Astronomy in Sub‐Saharan Africa

  • Keith Snedegar
Reference work entry

At the turn of a new millennium the study of astronomical practices in precolonial African societies remains an open field. Major sources of evidence have yet to be fully scrutinized – astronomical texts in Arabic, Ge'ez, Hausa, Malagasy and Swahili, celestial iconography in the African arts, and perhaps most importantly, astronomical knowledge encoded in the vast reservoir of oral tradition. It should be no surprise that Muusa Galaal's groundbreaking monograph on Somali ethnoastronomy derives wholly from oral literature (Galaal 1992). As for the built environment, a few African architectural structures have been surveyed for astronomically meaningful features with interesting if not definitive results; further archaeoastronomical research would doubtless reveal more about the cosmologies behind African material culture. Nonetheless, scholars from various disciplines have already demonstrated that African time reckoning, divination systems, performance art and literature utilized the...

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  • Keith Snedegar

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