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Star Tales, Mythology, Archaeoastronomy

Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, by Richard Hinckley Allen. ISBN 0-486-21079-0. 1963, Dover Publications.

I've had a copy of this one for years. It comes in really handy when I want to do a little explanation of star names in a planetarium show or lecture. It's based on research into astronomy writings and observations of a variety of cultures, including Chinese, Arabic, Roman, and Greek civilizations, this book has long been considered a good, non-technical reference volume.

Short Guide to Modern Star Names and Their Derivations by Paul Kunitzsch and Tim Smart. ISBN 3-447-02580-8. 1986, Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, Germany.

This slim book is just what it says it is — an attempt to list the backgrounds and pronunciations of the star names we use today. It's officially out of print, but there are usually plenty of copies available on the used market. Or, if you don't want to buy, but simply browse, try your local library.

Native American Astronomy,edited by Anthony F. Aveni. ISBN 0-292-75511-2. 1977, University of Texas Press.

This is a sequel to Aveni's Archaeoastronomy (listed below), and comprises a series of papers presented at a symposium held at Colgate University in September 1975. It's interesting to read this and then read newer works that refine and sometimes even disagree with the older interpretations!

Stars of the First People, by Dorcas S. Miller. ISBN 87108-858-4. 1997, Pruett Publishing Company, Boulder, Colorado.

A couple of years ago I was contacted by a native American filmmaker who wanted me to act as an astronomy consultant for a production she was working on. It was the start of an amazingly fascinating relationship and learning experience for both of us! I found myself talking to her about "Western" astronomy and she shared much with me about her people's interests in the sky. "Stars of the First People" was a book we read together and I found it to be a well-researched, very approachable guide to Native American star mythology and culture. Dorcas Miller has a storyteller's knack for relating various star tales in a way that brings the cultures and beliefs alive for the reader. She starts with standard star charts and the Greek myths to introduce us to the sky, and from there she moves into the legends of the many Native American peoples who also loved the sky. I really enjoyed reading this book. You will too! It's listed as out of print, but new copies keep cropping up from independent sellers (check the link with Amazon for a few listings). And of course, there's always the library!

Archaeoastronomy in Pre-Columbian America edited by Anthony F. Aveni. ISBN 0-292-70310-4. 1975, University of Texas Press.

This book continues the interpretive exploration of archaeoastronomy in a series of papers written by a wide variety of experts who came together in an exploration of the astronomical practices of North America's earliest inhabitants. A good background book to have on your shelf — if for nothing else than historical completeness.

Astronomy of the Ancients edited by Kenneth Brecher and Michael Feirtag. ISBN 0-262-52070-2. 1981, MIT Press.

A collection of articles written by a variety of experts on various aspects of archaeoastronomy. Their geographical range is from Karnak in Egypt to the American Southwest, focusing on such things as decoding Stonehenge to determining the likelihood that a supernova in 1054 AD stirred an Anasazi artist to paint a depiction of that event on a rock overhang.

When Stars Came Down To Earth by Von Del Chamberlain. ISBN 0-97919-098-1.1982, Ballena Press.

Von Del was for many years the director of the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is well known as one of the leading authorities on the astronomy of the plains and southwest Indians. This book, which Von Del calls a study in ethnoastronomy, is a scholarly look at the cosmology of the Skidi Pawnee, whose lived in Kansas and Nebraska until the last century. This book was useful to me as I wrote "Gateway to Infinity" in 1984 and 1985, "The Mars Show" in 1988, and "The Cowboy Astronomer" in 1993, and "Universe" (for Evans & Sutherland's Digital Theater Division) in 2003.

Echoes of Ancient Skies: The Astronomy of Lost Civilizations by E.C. Krupp. ISBN 0-452-00679-1. 1983, Harper & Row Publishers.

Ed Krupp is the director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California, and one of the world's authorities on the astronomical practices of the ancients. He's been everywhere in search of clues to how the ancients saw the sky and what they did with their celestial knowledge. This book takes a look at the astronomy practices of the ancients and tries to explain such works as Stonehenge in light of astronomy observations.

In Search of Ancient Astronomies edited by Ed Krupp. ISBN 0-07-035556-8, 1978, McGraw-Hill Publishers.

This one takes a broad look at archaeoastronomy and how it has changed our understanding of the ancients' views of the sky. Like the later book, Echoes of Ancient Skies, this one looks at such sites as Stonehenge, the Caracol in Mexico's Yucatan and scattered across the American Southwest. Fascinating stuff!

Star Tales by Gretchen Will Mayo. ISBN 0-8027-6672-2. 1987, Walker & Co., New York.

The author researched, wrote and illustrated this slim book of star legends that originated from a variety of North American tribes — including the Pawnee, Ojibwa, Shoshoni, Blackfoot, Snohomish and others. This one came in handy (along with Burnham's Celestial Handbook) when I was writing my planetarium show, "The Cowboy Astronomer."

Living The Sky: The Cosmos of the American Indian by Ray A. Williamson. ISBN 0-395-35414-5. 1984, Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston.

This book came to me by way of working on a show for the St. Louis Science Center in 1985. I had heard that it was a wonderfully-detailed look at the way the sky affected the lives of the North American natives. So, I picked it up to read while I was writing "Gateway to Infinity" for St. Louis. The book has since been reprinted as a paperback, and I've seen it in museum gift shops. A good reference — it stays on my "A" active reference shelf.

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Petroglyphs in the background border recreated by Carolyn Collins Petersen, based on Navajo, Anasazi and Chumash sources. The border is copyrighted 2003, Carolyn Collins Petersen.