Paleolithic and Neolithic Cultures

  • David H. Kelley
  • Eugene F. Milone


For most of the Paleolithic period [or Old Stone Age, beginning more than ~21/2 million years before present (b.p.)], there are few materials that could be interpreted as relevant to human understanding of astronomy, even in the vaguest terms. Evidence for interest in the heavenly bodies has been suggested only for Australia (see §11) and for Western Europe during the Upper Paleolithic (70,000 to ~10,000 years b.p.). A critical summary of the European Upper Paleolithic is provided by Hadingham (1979) in Secrets of the Ice Age. Despite its provocative title and popular nature, this work reviews the results of modern scholarship about the hunters and gatherers of the last 70,000 years or so, mostly from Italy, France, and Spain. He emphasizes the difference of the environment of that time from any existing today: colder, wetter, but in some ways richer, with vastly different fauna. He discusses both continuities and changes among human populations, their tool kits, and other aspects of the culture. The people were Neanderthals (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) or Cro-Magnon (Homo sapiens sapiens)—both much like ourselves in physical type and inherent capabilities. They were skilled in making stone tools and had some crude housing, at least in some areas. They depended heavily on game, and some became skilled (and perhaps overspecialized) reindeer hunters. Others depended on wild cattle, and most groups probably killed a wide range of animals. Gathering of vegetable foods was surely of great importance, although usually this must be inferred from sketchy evidence. Fishing was probably of some importance, with more lakes and streams than today. Most sites that were then along the coast, where we might expect some evidence of fishing and indications of whether it was based on use of good watercraft, are now sunk deep beneath coastal waters, which have risen many meters since the melting of so much glacial ice. It has been suggested that in some areas there were substantial attempts to control the animal populations and that some of the reindeer could be considered as having been at least semidomesticated. Similar suggestions have been made for horses.


Full Moon Summer Solstice Winter Solstice Burial Mound Stone Circle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Agius, G., and Ventura, F. 1981. “Investigation into the Possible Astronomical Alignments of the Copper Age Temples in Malta,” Archaeoastronomy 4(1), 10–21.ADSGoogle Scholar
  2. Atkinson, R.J.C. 1956/1979. Stonehenge: Archaeology and Interpretation. (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1956; Penguin, 1979).Google Scholar
  3. Atkinson, R.J.C. 1961. “Neolithic Engineering.” Antiquity 35, 292–299.Google Scholar
  4. Barber, J.W. 1972. The Stone Circles of Cork and Kerry: A Study M.A. thesis. (Cork: National University of Ireland).Google Scholar
  5. Brace, G.I. 1987. Boulder Monuments of Saskatchewan, M.A. dissertation. (Edmonton, Alberta: Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta).Google Scholar
  6. Brennan, M. 1983. The Stars and the Stones: Ancient Art and Astronomy in Ireland. (London: Thames & Hudson). (Reviews by R. Hicks: Archaeoastronomy 6, 141–144, 1983; G. Daniel: Nature 306, 516). Largely reproduced with some additional material as The Stones of Time. Inner Traditions International, 1994.Google Scholar
  7. Brinckerhoff, R.E. 1976. “Astronomically-Oriented Markings on Stonehenge,” Nature 263, 465–469.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Broadbent, S.R. 1955. “Quantum Hypotheses,” Biometrika 42, 45–57.MATHMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  9. Brumley, D.J. 1986. Medicine Wheels on the Northern Plains: A Summary Appraisal. (Calgary, AB: Ethos Consultants, Ltd., for the Archaeological Survey of Aberta). Reprinted 1996.Google Scholar
  10. Burkert, W. 1972. Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism tr. E.L. Minan, Jr. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).Google Scholar
  11. Burl, A. 1976/1989. The Stone Circles of the British Isles. (New Haven: Yale University Press). 410 pp. (Reviews by R.L. Merritt: American Scientist 65, 376, 1977; S.L. Gibbs: Archaeoastronomy 2(3), 19). (7th printing, 1989).Google Scholar
  12. Burl, A. 1979/1986. Rings of Stone: The Prehistoric Stone Circles of Britain and Ireland. (New Haven: Ticknor and Fields). 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press). (Reviews of 1st ed. by R.J.C. Atkinson: Nature 282, 175–176, 1979; Nature 284, 700, 1980; G.S. Hawkins: Archaeoastronomy 2(4), 25–27, 1979; G.E. Hutchinson: American Scientist 67, 728, 1979; R. Hicks: Archaeology 33(4), 68, 1980; S. Milisauskas: American Anthropologist 82, 882, 1980).Google Scholar
  13. Burl, A. 1985. “Stone Circles: The Welsh Problem,” Council for British Archaeology Report 35, 72–82.Google Scholar
  14. Burl, A. 1987. The Stonehenge People. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons). 249 pp. (Review by A. Whittle in Journal for the History of Astronomy 19, Archaeoastronomy (12), S85–88. 1988.).Google Scholar
  15. Burl, A. 1993. From Carnac to Callanish: The Prehistoric Stone Rows and Avenues of Britain, Ireland, and Brittany. (New Haven: Yale University Press).Google Scholar
  16. Campbell, J. 1988b. Historical Atlas of World Mythology. I. The Way of the Animal Powers. Part 2. Mythologies of the Great Hunt. (New York: Perennial Library, Harper & Row).Google Scholar
  17. Clagett, M. 1995. Ancient Egyptian Science II: Calendars, Clocks, and Astronomy. (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society).MATHGoogle Scholar
  18. Coles, J. 1973. Archaeology by Experiment. (New York: Scribners).Google Scholar
  19. d’Errico, F. 1989. “Palaeolithic Calendars—A Case of Wishful Thinking?” Current Anthropolgy 30(1), 117–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. d’Errico, F. 1992. “Reply to A. Marshack,” Rock Art Research 8(3), 122–130.Google Scholar
  21. Dibble, W.E. 1976. “A Possible Pythagorean Triangle at Stonehenge,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 7, 141.MathSciNetADSGoogle Scholar
  22. Eddy, J.A. 1974. “Astronomical Alignment of the Bighorn Medicine Wheel,” Science 184, 1035–1043.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Eogan, G. 1986. Knowth and the Passage Tombs of Ireland. (London: Thames & Hudson). 247 pp.Google Scholar
  24. Frazer, J.G. 1912. The Golden Bough 12 vol. ed. (1911–1915) (London: MacMillan). Older editions: 2 vols., 1890; 3 vols., 1900.Google Scholar
  25. Graves, R. 1955–1957. The Greek Myths. (New York: Penguin).Google Scholar
  26. Hadingham, E. 1976. Circles and Standing Stones. (Garden City: Doubleday).Google Scholar
  27. Hadingham, E. 1979. Secrets of the Ice Age. (Walker: New York).Google Scholar
  28. Harbison, P. 1970/1992. Guide to National and Historical Monuments of Ireland. (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan). 384 pp.Google Scholar
  29. Hawkins, G.S. 1965b. “Callanish, A Scottish Stonehenge,” Science 147, 127.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hawkins, G.S. 1966. Astro-Archaeology. (Cambridge: University Press).Google Scholar
  31. Heggie, D.C. 1981b. Megalithic Science: Ancient Mathematics and Astronomy in Northwest Europe. (London: Thames & Hudson). (Reviews by A.S. Thom: Archaeoastronomy 5(4), 24–27, 1982; G.S. Hawkins: The Sciences 23(4), 56).Google Scholar
  32. Heilbron, J.L. 1999. The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).Google Scholar
  33. Hoskin, M. 1985. “The Talayotic Culture of Menorca: A First Reconnaissance,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 16, Archaeoastronomy Suppl. (9), S133–S151.MathSciNetADSGoogle Scholar
  34. Hoskin M. 1991. “The Taulas of Menorca.” IInd Deya International Conference of Prehistory, Recent Developments in Western Mediterranean Prehistory: Archaeological Techniques, Technology, and Theory. Volume II. Archaeological Technology and Theory. Eds., W.H. Waldren, J.A. Ensenyat, and R.C. Kennard (BAR International Series 573) pp. 217–236. (Oxford: Tempus Reparatum).Google Scholar
  35. Hoskin, M., Allan, E., and Gralewski, R. 1993. “The Tombe di Gigante and Temples of Noraghic Sardinia,” Journal of the History of Astronomy 24, Archaeoastronomy Suppl. (18), S1–S26.ADSGoogle Scholar
  36. Hoskin, M., Allan, E., and Gralewski, R. 1994a. “Studies in Iberian Archaeoastronomy: (1) Orientations of the Megalithic Sepulchres of Almeria, Granada, and Malaga,” Journal of the History of Astronomy 25, Archaeoastronomy Suppl. (19), S55–S82.ADSGoogle Scholar
  37. Hoskin, M., Allan, E., and Gralewski, R. 1994b. “Orientations of Corsican Dolmens,” Journal of the History of Astronomy 25(4), 313–316.ADSGoogle Scholar
  38. Hoskin, M., Allan, E., and Gralewski, R. 1995. “Studies in Iberian Archaeoastronomy: (2) Orientations of the Tholos Tombs of Almeria,” Journal of the History of Astronomy 26, Archaeoastronomy Suppl. (20), S29–S48.ADSGoogle Scholar
  39. Hoyle, F. 1977a. On Stonehenge. (New York: W.H. Freeman). 160 pp. (Review by G. Moir: Antiquity 53, 124, 1979; J.E. Wood: Archaeoastronomy 3(3), 37–38).Google Scholar
  40. Huffer, C., Trinklein, F., and Bunge, M. 1967. An Introduction to Astronomy. (New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston).Google Scholar
  41. Kehoe, A.B. 1981. “The Cultural Significance of the Moose Mountain Observatory,” Archaeoastronomy 4(1), 8.Google Scholar
  42. Kehoe, T.F., and Kehoe, A.B. 1977. “Stones, Solstices, and Sun Dance Structures,” Plains Anthropologist 22, 85.Google Scholar
  43. MacKie, E.W. 1974. “Archaeological Tests on Supposed Prehistoric Astronomical Sites in Scotland,” Transactions of the Royal Philosophical Society London. A. 276, 169–194.MathSciNetADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. MacKie, E.W. 1976. “The Glasgow Conference on Ceremonial and Science in Prehistoric Britain,” Antiquities 50, 136–138.Google Scholar
  45. MacKie, E.W. 1977a. Science and Society in Prehistoric Britain. (New York: St. Martin’s Press). (Reviews by D.C. Heggie: Journal for the History of Astronomy 9, 61, 1978; S. Piggott: Antiquity 52, 62, 1979; S.L. Gibbs: Archaeoastronomy 2(2), 21–22; S. Milisauskas: American Anthropologist 82, 882).Google Scholar
  46. Makemson, M.W. 1941. The Morning Star Rises: An Account of Polynesian Astronomy. (New Haven: Yale University Press). (Review by G. Wendt: Sky and Telescope 1(3), 20).Google Scholar
  47. Marshack, A. 1972b. The Roots of Civilization: The Cognitive Beginnings of Man’s First Art, Symbol and Notation. (New York: McGraw-Hill). 413 pp.Google Scholar
  48. Mavor, J.W., Jr. 1977. “The Riddle of Mazorah,” Almogaren VII, 1976, Yearbook of the Institutum Canarium and the Gesellschaft für interdisziplinäre Saharaforschung Hallein, Austria (Graz: Akademische Druck und Verlaganstalt), 89–121.Google Scholar
  49. Mohen, J.P. 1990. The World of Megaliths. (New York, NY: Facts on File).Google Scholar
  50. Müller, R. 1970. Der Himmel über dem Menschen der Steinzeit, Astronomie und Mathematik in den Bauten der Megalithkultur. (Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer Verlag).Google Scholar
  51. Newall, R.S. 1953/1959/1981. Stonehenge, Wiltshire. Department of the Environment Official Handbook. (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office).Google Scholar
  52. Newham, C.A. 1972. The Astronomical Significance of Stonehenge. (Gwent, Wales: Moon Publishers).Google Scholar
  53. O’Kelly, M.J. 1982. Newgrange: Archaeology, Art and Legend. (London: Thames & Hudson). 240 pp.Google Scholar
  54. O’Kelly, M.J. 1989. Early Ireland: An Introduction to Irish Prehistory. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.)Google Scholar
  55. Ovenden, M.W., and Rodger, D. 1978. “Megaliths and Medicine Wheels,” in M. Wilson, et al., eds. 1978: Megaliths to Medicine Wheels: Boulder Structures in Archaeology (Proceedings, Eleventh Chacmool Conference, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta), 371–386.Google Scholar
  56. Parpola, A. 1994. Deciphering the Indus Script. (Cambridge: University Press).Google Scholar
  57. Patrick, J.D. 1974a. “Investigation into the Astronomical and Geometric Characteristics of the Passage-Grave Cemeteries at the Boyne Valley, Carrowkeel and Loughcrew.” M.Sc. Thesis. (Dublin: University of Dublin).Google Scholar
  58. Ponting, G.H., and Ponting, M.R. 1984a. New Light on the Stones of Callanish. (Stornoway: Essprint, Ltd.).Google Scholar
  59. Prendergast, F.T. 1991a. An Investigation of the Great Standing Stones at Newgrange for Solar Calendar Function. M.Sc. Thesis (Dublin: University of Dublin).Google Scholar
  60. Rappenglück, M. 1997. “The Pleiades in the ‘Salle des Taureaux’, Grotte des Lascaux (France). Does a Rock Picture in the Cave of Lascaux Show the Open Star Cluster of the Pleiades at the Magdalénien Era, ca. 15,300 b.c.?” in Actas del IV Congreso de la SEAC, Proceedings of the IVth SEAC Meeting, ‘Astronomy and Culture’, C. Jaschek and F. Atrio Barandela, eds. (Salamanca: Universidad de Salamanca), 217–225.Google Scholar
  61. Rappenglück, M. 1999. “Sky Luminaries in the Space Orienting Activity of Homo Sapiens in the Middle Palaeolithic,” Astronomical and Astrophysical Transactions 17, 459–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rappenglück, M. 2000. “Ice Age People Find their Ways by the Stars: A Rock Picture in the Cueva de El Castillo (Spain) May Represent the Circumpolar Constellation of the Northern Crown (CrB),” Migration and Diffusion 1(2), 25–18.Google Scholar
  63. Rea, T. 1988. “The Winter Solstice Phenomenon at Newgrange: Accident or Design?” Nature 337, 343–345.ADSGoogle Scholar
  64. Robinson, J.H. 1983. “The Solstice Eclipses of Stonehenge II,” Archaeoastronomy 6, 124–131.ADSGoogle Scholar
  65. Ruggles, C.L.N. 1981. “Prehistoric Astronomy: How Far Did It Go?” New Scientist 90, 750.ADSGoogle Scholar
  66. Ruggles, C.L.N. 1984a. “Megalithic Astronomy: The Last Five Years,” Vistas in Astronomy 27, 231–289.MathSciNetADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Ruggles, C.L.N. 1985. “The Linear Settings of Argyll and Mull,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 16, Archaeoastronomy Suppl. (9), S105–S132.ADSGoogle Scholar
  68. Ruggles, C.L.N., ed. 1988a. Records in Stone: Papers in Memory of Alexander Thom. (Cambridge: University Press). 519 pp. (Review by S. McCluskey: Isis 81, 330–331, 1990.)Google Scholar
  69. Schaefer, B.E. 1986. “Atmospheric Extinction Effects on Stellar Alignments,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 17, Archaeoastronomy Suppl. (10), S32–S42.ADSGoogle Scholar
  70. Serio, G.F., Hoskin, M., and Ventura, F. 1992. “The Orientations of the Temples at Malta,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 23, 107–119.ADSGoogle Scholar
  71. Somerville, B. 1912b. “Astronomical Indications in the Megalithic Monuments at Callanish,” Journal of the British Astronomical Association 23, 23–37.Google Scholar
  72. Stooke, P.J. 1994. “Neolithic Lunar Maps at Knowth and Baltinglass, Ireland,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 25, 39–55.ADSGoogle Scholar
  73. Sweetman, P.D. 1984. “A Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age Pit Circle at Newgrange, Co. Meath,” Proceedings, R. Ir. Academy 85C, 195–221.Google Scholar
  74. Thom, A. 1964. “The Larger Units of Length of Megalithic Man,” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society A127, 527–533.Google Scholar
  75. Thom, A. 1966. “Megalithic Astronomy: Indications in Standing Stones,” Vistas in Astronomy 7, 1–57.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Thom, A. 1967. Megalithic Sites in Britain. (Oxford: Clarendon Press). Reprinted 1972, Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Thom, A. 1971/1978. Megalithic Lunar Observatories. (Oxford: University Press). (3rd printing, 1978). (Review by T.M. Cowan: Journal of the History of Astronomy 2, 202, 1971).Google Scholar
  78. Thom, A. 1984. “Moving and Erecting the Menhirs,” Proceedings, Prehistoric Society 50, 382–384.Google Scholar
  79. Thom, A., and Thom, A.S. 1971. “The Astronomical Significance of Large Carnac Menhirs,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 2, 147–160.MathSciNetADSGoogle Scholar
  80. Thom, A., and Thom, A.S. 1973. “A Megalithic Lunar Observatory in Orkney: The Ring of Brogar and Its Cairns,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 4, 111–123.MathSciNetADSGoogle Scholar
  81. Thom, A., and Thom, A.S. 1974. “The Kermario Alignments,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 5, 30­–47.ADSGoogle Scholar
  82. Thom, A., and Thom, A.S. 1978a. Megalithic Remains in Britain and Brittany. (Oxford: University Press). (Reviews by R.J.C. Atkinson: Journal for the History of Astronomy 10, Archaeoastronomy Suppl. (1), S99–S102; G.S. Hawkins: Archaeoastronomy 2(4), 27–28, 1979.)Google Scholar
  83. Thom, A., Thom, A.S., Merritt, R.L., and Merritt, L.M. 1973. “The Astronomical Significance of the Crucuno Stone Rectangle,” Current Anthropology 14, 450–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Tusa, S., Serio, G.F., and Hoskin, M. 1992. “Orientations of the Sesi of Pantelleria.” Archaeoastronomy-Supplement to the Journal for the History of Astronomy 17, S15.ADSGoogle Scholar
  85. Twohig, E.S. 1981. The Megalithic Art of Western Europe. (Oxford: Clarendon Press). (Review by G. Daniel: Antiquity 55, 234.)Google Scholar
  86. Ventura, F., Serio, G.F., and Hoskin, M. 1993. “Possible Tally Stones at Mnajdra, Malta,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 24, 171–183.ADSGoogle Scholar
  87. Vogt, D. 1993. “Medicine Wheel Astronomy,” in Astronomies in Cultures, eds., Ruggles and N.J. Saunders. (Niwot, Colorado: University of Colorado Press). 163–196.Google Scholar
  88. Wood, J.E. 1978. Sun, Moon, and Standing Stones. (Oxford: University Press). (Reviews by R.J.C. Atkinson: Antiquity 52, 251, 1978; E.W. MacKie: Nature 275, 75, 1978; J.A. Eddy: Journal for the History of Astronomy 11, Archaeoastronomy Suppl., (2), S95; L.V. Morrison: Observatory 100, 173, 1980).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyThe University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of Physics and AstronomyThe University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

Personalised recommendations