Archaeoastronomy in Sicily: a report on past studies, present research and future projects.

Sep 8, 2020, 11:55 AM


Dr Orlando, Andrea (Istituto di Archeoastronomia Siciliana)


This contribution presents a report of the main cultural astronomy studies conducted in Sicily from the second half of the 19th century to the present day.
Sicily has an ancient tradition of observations and studies related to archeoastronomy. Among the pioneers of this discipline, it is important to remember the German historian Heinrich Nissen, who in the second half of the nineteenth century studied the orientations of several churches and some Greek temples in Sicily (Nissen, 1869). At the end of the 19th century other archaeoastronomical studies were carried out in Sicily, conducted by two famous German archaeologists, Robert Koldewey (1855-1925) and Otto Puchstein (1856-1911), and by a British architect, Francis Cranmer Penrose (1817-1903).
At the end of the twentieth century, two Sicilian scholars conducted new and interesting archaeoastronomy studies on some prehistoric monuments, such as the Sesi of Pantelleria and some rock-cut tombs built between the IV-II millennium BC (Tusa et al., 1992; Foderà Serio and Tusa, 2001).
More recently, following the foundation of the Institute of Sicilian Archaeoastronomy in 2014, cultural astronomy studies have multiplied, in about 6 years new research has been started, often in collaboration with foreign universities, in numerous archaeological sites and Sicilian areas, as for example: Alcantara Valley, Aeolian Islands, Thapsos, Argimusco, Rocca Novara, Balze Soprane, Rocca di Cefalù, Muculufa (e.g: Orlando 2017).

Foderà Serio G. and S. Tusa, Rapporti tra morfologia ed orientamento nelle architetture rituali siciliane dal IV al II millennio a.C., in Atti dei convegni lincei 171, pp. 297-323, 2001.
Koldewey R. and O. Puchstein, Die griechischen Tempel in Unteritalien und Sicilien, A. Asher & Co, Berlin, 1899.
Nissen H., Das Templum. Antiquarische Untersuchungen, Berlin, 1869.
Orlando A. (ed), The Light, the Stones and the Sacred, in Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings 48, Springer, 2017.
Penrose F.C., On the Orientation of Greek Temples, Being the Results of Some Observations Taken in Greece and Sicily in the Month Orientations of Greek Temples of May, 1898, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 65, pp. 370–375, 1899.
Tusa S., Foderà Serio G. and M. Hoskin, Orientations of the Sesi of Pantelleria, Journal for the History of Astronomy 17, S15-S20, 1992.

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Dr Orlando, Andrea (Istituto di Archeoastronomia Siciliana)

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