Before the age of global positioning systems or compasses, people looked
to the stars to find their way. And before civilizations knew what stars
were, people formed their own beliefs about their significance. In North
America, indigenous tribes had differing ideas about what the stars
meant, some believing that the night sky had spiritual meaning, and some
attributing human-like qualities to the twinkling objects.
Archaeoastronomy is the study of how people of the past understood the
stars and the sky, however this broadly applies to all ancient cultures.
The Mayans, Celts, and Egyptians alike all had their own methods for
tracking the movement of the stars and heavenly bodies, but all of these
cultures have the common belief that the phenomenon above their heads
was somehow larger and greater than they were. As such, the vast
majority of ancient cultures associated the origins of everything,
including the sky, moon, sun and earth with some form of mythology
related to the stars. Astronomy played in an important role in early
Native American cultures, serving as the basis for governance,
agricultural practices and more. And studying the stars also caused
tribes to theorize about the beginning of life in the universe.