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Politecnico di Milano


The science of stars and stones

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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.

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

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.

Consult the list of supported devices


No prerequisite knowledge is required.

Discussion forum

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.

Quizzes and scores

The course is organized into different weeks and modules. At the end of each module, you will find a self-evaluation quiz (“Practice Quiz”) specifically created to help you check the status of your learning progress.

Certificate of Accomplishment

The Certificate of Accomplishment will be released to anyone who successfully completed the course by answering correctly to at least 60% of the questions by the end of the edition. You will be able to download the Certificate of Accomplishment directly on the website.

Once you have successfully passed the course, you can request the Certificate of Accomplishment without waiting for the end of the edition.

The Certificate of Accomplishment does not confer any academic credit, grade or degree.


For further information, see FAQ page.

Course Faculty

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.

  1. Classes Start

    Nov 06, 2023
  2. Classes End

    Apr 21, 2024
  3. Length

    5 Weeks
  4. Estimated Effort

    2-3 hours/week
  5. Language

  6. Course Number

  7. MOOCs For Citizens