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A Review of African Ethno-Astronomy: With Particular Reference to Saharan Livestock-Keepers

Clare Oxby
La Ricerca Folklorica
No. 40, Società pastorali d'Africa e d'Asia (Oct., 1999), pp. 55-64
Published by: Grafo Spa
DOI: 10.2307/1479768
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1479768
Page Count: 10
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A Review of African Ethno-Astronomy: With Particular Reference to Saharan Livestock-Keepers
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Abstract

The assumption of this volume is that the livestock-rearing activities shared by pastoral societies give rise to a typically pastoral ideology, where the importance of domesticated animals and attachment to the open spaces where these animals thrive are reflected in several aspects of culture. This was the starting point of a survey of ethno-astronomical data relating to African pastoralism, as compared to similar data from non-pastoralist neighbours, to establish the emergence of a typically 'pastoralist' view of the sky. The fact that the conclusion is largely negative does not, in my view, undermine the work undertaken; indeed the results add weight to the belief that most pastoralists should not be perceived as social isolates but seen as part of complex societies including other components, such as peasant farmers and urban markets. In the absence of a distinctive 'pastoralist' view of the sky, this study points to a broad distinction between literate traditions of astronomical knowledge - in which seasonal stars play an important part - and oral traditions based on seasonal moons.

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