European, Middle Eastern and African history and archaeology, books and films, sustainable development and more....

Welcome to the website of Kate Prendergast, here you can find news, publications, films and photos on archaeology and archaeo-astronomyMediterranean, Middle Eastern and African history, Irish history and culturesustainable development....

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An exploration of astronomy at Knowth - Journal of Lithic Studies (University of Edinburgh)

I explore the evidence for astronomy at the Neolithic passage-grave of Knowth in the Journal of Lithic Studies (University of Edinburgh).

The article is here

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Knowth has two passages with entrances at the east and west. In addition to analysing the available survey evidence, kerbstone engravings are interpreted as depicting astronomical cycles.

It is argued that, while Knowth’s passages function in relation to the equinoxes, they are not internally orientated to match exactly the equinoctial directions. Rather, it seems that they may have been constructed and used to facilitate the harmonisation of the solar and lunar cycles - much in the same way as does the equinoctial Judeo-Christian festival of Easter.

View the gallery of Knowth photos.

 


Houses of the Gods - my new book is published!

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Debates about the role of astronomy at the Neolithic monuments of the British Isles have occupied academic and independent researchers for many years. My new book - Houses of the Gods, Neolithic monuments and astronomy at the Brú na Bóinne in Ireland and beyond - argues that the practice of astronomical observation had a deeply practical as well as symbolic role for early prehistoric societies negotiating the transition to an agricultural way of life.

The book is available on Amazon, via the website, here

It argues that all societies, from the hunter-gatherers of the Upper Palaeolithic to our current technologically-driven cultures, require sufficiently accurate forms of time-keeping. Where these have not been available, it has resulted in significant challenges relating to the coordination and synchronization of social or collective behaviour.


Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Seas

A fabulous exhibition at the Ashmolean - Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Seas - revealed some little-known secrets of the battles for supremacy in the southern Mediterranean during the Roman rise to ascendancy. 

IMG_4243Battles between Carthage and Rome were especially savage - and the Sicilian coast was on the front line.  IMG_4247

The exhibition displays the astonishing cast-metal rams bolted onto the front of warships, making for devastating weaponry, as well as detailing the superior Roman tactics at sea. 

Intriguing finds show just how precarious was life at sea - but also how far it was the bread and butter of ancient Mediterranean empires.

 

Finds from the seabed include flagons, pottery and coins. Intriguingly, it seems the Emperor Justinian, keen to win Rome back for the newly-established Eastern Empire, and an enthusiastic Christian, shipped the equivalent of 'flat-pack' churches to newly-forming Christian communities.

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Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum

100_2294 A visit to the Forum in Rome as part of my research into winter solstice alignments in prehistory and early civilisations threw up a surprise: the temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum may be aligned on the winter solstice sunset! 

Here are some photos of the sun setting directly behind and to the right of the remains of the temple, before disappearing below the horizon. The photos were taken two days before the winter solstice, on 19th December 2015. 


It has long been known that Saturn was associated with the winter solstice, notably through the ancient and popular Saturnalia festival in the old Roman world. Here is yet further evidence of the association....

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