In the latter part of the nineteenth century, a number of scholars insisted that astronomy was the earliest and therefore perhaps the most pre-eminent of all science subjects. They developed interesting hypotheses about the development and uses of astronomy by ancient civilisations (particularly in Mesopotamia and Egypt). They tried to persuade both their peers and wider audiences of the correctness of their various views on how astronomy contributed to the development and maintenance of religious beliefs as well as the ways in which ancient artefacts had originally acted as astronomical and astrological observatories or as physical embodiments of ‘ancient wisdom’.
This thesis will seek to further uncover the relationships between these differing views of ancient astronomy and the personal beliefs of their authors, including the respective epistemological status of religious and scientific knowledge. It will also be interesting to consider the ways in which the disciplines of archaeology and astronomy had developed during the immediately preceding decades of the nineteenth century and to reflect on the possible influences introduced by the changing cultural, social and political context of nineteenth-century British society.