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Politecnico di Milano


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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.



Course staff

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.


How much does the course cost?

Nothing! You can access the course absolutely free of charge and completely online 24/7.

Will I receive a Certificate of Accomplishment at the end of the course?

Yes, at the end of the course you will receive a Certificate of Accomplishment to show that you successfully completed the course (by answering correctly to at least 60% of the questions).

The Certificate is not valid for university credits, nor it represents a statement to prove the passing of the university admission test at Politecnico di Milano or at any other university.

What should I do in order to receive the Certificate?

The Certificate of Accomplishment will be released to anyone who successfully completed the course (by answering correctly to at least 60% of the questions). You will be able to download the Certificate of Accomplishment directly on the website. Pay attention: the certificate will be generated only after the closing of the edition. In order to view and download it you will have to wait a few days after the completion of the course.

I wasn’t able to view all course materials and to complete the quizzes before the end of the edition; what should I do?

The course materials will still be available to all registered users for a long time, even after the closing of the edition. In order to obtain a Certificate of Accomplishment, instead, you will have to register to an active edition of the course and answer correctly to the quizzes.

Are there any specific pre requisites to attend the course?

No, no particular pre requisites are needed.

  1. Classes Start

    Jan 16, 2017
  2. Classes End

    Mar 12, 2017
  3. Estimated Effort

    2-3 hours/week
  4. Language

  5. Course Number

  6. MOOCs For Citizens