Estimating the Reliability of Digital Data Acquisition in Cultural Astronomy

The Case of Roman North Africa


  • Andrea Rodríguez-Antón Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias
  • A. César González-García Instituto de Ciencias del Patrimonio, Incipit – CSIC
  • Juan Antonio Belmonte Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias



Astronomy, Africa, methods, Roman, towns, urban


Digital tools are increasingly used in cultural astronomy, so that it is now more important than ever to assess their precision and reliability, and to identify what uncertainties they may introduce. The present work aims to address these issues by comparing a dataset of orientations of Roman cities in the Iberian Peninsula measured in situ with measurements of the same structures obtained through different digital tools. By this, it is possible to estimate the errors that using these techniques introduce and to establish precision limits to data in future work. The results of this preliminary study are then implemented in an archaeoastronomical research project in North Africa, where some on-site measurements had been made in previous fieldwork campaigns by members of the group prior to the current political unrest that now prevents work at some sites in the region. In these instances, Google Earth Pro (2017) and HeyWhatsThat (Kosowsky 2012) have been key tools that have allowed us to complete a survey stretching from present-day Morocco to Libya, as well as to extract a preliminary outline of orientation trends in Roman Africa.

Author Biographies

Andrea Rodríguez-Antón, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias

Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias

A. César González-García, Instituto de Ciencias del Patrimonio, Incipit – CSIC

Instituto de Ciencias del Patrimonio, Incipit – CSIC

Juan Antonio Belmonte, Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias

Juan Antonio Belmonte is an astronomer at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Tenerife, Spain) where he has lectured history of astronomy and archaeoastronomy and investigates in exoplanets, stellar physics and cultural astronomy. He has published or edited a dozen books and authored nearly 200 publications on those subjects. He has been the Director of the Science and Cosmos Museum of Tenerife from 1995 to 2000, President of the European Society for Astronomy in Culture (SEAC) from 2005 to 2011 and of the Spanish Time Allocation Committee (CAT) of the Canarian observatories, included the new generation 10 m GTC, from 2003 to 2012. He has received in 2012 the "Carlos Jaschek" award of the European Society for Astronomy in Culture for his contributions to the discipline. He is now advisory editor of the Journal for the History of Astronomy and co-editor of Archaeoastronomy: the Journal for Astronomy in Culture. In the last years he has been performing extensive research on the astronomical traditions of ancient civilizations, concentrating in the ancient Mediterranean cultures, notably in Egypt. Born in Murcia (Spain) in 1962, he studied physics and got his master-thesis in 1986 at Barcelona University and obtained his PhD on Astrophysics at La Laguna University in 1989.


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How to Cite

Rodríguez-Antón, A., González-García, A. C., & Belmonte, J. A. (2018). Estimating the Reliability of Digital Data Acquisition in Cultural Astronomy: The Case of Roman North Africa. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, 3(2), 191-206.



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