The Remarkable Science of Ancient Astronomy

Narrated by: Bradley E. Schaefer
Length: 11 hrs and 51 mins
Categories: History, Ancient History
4.2 out of 5 stars (112 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In a world without artificial lights, the night sky is ablaze with stars, whose patterns tell stories you have heard since childhood. The Sun, Moon, and stars are crucial to your daily existence, since they tell the time, direction, and when to plant and harvest. The perfect regularity of the heavens is the only guaranteed part of life and inspires deep religious and philosophical ideas, while unexpected events such as eclipses and comets incite fear.

Experience this ancient outlook with noted astrophysicist and historian of astronomy Professor Bradley Schaefer of Louisiana State University. An award-winning teacher, Dr. Schaefer takes you around the world, exploring the close relationship that people thousands of years ago had with the sky.

The Remarkable Science of Ancient Astronomy covers notable sites and phenomena such as Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid, the Star of Bethlehem, the origin of constellations, Polynesian sky navigation, ancient calendars, and more. Understand the precise alignment of prehistoric monuments with the Sun and stars, learn how to use a medieval astrolabe, and decipher the workings of an astonishing ancient Greek computer called the Antikythera mechanism, which was centuries ahead of its time.

Using only their eyes, ancient astronomers got many things right, and their meticulous records have proved invaluable to modern astronomers, helping them calculate the slowing of Earth’s rotation and the expanding stellar cataclysms called supernovae. Ancient astronomers truly laid the foundation for modern science.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2017 The Great Courses (P)2017 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about The Remarkable Science of Ancient Astronomy

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A mess

Before purchasing, I read some reviews that complained about the long pauses in the performance. I shrugged them off - how bad could some pauses be? Very, very bad, it turns out. These aren't just pauses. They are several seconds of silence, in places where no such long pauses make sense. Several times I even went to check if the player had paused for some reason. Even worse, when the narrative was taken up again, it often had little relationship to what had been said just before the pause. This contributes to the cobbled together impression I got from these lectures. Instead of a well thought out whole, it feels like many small fragments were stitched together to create enough content to sell as a lecture series. Often, a concept is explored in detail in an early lecture. When it is mentioned again in a later one, it is introduced as A! Brand! New! Idea! the student had never heard before, instead of a simple reminder of the earlier explanation. And, yes, the lecturer has never seen a sentence that couldn't be improved by an exclamation mark. He sounds like an over eager puppy playing fetch. This covers only the presentation. Unfortunately, I cannot be much more positive about the content itself. More popular science books are quoted than recognized scholars. Often, rather fringe ideas are given the same weight as well accepted theories. The professor's broad generalizations and over use of "all civilizations" often go against some well known counter examples. Simply using a more conservative wording, such as "most civilizations", would go far in enhancing his credibility. If someone who is not an anthropologist, historian or archaeologist could spot these inconsistencies, how many more have I missed because my background is not in those areas?

11 people found this helpful

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The performance was not the problem

I don’t usually write full reviews, but I wanted to give a fuller answer as to why I rated the performance so low. Dr Schaefer show great enthusiasm and knowledge and I enjoyed this lecture. However, an editor needs to go in and take out the long spaces of silence. It’s very distracting. Once this is fixed, four star rating on performance.

23 people found this helpful

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One of my favorites…

I’m adding this to Kaler and Shutt as my favorite astronomy Audible books. Definitely a great overview of ancient astronomy. Good to compare what people knew and how they knew it. Schafer’s own research adds to the discussion.

10 people found this helpful

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A Bit Heavy-Handed

I wanted to like this from beginning to end. I really wanted to, but The whole time I was listening, I was asking myself if this was a lecture series about astronomy in the ancient world or if this was a lecture series about ancient anthropology concerning the sun, moon, and stars. This series is only part scientific-historical. It is also part anthropology, part historical speculation, part religious revisionism, and part vessel for the professor to talk about all of his great research. Perhaps I didn't read the course description well enough, but I had hoped that I was going to get a series about how the Scandinavians found their way across an ocean by the sky and how the ancient astronomers made measurements and calculations about the size of the earth and the timing of celestial cycles. Now, that is partly in there, but I had to wait a while for it to come to that. Most of the series was anthropological speculation about why the ancient Britons built Stonehenge, or why some indigenous American tribes might have worshiped a meteorite, or some other such things. I was also put off (perhaps wrongly) by the amount of emphasis placed on the professor's desire to empirically test and validate the ancients' calculations. The lectures having anything to do with Christianity are particularly poor. I wouldn't say it's common knowledge, but the lambing season in Palestine is actually in the wintertime, so the Gospel infancy narratives are accurate, despite what he says otherwise. I'll end by saying that the material a found truly relevant to the topic was good. The lectures on navigation, zodiacal/constellation divisions within the sky, and such conjunction topics were informative, when not being derailed by the professor bragging about all of his research and verifying calculations. Lastly, the long pauses in the audio recording was extremely difficult. I thought my device had malfunctioned a few times. I'm sure it was useful or at least not problematic in the video, but those pauses should really have been cut down for the audio recordings.

14 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

This was overall a disappointing listen and I feel the title is somewhat misleading. Let's start with the title: when I think of 'ancient astronomy' I think of things like Stonehenge, the pyramids, and that kind of thing. And to be fair, the course started with those elements but about halfway through it switched to astrology and then to the classical period of Greek and Chinese astronomy and then jumped ahead to the Renaissance. There wasn't much 'ancient' beyond the opening couple of lectures. Next, the course itself felt like a jumbled mishmash of topics that were bundled together because they had nowhere else to fit. Like I pointed out above, there was astronomy, astrology, two lectures on the Antikythera Mechanism, and no cohesive narrative tying it all together. As other reviewers have pointed out, there are long pauses in the middle of the lectures. I think each lecture has at least one, and often the pre- and post-pause material doesn't mesh. It's like lectures were spliced together. Worse, each time one of the pauses happened I thought the lecture was over and was waiting for the music only to have the professor start up again. These pauses seem like something that could have been easily fixed in editing. One of the biggest issues I had with the course was the lecture about the pyramids when the professor mentioned how the Great Pyramid is aligned with the cardinal directions and rather than credit the builders, his reasoning for this alignment is that they were either trying to be a little bit off the true directions and got it wrong, or that due to random chance they managed to get it right. I nearly gave up listening right there. I can't recommend this title. If you're hoping for insights into ancient cultures or explanations of ancient monuments and their astronomical significance, you won't find it here. If you want a jumbled series of lectures loosely tied to an astronomical theme featuring a mix of ancient, classical, Reniassance, and modern cultures then this might be for you, just keep your expectations low.

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Remarkable

This book is about ancient scientists going back over 4,000 years. this dry subject was brought alive by the narrator who did a very very good job.

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a good listen, however...

A considerable amount of good information presented in a clear fashion. The constant long pauses are particularly annoying and it would be a better presentation overall if the speaker could come across as being a bit less full of himself as he is.

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skip the lecture on the Star of Bethlehem

the lecturer promotes the myth that Christmas was originally a pagan festival honoring the sun. He is also clearly unfamiliar with Biblical material, wrongly assuming that the Magi are named and that the little drummer boy is mentioned.

7 people found this helpful

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Sorry for the bad review but..........

This course started out very well but being a student of Astronomy and Archaeology for the last 50+ years I refuse to entertain or waste my time on any Academic that still believes the silly notion that the Pyramids were tombs for Egyptian Kings. Sorry but this one is being returned.

8 people found this helpful