A packed house joined us at the Black Cherry Café for February’s Café Scientifique event.
They heard from skyscape archaeologist and BU PhD student Pamela Armstrong who spoke about ancient Britons’ relationship with the skies and the stars.
Her research has focused on the first monuments ever built on our landscapes – mounds known as barrows. These communal places made of earth and stone were designed to house the dead, with some theories suggesting that these huge structures were deliberately oriented to the sun, the moon and the stars.
Pamela Armstrong speaking at Cafe Scientifique
Pamela talked about her exploration of barrows across the Cotswolds, mapping their position against stars in the sky that would have been visible from the horizon.
These stars could have acted as useful anchor points for Neolithic communities, with their movement providing a frame of reference for navigation purposes or different times of the year.
The talk was followed by a lively Q&A session, with a range of questions covering topics such as the construction of the barrows and their use, how our night skies have changed over time, the role of women in these ceremonial monuments, and whether similar monuments are found across Europe.
Speaking about why she wanted to take part in the Café Scientifique event, Pamela said:
“One of the things we feel quite strongly about in the skyscape community is simply talking about the work we do. Skyscape archaeology is a relatively new discipline and so we do a lot of outreach.
“It has been fantastic – I was a bit startled when I heard the event was sold out but obviously delighted because that’s what we are here for, to reach as many people as possible. So I was thrilled, and I’ve had very nice responses from people in the audience who seem to have liked it.”
She added: “I hope people will take away a deeper knowledge about skyscapes from the past but also an introduction to the fact that we are all very connected to our sky whether we realise it or not, and I hope they will start looking at the sun, and the moon, and the stars not just from the early Neolithic but for now as well.”
Bournemouth University’s Café Scientifique events take place at the Black Cherry Café in Boscombe on the first Tuesday of the month. The idea is that, over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, people can hear about the latest developments in science and technology.
If you would like to find out more about Café Scientifique, or get involved in sharing your research with the public at future events, read our blog post and register your interest.