Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy
A web-based activity exploring how different cultures have interpreted constellations

created by Kaye Placing
UniServe Science

Introduction | The Process and Resources | Follow-up |


You've heard of astronomy - but what about archaeoastronomy? Or ethnoastronomy?

Read Good Heavens, an Australian Zodiac - a newspaper article by Guy Healy that appeared in The Weekend Australian (Oct 24-25, 1998). List the animals mentioned in the Australian Zodiac.

Write sentences to answer these questions:
  1. What is meant by astronomy?
  2. What is meant by astrology?
  3. What is meant by archaeoastronomy?
  4. What is meant by ethnoastronomy?
  5. What is a constellation?
  6. What is the zodiac?
  7. What is your sign of the zodiac? (If you are uncertain of your sign - check at the The Signs of the Zodiac web site.) What is the correct name of the constellation and what does it represent? Write two paragraphs about your constellation with information such as: when and where can it be seen? what are the important stars? and how did it get its name? Include a labelled diagram of your constellation.

Background resources

Task and resources

Your teacher will divide you into groups and assign a "culture" to each group.

Use the links below to prepare a presentations on how your assigned culture had developed a differing view of astronomy and explanantions for the constellations and other objects oberved in the sky.

  1. European (Roman, Greek)
  2. Australian Aborigines
  3. Egyptian
  4. Central and South America
  5. North America
  6. Other


  1. What are five constellations visible from Australia?
  2. Design alternative signs of the zodiac for each member of your group using the information from the culture you investigates or from the article you read about the Aboriginal zodiac. Here is a sample constellation.
kangaroo constellation

Web Resources

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Last Update: Monday, 30-Apr-2012 15:05:54 EST