennia.”
The first thing that will catch your attention is the beautiful photographs and artistic diagrams of fascinating archaeological locations around the world. Some, such as Stonehenge and Machu Picchu, are instantly recognizable. Others, such as Germany’s Goseck Circle and Peru’s Temple of the Fox, are far less known. Each location or object is shown in stunning photography that will transport you to these often far away locations.
Taylor separates the book into sections according to objects or phenomena in the sky. In section one, he takes you on a journey to 37 locations around the world that were built in alignment with the solstices and equinoxes. Section two introduces you to eleven sites that pay homage to lunar eclipses and standstills. Section three, you will explore nearly two dozen places around the world that emphasize a relationship with the stars and planets, including Venus, Pleiades, the Milky Way, and more.
In addition to these physical locations in all corners of the world, Taylor also acquaints readers with solar, lunar, and stellar deities and mythologies. He expertly brings together the ancient stories of legend and myth with modern science.
Taylor does an excellent job of introducing you to dates of the origins of these sites according to archaeologists, highlighting controversies in the interpretations of the sites, and admitting what is not known. He has earned a reputation for carefully researched writing. Taylor himself has worked as an archaeologist and has written extensively about Paleolithic alignments, celestial events, astronomy, and mythology.
More than 50 sites are covered in this book. It opens a whole universe of mystery and wonder, and a window on the inner life of ancient civilizations.