Aveni, Anthony F(rancis) 1938-

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AVENI, Anthony F(rancis) 1938-

PERSONAL: Born March 5, 1938, in New Haven, CT; son of Anthony M. (a restaurateur) and Frances (Cremonie) Aveni; married Lorraine Reiner (a secretary), September 5, 1959; children: Patricia, Anthony F., Jr. Education: Boston University, A.B., 1960; University of Arizona, Ph.D., 1963.

ADDRESSES: Home—RR 2, Box 68, Hamilton, NY 13346-9508. Office—c/o Colgate University, Department of Physics and Astronomy, 13 Oak Dr., Hamilton, NY 13346.

CAREER: Colgate University, Hamilton, NY, instructor in astronomy, 1963-65, assistant professor, 1965-69, associate professor, 1969-75, head of department, 1971-73, professor of astronomy, 1975-81, professor of astronomy and anthropology, 1981-82, C. A. Dana professor of astronomy and anthropology, 1982-88, Russell B. Colgate professor of astronomy and anthropology, 1987—. Visiting professor and acting director of observatory at University of South Florida, 1973-74. Conducted field studies in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru. Organized international gatherings of scientists. Lectured on astronomy-related subjects for the Learning Channel. Has been featured in interviews with the New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today. Has spoken on National Public Radio (NPR) and the Cable News Network (CNN). Television appearances include the Larry King Show, Today Show, and Unsolved Mysteries.

MEMBER: American Astronomical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association of University Professors, New York Academy of Sciences, Astronomical Society of New York State, Explorers Club.

AWARDS, HONORS: National Science Foundation grants, 1963, 1965, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1973-75, 1975-76, 1977-78; Sigma Xi grant, 1971, to Mexico; OSCO Foundation grants, 1973, 1977; grants from Educational Expeditions International, 1976 and 1977, to Latin America; fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1980; National Professor of the Year award, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, Washington, DC, 1982; visiting scholar, University of Padua, 1985, 1989; resident scholar, Centro Internazionale A. Beltrame di Storio dello Spazio et Tempo, Padua, 1985; Distinguished Teaching Award, Phi Eta Sigma National Honors Society, 1990; featured in Rolling Stone's list of the top ten best university professors in the country, 1991; Colgate Alumni Award for excellence in teaching, 1997; also received grants from the National Geographic Society.

WRITINGS:

(With A. B. Meinel and M. W. Stockton) Catalog of Emission Lines in Astrophysical Objects, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 1968.

(Editor and contributor) Archaeoastronomy in Pre-Columbian America, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1975.

(Editor and contributor) Native American Astronomy, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1977.

(With B. A. Collea) A Selected Bibliography on Native American Astronomy, Colgate University (Hamilton, NY), 1978.

(Author of introduction) Travis Hudson and Ernest Underhay, Crystals in the Sky: An Intellectual Odyssey Involving Chumash Astronomy, Cosmology, and Rock Art, Ballena (Socorro, NM), 1978.

Sky Watchers of Ancient America, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1979.

Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1980; revised, updated, and republished as Skywatchers, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2001.

(Editor) Archaeoastronomy in the New World: American Primitive Astronomy (proceedings of an international conference held at Oxford University, September, 1981), Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1982.

(Editor with Gary Urton) Ethnoastronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the American Topics, New York Academy of Sciences (New York, NY), 1982.

Maya City Planning and the Calendar, American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia, PA), 1986.

(Editor) New Directions in American Archaeoastronomy: Proceedings, B. A. R. (Oxford, England), 1988.

(Editor) World Archaeoastronomy: Selected Papers from the Second Oxford International Conference on Archaeoastronomy, held at Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, 13-17 January 1986, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1989.

Empires of Time: Calendars, Clocks, and Cultures, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1989.

(Editor) The Lines of Nazca, American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia, PA), 1990.

Conversing with the Planets: How Science and Myth Invented the Cosmos, Times Books (New York, NY), 1992, Kodansha International (New York, NY), 1992.

(Editor) The Sky in Mayan Literature, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Ancient Astronomers, St. Remy Press (Montreal, Canada), 1993, Smithsonian Books (Washington, DC), 1993.

Behind the Crystal Ball: Magic, Science, and the Occult from Antiquity through the New Age, Times Books (New York, NY), 1996.

Stairways to the Stars: Skywatching in Three Great Ancient Cultures, J. Wiley (New York, NY), 1997.

Between the Lines: The Mystery of the Giant Ground Drawings of Ancient Nasca, Peru, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2000.

Nasca: Eighth Wonder of the World?, British Museum (London, England), 2000.

The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2003.

(Editor, with Gabrielle Vail) The Madrid Codex: New Approaches to Understanding an Ancient Maya Manuscript, University Press of Colorado (Boulder, CO), 2004.

Footsteps in a New Land: The First North Americans, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to In Search of Ancient Astronomies, edited by Edwin Krupp, Doubleday, 1978. Also contributor of more than 100 research publications to periodicals including Science, American Scientist, The Sciences, American Antiquity, and other anthropology, archaeology, and scientific journals.

SIDELIGHTS: Anthony F. Aveni, professor of astronomy and anthropology at Colgate University in New York, has distinguished himself as one of the leading experts on archaeoastronomy, a field of scientific study that examines the sky's influence on ancient cultures—thoughts, beliefs, and understanding of the universe. Dubbed the "founding father of New World archaeoastronomy" by Susan Milbrath in Latin American Antiquity, Aveni has written numerous titles on the subject including Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, Conversing with the Planets: How Science and Myth Invented the Cosmos, and Stairways to the Stars: Skywatching in Three Great Ancient Cultures. Among the many cultures examined in Aveni's works are the ancient Maya, the Nasca of Peru, the Stonehenge builders, and the ancient Greeks and Romans. Aveni combines astronomy, anthropology, sociology, history, and theology in his studies to interpret the thoughts and beliefs of cultures that lived thousands of years ago.

Aveni once wrote: "Archaeoastronomy is the study of ancient man's view of the cosmos. Its very name implies that such a field of inquiry is interdisciplinary. To know what the ancient Maya thought about the heavens we must understand both the workings of the celestial sphere and the Mayan mind. Religion, astrology, architecture, and the structure of the ceremonial center, hieroglyphic writing, and mathematics—all are involved and integrated into the Mayan 'cosmovision' in a way we can begin to comprehend only when we divest ourselves of our own western cultural presuppositions.

"Since 1970 much of my time has been occupied with a study of ancient manuscripts, along with expeditions and field trips to archaeological ruins in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru.

"When writing I try to fuse my traditional background and training in the field of astronomy with a knowledge of ancient native American cultures acquired since I began climbing the fence between physical science and cultural anthropology about a decade ago. By perching on the fencepost between these two disparate fields, perhaps one can see a wider horizon."

Aveni attempted to expand the horizons of many with Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, which according to Milbrath, became a "landmark" of archaeoastronomy when it was first published. Likewise, Gordon Brotherston of Isis remarked that in Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, Aveni "gathered between two covers the main advances in Western understanding of Mesoamerican accounts of the sky." In 2001, Aveni revised and updated the book, publishing a new edition simply titled Skywatchers. The book's five chapters explain how experts study archaeoastronomy and take into account historical records including Mexican documents, calendar systems, and observations about the sky. Milbrath commended the scholar, noting, "Aveni deftly analyzes the methodology of researchers studying ancient astronomy." Milbrath continued, "We owe a debt of gratitude to the man who laid the path for this research." Brotherston praised Aveni for his "excellent, clear, and professional writing" and his ability to "engage the reader directly." "This updated account of America's ancient skies should be welcomed with open arms," wrote Brotherston. "It is readable and very well informed and will constantly serve anyone at all concerned with that subject."

In Conversing with the Planets: How Science and Myth Invented the Cosmos, Aveni explores how ancient astronomers related the movement of planets and stars in the sky to changes on Earth. He discusses how these observations influenced, among other things, crop-planting cycles and stories of the goddess Venus. The book investigates the ancient cultures of the Mayas, the Babylonians, and others and seeks to explain, as an Astronomy reviewer noted, "the cultural contexts within which ancient astronomers developed their views of the universe." Reviews of Conversing with the Planets were mixed. A Publishers Weekly critic felt that Aveni's thesis "spins out of orbit into deep New Age space." However, Omni's Robert K. J. Killheffer, in a review of several books that "provide a meditation on the nature and practice of what we call science," believed that Aveni "makes a persuasive argument that the basis of science is precise observation of the natural world and an attempt to relate its parts in some systematic way."

Aveni's next book, The Sky in Mayan Literature, allowed the author to continue discussions of two of his favorite topics: astronomy and Mayan culture. In this volume, Aveni gathers several essays from experts in the fields of Mayan astronomy and anthropology (socalled "Mayanists"), which Ulrich Kohler of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute said focus on "the astronomical content of the Mayan codices." The codices are manuscripts kept by the Mayas that contain a combination of pictures and text and explain the tracking of the seasons, eclipses of the moon, descriptions of constellations, and much indecipherable information. The writers use information from the codices to present arguments and introduce new ideas about the Mayan calendar cycles, the importance of the moon, and the movement of the sun. Bruce Love of the Journal for Interdisciplinary History was impressed by the "excellent set of writings" in the book, but was disappointed that the essays were "geared toward specialists." Likewise, Kohler remarked, "The book is preceded by Aveni's lucid introduction to the subject and concluded by Charles O. Frake's final article, which draws attention to similar problems of astronomy and calendrics in Medieval Europe. A reading of both is recommended for non-Mayanists before entering the highly specialized topics of this book."

In Behind the Crystal Ball: Magic, Science, and the Occult from Antiquity through the New Age Aveni presents a history of science and magic, including such occult topics as alchemy, astrology, numerology (the study of the significance of numbers), UFO sightings, alien abductions, near-death experiences, and other supernatural activities. Critic Meredith Renwick of Canada's Canoe Web site felt that Behind the Crystal Ball contained "some valuable insights on the occult," but noted that they were "buried in a huge, sloppy, rushed survey of every weird belief in Western history." Renwick continued, "Aveni understands modern would-be magicians quite well. But his discussions of magic further back in history are garbled and sketchy." Overall, Renwick dubbed the book "an unholy mess." A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote, "Aveni … seems eager to understand the motives of the magically inclined, but his tone can be condescending or flippant." Nonetheless, the reviewer admitted that the book is "informative." Booklist's Gilbert Taylor offered a positive review of Behind the Crystal Ball, calling the book "an engaging set of stories." Taylor concluded that Aveni's examination of occult beliefs throughout history "fills a need for libraries needing a general (and skeptical) overview of the occult."

Aveni examines the importance of the stars, the planets, and the sky in the ancient cultures of the Mayas, the Incas, and the builders of Stonehenge in Stairways to the Stars: Skywatching in Three Great Ancient Cultures. The book explains how these ancient cultures viewed the universe—with a naked eye—and used what they observed to make connections, as Library Journal's Gloria Maxwell explained in her review, "between the natural and spiritual world." In addition to the ancient Mayan cult of Venus, Aveni studies the city of Cuzco, built by the Incas as one enormous observatory, and the importance of Stonehenge. Aveni includes a chapter on skywatching which teaches readers to look at the sky in the same manner as ancient cultures. An Astronomy critic called the chapter on skywatching an "enchanting feature" of the book, while Maxwell ultimately called the book "a focused survey of the beliefs and astronomy of three ancient cultures and how they compare and contrast with the prevailing way that Western society watches the night sky."

Aveni's next two books focus on ancient Nasca, Peru, a coastal city found near the Andes Mountains. In Between the Lines: The Mystery of the Giant Ground Drawings of Ancient Nasca, Peru Aveni presents a study of the giant, zigzagging lines, geometric shapes, and animal drawings that cover the Nasca plateau in Peru. He gives readers background on Nasca culture and explains the history of the lines, including some interesting ideas as to why the lines were created (from roads to alien landing maps). As Astronomy's Carol Ryback noted, "Aveni takes a common-sense look at these giant drawings, consults with experts, and sheds light on an ancient mystery." David Browne of Antiquity mentioned that Aveni "reviews past studies [of the lines] and presents a multi-functional interpretation grounded in Andean thoughts and practices," and Booklist's Patricia Monaghan praised, "Aveni tells an altogether gripping story that is rather like a mystery novel, and he offers his own theory, that the marks were the results of ritual practices." Nasca: Eighth Wonder of the World? is another Aveni title dedicated to the mystery of the lines at Nasca. The book presents the discoveries that Aveni and his team of researchers made while studying the mystifying lines for many years.

Aveni once again draws on his astronomy and anthropology expertise in his The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays, which explains where certain holiday traditions, such as the Easter bunny, originated. Aveni demonstrates how many holidays are tied to certain celestial events, such as a solstice or equinox, and are based in ancient civilizations, such as Egypt and Rome. A Kirkus Reviews critic felt that The Book of the Year "falls between the cracks of scholarly work and engaging popular history." The critic commented, "Aveni too often mixes his solid nuggets of information with pompous attempts at humor and commentary." A Publishers Weekly critic expressed a different opinion, calling The Book of the Year a "delightful little book" that provides "entertaining glimpses into the cultural evolution of holidays, and explores our human desire to make time work in our favor."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

periodicals

American Antiquity, January, 1982, review of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, p. 238; January, 1989, Wendy Ashmore, review of Maya City Planning and the Calendar, p. 219; July, 1990, Sylvia Meluzin, review of New Directions in American Archaeoastronomy: Proceedings, p. 643.

American Indian Quarterly, August, 1979, review of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, p. 286.

Antiquity, June, 1991, Timothy Taylor, review of The Lines of Nazca, p. 407; March, 2001, David Browne, review of Between the Lines, p. 223; December, 2001, N. James and Simon Stoddart, review of Skywatchers, p. 886.

Archaeology, March, 1982, review of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, p. 82; November, 2001, review of Skywatchers, p. 57.

Astronomy, March, 1982, review of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, p. 76; November, 1993, review of Conversing with the Planets: How Science and Myth Invented the Cosmos, p. 108, review of The Sky in Mayan Literature, p. 108; October, 1997, review of Stairways to the Stars: Skywatching in Three Great Ancient Cultures, p. 104; March, 2001, Carol Ryback, review of Between the Lines: The Mystery of the Giant Ground Drawings of Ancient Nasca, Peru, p. 96.

Booklist, October 1, 1989, review of Empires of Time: Calendars, Clocks, and Cultures, p. 247; September 15, 1992, Virginia Dwyer, review of Conversing with the Planets, p. 103; August, 1996, Gilbert Taylor, review of Behind the Crystal Ball: Magic, Science, and the Occult from Antiquity through theNew Age, p. 1858, review of Behind the Crystal Ball, p. 1890; June 1, 2000, Patricia Monaghan, review of Between the Lines, p. 1840.

Book Report, November-December, 1997, Rita Doyle, review of Stairways to the Stars, p. 46.

Books of the Times, September, 1981, review of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, p. 421.

Book World, July 16, 1995, review of Empires of Time, p. 12.

CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, May, 1981, review of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, p. 1286; September, 1981, review of Archaeoastronomy in Pre-Columbian America, p. 40, review of Native American Astronomy, p. 81; July, 1990, review of Empires of Time, p. 1841; October, 1992, review of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, p. 253; March, 1993, A. R. Upgren Jr., review of Conversing with the Planets, p. 1178; October, 1997, V. V. Raman, review of Stairways to the Stars, p. 316; May, 2001, J. B. Richardson, III, review of Between the Lines, p. 1663.

Hispanic American Historical Review, May, 1982, review of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, p. 275; February, 1994, Michael Edmondson, review of The Sky in Mayan Literature, p. 127.

H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, November, 1998, review of Behind the Crystal Ball, p. ONL.

Hungry Mind Review, spring, 1992, review of The Lines of Nazca, p. 52.

Isis, June, 1991, Olaf Pedersen, review of Empires of Time, p. 346; March, 1997, Steven J. Dick, review of Ancient Astronomers, p. 131; December, 1999, review of Stairways to the Stars, p. 797; December, 2002, Gordon Brotherston, review of Skywatchers, p. 679.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, summer, 1995, Bruce Love, review of The Sky in Mayan Literature, p. 164.

Journal of Popular Culture, spring, 2000, Rita Rippetoe, review of Behind the Crystal Ball, p. 172.

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, March, 1995, Ulrich Kohler, review of The Sky in Mayan Literature, p. 172.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1989, review of Empires of Time, p. 1209; July 1, 1992, review of Conversing with the Planets, p. 819; June 15, 1996, review of Behind the Crystal Ball, p. 867; November 15, 2002, review of The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays, p. 1665.

Latin American Antiquity, June, 2001, review of Between the Lines, p. 220; March, 2003, Susan Milbrath, review of Skywatchers, p. 88.

Library Journal, September 15, 1989, Jack W. Weigel, review of Empires of Time, p. 132; November 1, 1992, Jack W. Weigel, review of Conversing with the Planets, p. 94; August, 1996, James Olson, review of Behind the Crystal Ball, p. 106; May 15, 1997, Gloria Maxwell, review of Stairways to the Stars, p. 97.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 20, 1992, review of Conversing with the Planets, p. 6.

Natural History, January, 1990, Jeremy Bernstein, review of Empires of Time, p. 28.

Nature, December 21, 1989, Owen Gingerich, review of Empires of Time, p. 871; January 30, 1997, Martin Gardner, review of Behind the Crystal Ball, p. 405.

New Scientist, November 16, 1996, review of Behind the Crystal Ball, p. 45; January 25, 1998, review of Stairways to the Stars, p. 44.

New Statesman and Society, August 10, 1990, Jenny Diski, review of Empires of Time, p. 37.

New York Times, July 7, 1981, Richard Severo, review of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, p. 15; March 25, 1986, William Stockton, "Ancient Astronomy Points to New Views on Mayan Life," p. 15.

New York Times Book Review, December 13, 1992, Marcia Bartusiak, review of Conversing with the Planets, p. 11; November 17, 1996, Ed Regis, review of Behind the Crystal Ball, p. 32.

Omni, August, 1993, Robert K. J. Killheffer, review of Conversing with the Planets, p. 22.

Physics Today, October, 1997, E. C. Krupp, review of Behind the Crystal Ball, p. 108.

Publishers Weekly, August 4, 1989, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Empires of Time, p. 78; July 13, 1992, review of Conversing with the Planets, p. 40; July 1, 1996, review of Behind the Crystal Ball, p. 52; November 25, 2002, review of The Book of the Year, p. 61.

Quill & Quire, February, 1990, review of Empires of Time, p. 28.

Reference and Research Book News, February, 1990, review of Empires of Time, p. 35.

Religious Studies Review, April, 1980, review of Native American Astronomy, p. 165; October, 1985, review of Ethnoastronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the American Tropics, p. 416.

Reviews in Anthropology, number 3, 1992, review of The Lines of Nazca, p. 171, review of World Archaeoastronomy: Selected Papers from the Second Oxford International Conference on Archaeoastronomy, held at Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, 13-17, January, 1986, p. 171.

Science Books and Films, November, 1981, review of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, p. 72; May, 1990, review of Empires of Time, p. 243; January, 1998, review of Stairways to the Stars, p. 14; December, 1998, review of Stairways to the Stars, p. 264.

Sciences, September-October, 1990, Laurence A. Marschall, review of Empires of Time, p. 51.

Scientific American, October, 1981, Philip Morrison, review of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, p. 42; August, 1993, Philip Morrison, review of Conversing with the Planets, p. 127.

SciTech Book News, June, 1990, review of Empires of Time, p. 7; September, 1997, review of Stairways to the Stars, p. 27.

Skeptical Inquirer, fall, 1993, Stephen L. Coles, review of Conversing with the Planets, p. 79.

Sky and Telescope, March, 1982, J. Derral Mulholland, review of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, p. 261; September, 1984, William E. Shawcross, "Mystery on the Desert: The Nazca Lines," p. 198; August, 1985, William E. Shawcross, "Venus and the Maya," p. 111; May, 1991, review of The Lines of Nazca, p. 502; April, 1993, review of Conversing with the Planets, p. 61, review of The Sky in Mayan Literature, p. 60; July, 1997, review of Stairway to the Stars, p. 70; April, 2002, review of Skywatchers, p. 66.

Technology and Culture, July, 1991, David S. Landes, review of Empires of Time, p. 596.

Times Literary Supplement, August 23, 1991, John D. North, review of Empires of Time, p. 24; December 27, 1996, Keith R. Hutchinson, review of Behind the Crystal Ball, p. 30.

Village Voice Literary Supplement, November, 1989, review of Empires of Time, p. 5.

Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1998, review of Behind the Crystal Ball, p. 251.

Wilson Quarterly, autumn, 1989, review of Empires of Time, p. 115.

online

Anthony F. Aveni Web site, http://anthonyfaveni.com (June 8, 2004).

Archaeology Book Review, http://archaeology.about.com/ (June 8, 2004), review of Skywatchers.

Canoe Web site (Canada), http://www.canoe.ca/ (December 1, 1996), Meredith Renwick, "Abracadabra under the Microscope," review of Behind the Crystal Ball.

Colgate University Department of Native American Studies Web site, http://departments.colgate.edu/nast/ (February 1, 2003), "Faculty: Anthony Aveni."*

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Aveni, Anthony F(rancis) 1938-

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