HOME - Janux - D2L - Email Wikipedia course web page Vimeo course videos Course materials at iTunes U (optional) Twitter: #ouhoscurator
History of Science Week 1: Stonehenge and the shape of the Earth

History of Science Online

- Course Info - Time tips - Semester at a glance - Weekly assignments at a glance - Timeline -

LibraryThing: Science in Ancient Mesopotamia Week 1: Exploring the Past

Stonehenge / What is history? + Quiz

# Due Date Pts Activity Time
2 Wednesday
11:59 p.m.

Topic 1 + Quiz
Background: Without a sense of context, history is anachronistic.
Primary sources: Without documentary evidence, history is speculation
The first of two topic assignments per week involving both background and primary sources.

90 min.

Each week the Context assignments will be listed on a page like this. This first week, a Stonehenge assignment subsitutes for the usual Context assignment; and a Shape of the Earth assignment substitutes for the usual Evidence assignment. Hint: You may want to print this page and keep the questions below in front of you to answer them as you complete the assigned readings.

Here are the Stonehenge assignments. As you work your way through these readings, you will be introduced to some of the important ideas of archaeoastronomy, the interpretation of ancient astronomical structures, with particular reference to Stonehenge. You will learn some things that may be new to you about how the Sun and Moon move along the horizon at different times of the year. But I hope also that you will reflect on what it takes to study history.

  1. Watch the Week 2 Context Video at Janux.
  2. Imagine that you are planning to visit Stonehenge. To plan what you will want to see in person, explore the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. Read the Facts and Figures page, look at the Interactive map, and view the panorama. Read the descriptions of the following aspects of Stonehenge: Burial Mounds, King Barrows, Normantown Down Barrows, the Avenue, the Cursus, Vespasian's Camp, Winterbourne Stoke Barrows, and Woodhenge. How appropriate are the names given to these sites and structures? Do the names carry particular assumptions about their history and purpose?
  3. Imagine that you are making a visit to St. Louis, and you want to plan a side-trip to visit Woodhenge in the Cahokia Mounds. Read the Information page for Woodhenge, and browse any other pages that interest you on the Cahokia Mounds website.
  4. Imagine that you are driving through Nebraska and Wyoming, and wish to plan a stop at Carhenge and the Medicine Wheel. Find their locations on a map and note anything of interest about them.
  5. What interests you about all these sites? Who made them? What were they made for? What do they reveal about the natural knowledge of their makers? What do they suggest about the human effort to understand the past?
  6. Read these pages about Stonehenge and our effort to understand the past.
    1. Part 1
    2. Part 2
    3. Part 3
    4. Part 4
    5. Part 5
  7. Browse the "Appendix" of Michael Crowe, Theories of the World from Antiquity to the Copernican Revolution, pp. 198-220. Don't worry about the undefined vocabulary or other technical aspects that are not explained in the assignments above; just read this appendix for the "gist" of what Crowe says about Stonehenge.


TOPIC QUIZ: The statements are either True or False. When you take the quiz at Janux, you will see 12 of these statements, chosen at random, worth 2 points each.

  1. T or F? A trilithon at Stonehenge consists of a group of three massive stones, with one lying horizontal across the top of the other two.
  2. T or F? Stone circles are geographically confined to a narrow region in southern England.
  3. T or F? Natural phenomena are the explanations offered by scientists, usually involving hidden causes.
  4. T or F? In this class you will need to memorize approximately two dozen dates.
  5. T or F? The heel stone shown in the logo for this week is approximately 16 feet tall, and lies outside the circle of Sarsen stones and trilithons.
  6. T or F? Our knowledge of the past is incomplete and ever-changing.
  7. T or F? Historical knowledge is based on presently-existing artifacts and evidence.
  8. T or F? 17th century writers were in general agreement that Stonehenge was a prehistoric construction, not built by historical people such as the Romans or the Danes.
  9. T or F? Knowledge of correct modern science is the basis for investigation of the science of the past.
  10. T or F? An azimuth of 130 degrees lies to the southeast.
  11. T or F? On summer solstice, the sun rises farthest south on the horizon.
  12. T or F? On winter solstice, the sun rises farthest south on the horizon.
  13. T or F? In Norman or at Stonehenge, the Sun rises straight east and sets due west every day of the year.
  14. T or F? The rising and setting locations of the Moon move north and south along the horizon in a regular 18-year pattern.
  15. T or F? On a lunar standstill, the Moon rises straight east and sets due west.
  16. T or F? Rational reconstruction is one of the basic principles of valid historiography.
  17. T or F? Presentism, or the Whig Interpretation of history, is one of the most common historiographical fallacies.
  18. T or F? “Stonehenge was the first astronomical observatory” is an example of rational reconstruction.
  19. T or F? Mathematical methods are important sources of evidence for the study of the history of science.
  20. T or F? Archaeological methods are important sources of evidence for the study of the history of science.
  21. T or F? Without evidence, history is speculation.
  22. T or F? “Did the builders of Stonehenge believe in life on other worlds” is a valid historical question.



"History teaches us that man learns nothing from history." Disraeli

University of Oklahoma logo

HSCI 3013. History of Science to 17th centuryCreative Commons license
Kerry Magruder, Instructor, 2004
Brent Purkaple, TA

Report typos or broken links

Go to this course at

spellcheck.net | wordcounter.net

Many thanks to the pedagogical model developed in Mythology and Folklore and other online courses by Laura Gibbs, which have been an inspiration for this course.

Academic Calendar

College of Arts and Sciences Online



This course is currently undergoing major reconstruction to bring it into alignment with the new version of the course at Janux