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Astronomical interpretations of prehistoric rock art have played a significant part in the development of modern archaeoastronomy since 1975, when interest was renewed in the possibility that the Crab supernova explosion of 1054 A.D. was represented in rock art of the American Southwest. (This hypothesis was actually first formulated in 1955.) In the last two decades, a variety of astronomical functions for rock art have been proposed and investigated. These include representation of specific historical celestial events, symbolic representation of elements of celestial myths, star maps, markers for astronomical observing stations markers for celestially tempered shrines, images intended to invoke and exploit cosmo-magical power, seasonally significant light-and-shadow displays. Examples of astronomical connotations in prehistoric rock art from the Southwest and California illustrate the necessity of understanding the culture in any attempt to understand its astronomy.
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