Prehistoric structures have been studied under the lens of landscape archaeology and archaeoastronomy in search of correlates between orientations encoded in their architecture and topographic features or celestial objects that may materialize the ontology of their builders. Such studies have often been done through recourse to single measurements of orientation and any uncertainties largely ignored. However, such an approach can only be pursued by making assumptions, for example of where a prehistoric person would stand in order to observe such an alignment or of where the alignment occurs within a certain window of visibility.

This talk uses the author’s research among Neolithic passage graves of western Iberia to argue that it is time to develop a quantitative approach that takes uncertainties seriously. Such an approach turns uncertainty on its head, and can lead to precise inferences, even in the presence of large measurement uncertainties – making this not only a more robust, but also a more honest and transparent approach to the study of structural orientations.

Fabio Silva is a Research Associate at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London and currently a fellow within the Topoi research project (PLUS-13) The “Kreisgraben-phenomenon”.  His research interests focus on how humans perceive and conceive their environment and use that knowledge to time and adjust social, productive and magico-religious behaviours.