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H 276 x W 203 mm

158 pages

81 figures (colour throughout)

Published Feb 2021

Archaeopress Access Archaeology


Paperback: 9781784918330

Digital: 9781784918347

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Archaeoastronomy; Astroarchaeology; Neolithic; Ness of Brogdar; Kintraw; Stonehenge; Orkney

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Professor Challenger and his Lost Neolithic World: The Compelling Story of Alexander Thom and British Archaeoastronomy

By Euan W. MacKie

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This book combines the two great passions of the author’s life: reconstructing the Neolithic mind and constructively challenging consensus in his professional domain. Semi-autobiographical, it charts his investigation of Alexander Thom’s theories regarding the alignment of prehistoric monuments in the landscape across several key Neolithic sites.



Foreword – Dr Doug MacKie ;
Preface ;
Chapter 1 The origins of the controversy ;
Chapter 2 Early hypothesis-testing in western Scotland ;
Chapter 3 Decisive tests in Orkney and Ireland ;
Chapter 4 Research into Alexander Thom’s fieldwork ;
Chapter 5 The probable astronomy and geometry of Stonehenge ;
Chapter 6 The Neolithic solar calendar, as seen on a kerb stone at Knowth, Ireland ;
Chapter 7 Current aspects of the research situation ;
Appendix Is there plausible evidence that the Ness of Brodgar priesthood had any esoteric knowledge? ;

About the Author

Euan W. MacKie (1936-2020), was a British archaeologist who graduated with a degree in Archaeology and Anthropology from St John’s College, Cambridge in 1959. He excavated at the Mayan site of Xunantunich in 1959-60 and was then employed at the British Museum Department of Ethnography before becoming Curator and Keeper of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow where he later obtained his PhD. His principal research areas were the brochs and vitrified forts of the Scottish Iron Age, and archaeoastronomy – the investigation of the astronomical knowledge of prehistoric cultures.


History matters, and this comprehensive volume sheds light not just on the particular period covered but on how its legacy lives on in colouring our view of archaeoastronomy today.

'...a richly illustrated account of an important, but much marginalised debate within archaeology and, as such, of great historiographical value.'—Kenneth Brophy (2021): Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, DOI: