Lunar Standstills or Lunistices, Reality or Myth?


  • A. César González-García Instituto de Ciencias del Patrimonio, Incipit – CSIC
  • Juan A. Belmonte Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, La Laguna



Great Ziggurat of Ur, lunar extremes, lunistice, Men Askaenos, Moon, Ptolemy, standstill


There is an intense debate in cultural astronomy on the importance of lunar standstills in prehistory or antiquity, and even on whether this elusive and difficult-to-understand phenomenon actually was then recognised. In the present paper, we seek to address those who advocate no longer using the terms "lunar standstill" or the related "lunistice". We begin by clarifying what the concept actually involves, before highlighting some case studies where proposed orientations to lunar standstills have explanatory value and a strong likelihood, connected to the lunar nature of the deities worshipped at particular sites. Finally, we present some relevant ancient texts that indicate awareness of lunar extremes.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

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

A. César González-García, PhD in Astrophysics (Groningen, The Netherlands) has held postdoctoral fellowships at the IAC (2003-2006 & 2010-2011) and the Theoretical Physics Department - UAM (2006-2010). He is now based at the Instituto de Ciencias del Patrimonio (Incipit-CSIC) at Santiago de Compostela (Galicia, Spain). He is President of the European Society for Astronomy in Culture since 2017. His main research lines are centred in three issues: (i) modelling of the possible astronomical orientation of classical cultures, (ii) possible astronomical and landscape relations of classic religions and (iii) the study of the orientation of ancient Roman cities.

Juan A. Belmonte, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, La Laguna

Juan A. Belmonte, Research Professor 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 more than a dozen books and authored more than 200 publications on those subjects. He recently co-edited Handbook of Exoplanet and Archaeoastronomy in the Roman World, both published by Springer. He has been President of the European Society for Astronomy in Culture (SEAC) from 2005 to 2011 and the International Society for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture (ISAAC) from 2017 to 2020. He is advisory editor of the Journal for the History of Astronomy. In the last years he has been performing extensive research on the astronomical traditions of ancient civilizations, concentrating in the ancient Mediterranean cultures. 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.


Belmonte, J. A., 2012. Templos, Pirámides y Estrellas: Astronomía y arqueología en el Egipto Antiguo. Barcelona: Crítica.

Belmonte, J. A., M. Fekri, Y. A. Abdel-Hadi, M. Shaltoutm and A. C. González-García, 2010. “On the Orientation of Ancient Egyptian Temples: (5) Testing the Theory in Middle Egypt and Sudan”. Journal for the History of Astronomy 41 (1): 65–94. DOI:

Cohen, M. E., 1993. Festivals and Calendars of the Ancient Near East. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press.

Collon, D., 1992. “The Near Eastern Moon God”. In Natural Phenomena: Their Meaning, Depiction, and Description in the Ancient Near East, edited by D. J. W. Meijer, 19–37. Amsterdam: Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Da Silva, C. M., 2004. “The Spring Full Moon”. Journal for the History of Astronomy 35: 475–478. DOI:

Dickey, J. O, P. L. Bender, J. E. Faller, X. X. Newhall, R. L. Ricklefs, J. G. Ries, P. J. Shelus, C. Veillet, A. L. Whipple, J. R. Wiant, J. G. Williams and C. F. Yoder, 1994. “Lunar Laser Ranging: A Continuing Legacy of the Apollo Program”. Science 265 (5171): 482–490. DOI:

Fisher, D. and L. Sims, 2017. “Modelling Lunar Extremes”. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology 3 (2): 207–216. DOI:

García-Quintela, M. V. and A. C González-García, 2017. “Archaeological footprints of the ‘Celtic Calendar’?”. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology 3 (1): 49–78. DOI:

González-García, A. C., 2015. “Lunar Alignments, Identification and Analysis”. In Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, edited by C. L. N. Ruggles, 493–506. New York: Springer. DOI:

González-García, A. C., 2016. “Lunar Extremes, Lunar Cycles and the Minor Standstill”. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology 2 (1): 77–84. DOI:

González-García, A. C. and J. A. Belmonte, 2010. “Statistical Analysis of Megalithic Tomb Orientations in the Iberian Peninsula and Neighbouring Regions”. Journal for the History of Astronomy 41: 225–38. DOI:

González-García, A. C., L. Costa-Ferrer and J. A. Belmonte, 2007. “Solarists vs. Lunatics: Modelling Patterns in Megalithic Astronomy”. In Light and Shadows in Cultural Astronomy, edited by M. Zedda and J. A. Belmonte, 23–30. Cagliari: Stampa.

González-García, A. C., F. Criado-Boado and B. Vilas, 2017. “Megalithic Skyscapes in Galicia”. Culture and Cosmos 21 (1–2): 87–103. DOI:

González-García A. C., A. Crispín, R. Shady, J. Ricra, F. Criado-Boado and J. A. Belmonte, in press. “The River and the Sky, Astronomy and Topography in Caral, America’s first Urban Centers”. Latin American Antiquity.

González-García, A. C., B. Vilas-Estévez, E. López-Romero and P. Mañana Borrazás, 2019. “Domesticating Light and Shadows in the Neolithic of Atlantic Europe: The Dombate Passage Grave (A Coruña, Spain)”. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 29 (2): 327–343. DOI:

Green, R. M., 1985. Spherical Astronomy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hannah, R., 2005. Greek and Roman Calendars: Constructions of Time in the Classical World. London: Duckworth.

Higgingbottom, G. and R. Clay, 2016. “Origins of Standing Stone Astronomy in Britain: New Quantitative Techniques for the Study of Archaeoastronomy”. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 9: 249–258. DOI:

Krebernik, M., 1993–98. “Mondgott. A. I.”. Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiatischen Archäologie 8: 361–369. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Labarre, G. and M. Taslialan, 2002. “La devotion au dieu Men: Les Reliefs Rupestres de la voie sacrée”. In Actes du Ier Congress International sur Antioche de Pisidie, edited by T. Drew-Bear, M. Tashalan and C. M. Thomas, 313–322. Lyon: Université Lumière-Lyon 2.

Malville, J. M., 2016. “The Enigma of Minor Standstills”. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology 2 (1): 85–94. DOI:

Mitchell, S., 2002. “The Temple of Men Askaenos at Antioch”. In Actes du Ier Congress International sur Antioche de Pisidie, edited by T. Drew-Bear, M. Tashalan and C. M. Thomas, 313–322. Lyon: Université Lumière-Lyon 2.

Morrison, L. V., 1980. “On the Analysis of Megalithic Lunar Sightlines in Scotland”. Archaeoastronomy 2: 65–77.

Nadali, D. and A. Polcaro, 2016. “The Sky from the High Terrace: Study on the Orientation of the Ziqqurat in Ancient Mesopotamia”. Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry 16 (4): 103–108.

Ruggles, C. L. N., 1999. Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Ruggles, C. L. N. and H. A. W. Burl, 1985. “A New Study of the Aberdeenshire Recumbent Stone Circles, 2: Interpretation”. Archaeoastronomy 8: S25–S60.

Schaefer, B. E., 2017. “The Utter Failure of the Lunar Standstill Myth in Archaeoastronomy”. Paper presented at the joint 10th Meeting of the Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena (INSAP X), 11th Oxford Symposium of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy (Oxford XI) and 25th Annual Meeting of the European Society for Astronomy in Culture (SEAC XXV), Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 18th–22nd September.

Shady, R., 2014. “Living Conditions, Social System and Cultural Expressions of the Caral and Chinchorro Populations during the Archaic Period”. In The Chinchorro Culture, A Comparative Perspective: The Archaeology of the Earliest Human Mummification, edited by N. Sanz, T. Arriaza and V. G. Staden, 71–106. Paris: UNESCO.

Shady, R., J. Ricra, A. Crispín, A.C. González-García, J.A. Belmonte and F. Criado-Boado, forthcoming. “Astronomical Knowledge of 4200 BP Applied by Specialists from the Caral Civilization, North-Central Coast of Peru”. Paper to be presented at the 12th Oxford Symposium of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy (Oxford XII), La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Sims, L., 2016. “Forum: What is the Minor Standstill of the Moon?”. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology 2 (1): 67–76. DOI:

Silva, F. and A. C. González-García, 2018. “A Robust Statistical Significance Test for the Orientation of Archaeological Structures”. Paper presented at the 26th Annual Meeting of the European Society for Astronomy in Culture (SEAC XXVI), Graz, Austria, 28th August–1st September.

Steinkeller, P., 2016, “Nanna/Suen, the Shining Bowl”. Alter Orient und Altes Testament: Veröffentlichungen zur Kultur und Geschichte des Alten Orients und des Alten Testaments 436: 615–625.

Stern, S., 2012. Calendars in Antiquity: Empires, States, and Societies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. DOI:

Thom, A., 1971. Megalithic Lunar Observatories. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Toomer, G. J., 1984. Ptolemy’s Almagest. London: Duckworth.

Williams, J. G. and J. O. Dickey, 2003. “Lunar Geophysics, Geodesy and Dynamics”. In 13th International Workshop on Laser Ranging: Proceedings from the Science Session, Washington, D.C., October 7–11, 2002, edited by R. Noomen, S. Klosko, C. Noll and M. Pearlman, 75–86. Washingon, DC: NASA Conference Publications.

Woolley, C. L., 1939. Ur Excavations, vol. 5: The Ziggurat and Its Surroundings. [Oxford]: Trustees of the British Museum and of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania.



How to Cite

González-García, A. C., & Belmonte, J. A. (2020). Lunar Standstills or Lunistices, Reality or Myth?. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, 5(2), 177–190.



Theory & Method