Sky bear research : Implications for “cultural astronomy”

Part of : Mediterranean archaeology & archaeometry : international journal ; Vol.16, No.4, 2016, pages 343-350

This chapter examines research carried out to date on the Sky Bear and seeks to demonstrate the implications of this line of research for “cultural astronomy”. It begins by reviewing research that has been done cross-culturally on bear ceremonialism, focusing on the role of circumpolar stars, Dipper stars and stars adjacent to them, and how they came to be integrated, cognitively, into an over-arching cosmology shared by different hunter-gatherer populations across the N. Hemisphere. Next, using three mutually reinforcing ethnographic datasets, the manner in which, specifically in Europe, this archaic worldview, characterized by embodied reciprocity, allowed humans, animals and nature to be bound together. The cosmology, grounded in the belief that humans descended from bears, integrated skyscape and landscape into a single interlocking reality. Furthermore, the worldview can be understood as embodying a “relational epistemology” or “relational ecology”. This more culturally-informed approach coincides with the goals of ―cultural astronomy‖ as well as the methodology and goals of the emerging field of archaeological ethnography. The reasons that these particular sky resources were chosen to project this set of spiritual beliefs skyward are also addressed. In the final section I suggest that the skyscape acts a kind of mnemonic device. As such, it is a cognitive resource, readily available to the social collective in question, which can act as a repository for past beliefs. Anchoring key components of a cosmology in the stars above allows the resulting skyscape to act as an enduring “memory bank”. In short, the datasets analyzed facilitate the reconstruction of a European-wide ethno-cultural substrate that points to an archaic relational cosmovision and the belief that humans descended from bears as well as providing evidence for the way that skyscape and landscape were integrated into this cosmology.
Subject (LC):
Ursa major, bear ceremonialism, carnival, relational ecology, Bear‘s Son tale, archaeological ethnography, Good-Luck Visits, circumpolar stars
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References (1):
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