• 12-16 November 2024
  • Monastero dei Benedettini
  • Università di Catania

Scientific Rationale

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, a crossroads of peoples and cultures for millennia. Homer defined it as "the island of the Sun” (Odyssey XI); the title of the meeting recalls this ancient definition and emphasizes how our star is linked to human beliefs and practices, especially on the island of Sicily.

Astronomy, as part of culture, has a clear social character that deserves our attention. Cultural Astronomy attempts to do so by exploring the way in which different societies, across history and even now, interact with the cosmos.

The European Society for Astronomy in Culture (SEAC) is a professional association of scientists working in the field of Cultural Astronomy, including the interdisciplinary fields of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy.

The first studies in archaeoastronomy in Sicily date back to the second half of the 19th century, when European scholars such as Nissen, Koldewey, Puchstein and Penrose, carried out surveys on the orientations of Greek temples, including those of Siracusa, Agrigento and Taormina. After almost a century, in the last decade of the 20th century, new studies in archaeoastronomy investigated several Sicilian prehistoric sites, such as the Sesi of Pantelleria, several rock-shaft necropolis sites, and rock-cut tombs. These studies were conducted by Sebastiano Tusa (1952-2019), Michael Hoskin (1930-2021) and Giorgia Foderà Serio.

Since the studies of Tusa et al., but especially in the last 15 years, archeoastronomy studies in Sicily have greatly increased, and today there are several dozen sites under investigation. However, so far these studies remain almost exclusively in the academic realm; to promote a greater public involvement an investment of resources by institutions, both private and governmental, would be a necessity. At the very least, it would be a great benefit to public knowledge if archaeoastronomy were to be 'narrated' at the archaeological sites themselves through information panels and multimedia material.

The venue for SEAC2024 in Sicily is the Benedictine Monastery in Catania. The city of Catania, the second largest of Sicily after its capital (Palermo), has an international airport. The Benedictine Monastery is home to the Department of Humanities of the University of Catania, a university founded in 1434. The Monastery, considered the second largest Benedictine monastery in Europe (second only to the Monastery of Mafra in Portugal), is located in the historic center of Catania, easily reachable on foot from numerous hotels and restaurants nearby.

In November the weather in Sicily is reasonably good, the intensity of summer tourism and oppressive heat are over, and accommodations are available, despite the presence of University students during term time.

Several outreach lectures devoted to students and general public will be scheduled during the week. A workshop about the use of Stellarium in the field of archaeoastronomy is also planned.

The SEAC2024 meeting is sponsored by