The Oxford Conferences are a series of triennial meetings that have focused on the role that astronomical phenomena have played in human societies, ranging from the applied (such as the basis for calendrics and orientations) to the ceremonial (the significance given the "ritual landscape" of the sky). These conferences serve as a meeting place for those working in anthropology, archaeology, history and prehistory, archaeoastronomy, and other studies of human cultures, who share a common interest in the importance of astronomical phenomena (or "skywatching") to traditional societies of the past and present.
Mankind's fascination with the sky has been a strong and often dominant element in human life and culture. The Fifth Oxford Conference explored this fascination among those cultures that can be best (or only) studied within the disciplines of archaeology and anthropology. Archaeoastronomy adds an extra dimension to these other disciplines and helps create a richer and more complete view of the past.
The papers in this volume are based on those presented at Oxford V and reflect the important interactions among the participants. One group looks at general questions in sociology or astronomy and provides parts of a framework on which the other papers can rest. The remainder of the papers deal with the specific studies in all parts of the world.