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The science of stars and stones

Course description

Archaeoastronomy is the “science of stars and stones”: it studies the relationships between the ancient monuments and the sky, in order to gain a better understanding of the ideas of the architects of the past and of their religious and symbolic world. The course provides the first complete, easy introduction to this fascinating discipline.

During the course, many spectacular ancient sites – such as Stonehenge in England, Giza and Karnak in Egypt, Chichen Itzá in the Yucatan, Macchu Picchu in Peru and the Pantheon in Rome – will be visited and the fascinating events occurring there in special days of the year (such as solstices, equinoxes, or the day of the foundation of Rome) will be shown and explained. The course also provides the necessary background on Astronomy with the naked eye and a general introduction to the role of Astronomy in religion and in the management of power among ancient cultures.

Augmented reality app

ArchaeoAR app is a free Augmented Reality application that lets you discover ancient monuments and astronomical phenomena explained in this course and in the book “Archaeoastronomy. Introduction to the Science of Stars and Stones” (2016, Springer).

ArchaeoAR app, designed by METID - Politecnico di Milano and developed by DIAPASON DIGITAL on the basis of the research of prof. Giulio Magli, lets you manipulate 3D models of the ancient buildings, visualize the archaeoastronomical phenomena simulating the position of the Sun and of the shadows, watch video-lessons starting from the book pictures.

To discover the app, watch the video.

google play   apple store

Intended Learning Outcomes


No prerequisite knowledge is required.


A Forum section is available. The Forum is designed to allow students to exchange opinions and discuss open questions. The instructors participate in the Forum as well, as Administrators, and oversee the developing of the threads.

At the end of the course, a Bibliography section is available, where you can find a list of suggested readings that can help you in deepening the topics of the course.

Topic outline

  • Week 0 - Introduction to the course

    Not available unless: You are a(n) Student
  • Week 1 - Astronomy with the naked eye: how the ancients saw the sky

    Not available unless: You are a(n) Student
  • Week 2 - Astronomy, power and architecture

    Not available unless: You are a(n) Student
  • Week 3 - Ancient Egypt

    Not available unless: You are a(n) Student
  • Week 4 - The Pre-Columbian world

    Not available unless: You are a(n) Student
  • Week 5 - Archaeoastronomy in Asia

    Not available unless: You are a(n) Student
  • Week 6 - The Classical world

    Not available unless: You are a(n) Student
  • Conclusions and perspectives

    Not available unless: You are a(n) Student
  • Suggested readings

    Not available unless: You are a(n) Student
  • Additional resources


The final grade for the course is based on your results from your responses to the graded quizzes. You will successfully complete the course if you reach 60% (or more) of the total score. The maximum score possible for each quiz is given at the top of the quiz. You can see your score in the quiz on your last attempt or on the 'Grades' page.

Certificate of accomplishment

You must be registered in POK through Politecnico di Milano personal account to obtain the Certificate of Accomplishment. It will be released to anyone who successfully completed the course by achieving at least 60% of the total score in the graded quizzes and filling the final survey. You will be able to download the Certificate of Accomplishment directly from Politecnico di Milano web services. The Certificate of Accomplishment does not confer any academic credit, grade or degree.

Information about fees and access to materials

You can access the course completely online and absolutely free of charge.

Course faculty

Giulio Magli

Giulio Magli


Giulio Magli is a Physicist (PhD 1992), currently Full Professor at the Politecnico di Milano, where he teaches the unique official course on Archaeoastronomy ever established in an Italian University.

His research activity first developed in Relativistic Astrophysics, but gradually moved to the study of the relationship between architecture, landscape and mathematical - astronomical lore of ancient cultures, especially among the ancient Egyptians but also among the Incas and in the Mediterranean area. In this field he authored several papers and the books “Mysteries and Discoveries of Archaeoastronomy” (Springer Verlag 2009), “Architecture, astronomy and sacred landscape in ancient Egypt” (Cambridge University Press 2013) and “Archaeoastronomy-Introduction to the science of stars and stones” (Springer Verlag 2016).

He is one of the authors of the UNESCO-IAU document on astronomical heritage and has been conducting archaeological survey missions on pre-nuragic Sardinia and in Central Italy, as well as spending several periods in Egypt investigating the ancient topography of the pyramid’s fields and other ancient landscapes; since 2015 he is responsible of the scientific cooperation project between the Politecnico di Milano and the Archaeological Park of the UNESCO site “Valley of the Temples” in Agrigento, Sicily.

Along with scientific activity, he developed a wide activity in the field of scientific communication and since 2013 he serves as appointed director of the FDS laboratory for Formation and Scientific Communication of the Department of Mathematics. Recently he has been involved, together with METID - Politecnico di Milano, in research and development of MOOCs and other e-learning tecniques and, together with Domenico Brunetto, he authored the first Pre-Calculus MOOC course ever published in Italian.

His researches in Archaeoastronomy have been reported several times in national and international TV broadcasts, including CNN, Discovery News, History Channel and National Geographic.

Contact details

If you have any enquiries about the course or if you need technical assistance please contact For further information, see FAQ page.