INTERVIEW WITH PETER HOCHSIEDER, ARCHAEOASTRONOMER

Peter Hochsieder is an archaeoastronomer who has studied Menorcan taula sanctuaries and their relation to sky phenomena for over 40 years. He is co-author of the book Les Taules de Menorca: un Estudi Arqueo-Astronòmic (The Taules of Menorca: an Archaeoastronomical Study). Since we started our project in 2015, he has collaborated in Sa Cudia Cremada Field School as a lecturer.

  • Hello Peter, let’s start by telling us five things about you. 1. Where do you live?

I live in Reigiertshofem, which is a small village in Bavaria, Germany.

2. What is your job?

I am a teacher of fine arts. I was teaching in secondary schools. Now I am a pensioner.

3. How many times have you been to Menorca?

I have been  in Menorca about 45 times. First time was in 1968.

4. Which was the first taula you saw?

The first taula I saw was Torretrencada. A work of art.

5. Have you always been interested in archaeology? And what about astronomy?

As a child I often accompanied my father and my grandfather on archeological tours through the whole of Europe and North Africa. From my early days on I was interested in festivities connected to astronomical events.

  • In your book about Archaeoastronomy in taula enclosures, you talk about the relation between these monuments and different sky phenomena. Which of these natural phenomena do you think that were more important to the Talayotic people?

Prominent stars and constellations were used for orientation on land and in the sea. The “gods” were showing their way… The comet showed the way to the Three Wise Men, which were no Christians at that time!

Sun, moon and bright stars were different gods and goddesses to the Talayotic people. The prominent festivities took place in summer and winter solstices (like today: Christmas and Sant Joan). The prominent festivities of the moon took place on the full moon, on the minor and major lunar stand stills.

The light of the rising and setting celestial bodies was the most important element of the ritual. The light, by touching the offerings, brought luck, strength and fertility to the community that consumed the offerings.

  • Do you think that astronomy was important in the Talayotics’ daily life, or was it something reserved to some kind of elites?

The rising and setting of the sun organized the day, not only for the common people, but also for the priestesses and priests of the taula precincts. When the god or goddess, represented by the light, “entered” into the temple, welcome offerings had to be given. The same happened when the full moon rose.

So the whole community was involved.

  • You always say that your proposal is only a hypothesis, but if new investigations show that taula enclosures were covered by a roof, do you think that your hypothesis will be still feasible? And why?

As you can see at the taula precinct at Torre d’en Galmés, the pilasters were higher than the wall, so even if some kind of roof covered the precinct, the communication between the pilasters, the main monument (the taula) and the rising or setting of a celestial body would have been possible. So, as you can see, my hypothesis would be feasible.

At the time taulas were built, most sanctuaries had no roof if the offerings connected to fire took place. The kind of rising of the smoke was very important for the quality of the offering ritual.

  • And lastly; please tell us some of your impressions about Sa Cudia Cremada project.

The Sa Cudia Cremada Project is very important for:

  • The actual modern taula-science
  • The common information and education of the people of Menorca
  • The collection of unknown facts through modern scientific methods like radiocarbon dating and pollen research.

When I took part in the excavation recently, the leaders of the team and their students did an excellent work. So I am sure this excavation will become a success.

Thank you very much for your time!

Peter Hochsieder teaching our students in 2016.
Peter Hochsieder teaching our students in 2016.

 

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