Information about Morgan Saletta


I am currently a PhD candidate in the School of Historical Studies (History and Philosophy of Science) at the University of Melbourne in Australia and a Graduate Student Instructor in subjects such as  "The Universe in World History", "From Plato to Einstein", and "The Ecological History of Humanity". I also hold two Master's degrees, one from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris) in Anthropology and Ethnology and the other from Doctoral School of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle of France in Heritage and Museum Studies with a focus on Material Anthropology. 


I have a very interdisciplinary education and my broader research interests in cultural astronomy and world heritage,  human environmental and ecological history, the history and philosophy of science and technology (including the intersections between science, science fiction and philosophy), and indigenous material culture/techniques reflect this interdisciplinary background. The pages here are very much works in progress whose purpose is to (briefly) present some of my ongoing research and research interests, as well as to let me collect and collate curricula materials for a range of courses that I am currently involved in and/or would like to be involved in in the near future.


Doctoral Research


As a Historian of Science my doctoral dissertation  focuses on Neolithic astronomy and cosmology as manifested in monumental architecture, a subject that also allows me to capitalize on my interdisciplinary background in geography, anthropology, museum and heritage studies, and the history of science.


While megalithic monuments have long been recognized as important national and international heritage sites, only recently has the importance of their connection to the cosmological beliefs and astronomical knowledge and practice of their builders been recognized from a heritage perspective. More generally, that the knowledge of, and practices related to, the sky have manifest themselves in an exceedingly rich heritage (both tangible and intangible) is something that national and international organizations concerned with heritage have only just begun to recognized.


In this regard, the recently created “Astronomical World Heritage Initiative” through an alliance of UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the publication of Heritage Sites of Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the context of the World Heritage Convention: A Thematic Study (2010) by the IAU and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the second chapter of which is devoted to the late prehistoric period in Europe, has opened up a new chapter in the development of archaeoastronomy generally (Belmonte and Edwards 2010: 795) and in the study, interpretation, and protection of megalithic sites more specifically. One of the goals of this thesis is to make a unique contribution to this new chapter in archaeoastronomy and world heritage interpretation and protection by serving as the preliminary study establishing outstanding universal value (OAU) in connection with astronomical and cosmological themes which is necessary for a successful dossier of nomination to the Astronomy and World Heritage List.

While cosmology and astronomy in the Neolithic may seem as far removed from the modern world of urbanization, world wide communications networks, environmental transformations and climate change, nothing could be further from the truth. What V. Gordon Childe called the Neolithic Revolution began in the Near East and then moved into Europe. Thus (together with similar 'agricultural revolutions' elsewhere/when) began a process of environmental, social and demographic change which has produced the world of today. Indeed, the Near Eastern Neolithic package which transformed Europe was exported (in the form of plant and animal) to North and South America, New Zealand, and Australia in what Alfred Crosby termed the process of ecological colonialism in his work Ecological Colonialism (1986). But of course the process was not entirely one-sided, the Atlantic Exchange, which brought new food crops such as the potato and peppers to Europe and to the rest of the world is one example, and one which completely transformed the way people all around the world eat.


The Neolithic was a time of major environmental, economic and social transition in Europe and short and long distance networks: of trade, communication, migration played and important role in the diffusion of genes, knowledge, and techniques. Researchers such as Ian Hodder (1990, 1995), Richard Bradley (1998), Alisdair Whittle (1996) and others have argued for complex cosmological belief systems and ways of seeing the world at work in this economic, social and ecological transformation. Hodder and Bradley have also argued for complex symbolic and evolutionary links between domestic and ritualistic/funerary architecture (Hodder 1990, 1995; Bradley 1998).


Thus, while my research focuses on what we can learn of astronomy and cosmology in the European Neolithic from the architecture of megalithic monuments, the research is framed within a much broader perspective and range of scholarly interests.


Published Papers


"Human Evolution in the Age of Digital Special Effects: Beyond Naive Anthropology and Prehistoric Morality Plays"  A virtual paper/video for the 4th Annual Conference on Science in Society at UC Berkeley, Common Ground Publishing Nov 2012.


"The archaeoastronomy of the megalithic monuments of Arles–Fontvieille: the equinox, the Pleiades and Orion". In Ruggles, C ed. 2011, Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy: Building Bridges Between Cultures, Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union, Volume 7, Issue S278, January 2011, pp 364-373. Published online by Cambridge University Press, 26 Jul 2011.


"Science Fiction Through The Looking Glass: the Ape, the Alien and the Android", (Illustrated by Timothy Booth) in StarShipSofa Stories vol. 3, Tony C. Smith ed. 2011.


Other Activities

 

I am also currently the president of the History and Philosophy of Science Graduate Student Organization- we recently organized "The Melbourne University Research Conference on the History and Philosophy of Science" which I co-chaired.


I  author and narrate a monthly fact article titled "Life, the Universe, and Everything: philosophy, science and science fiction" which appears in the Hugo Award winning podcast StarshipSofa hosted by Tony C. Smith. Topics have included the role of science fictional others (the ape, the android and the alien) as reflections of human nature, environmental futures in science fiction,the possibility of life on other worlds, airships, and megacities.

I have also done ebook narration for the non-profit site librivox.

(Very) Short Bibliography

 Bradley, R
1998,The Significance of Monuments: On the Shaping of Human Experience in Neolithic and Bronze Age Europe, Taylor & Francis.

Hodder, I
1990, The Domestication of Europe, Blackwell.

Hodder, I 1995,
Theory and Practice in Archaeology, Routledge.

Hoskin, M 2001,
Tombs, Temples and Their Orientations: A New Perspective on Mediterranean Prehistory. Ocarina Books.

Whittle, A W R 1996,
Europe in the Neolithic: The Creation of New Worlds, Cambridge UP.

Contact me:
msaletta@unimelb.edu.au