The Gwich'in narrative of "The Boy in the Moon" tells the story of how the face of the Moon came to be seen as it is today in the skies over the Gwich'in homeland in the Canadian Arctic and Alaska. This article uses the methodology of "comparative ethnoastronomy" to explore the story of "The Boy in the Moon" and its place in Gwich'in culture to inform on a Babylonian tradition of a Lion Man in the Moon. The study makes use of a wide variety of documentary evidence ranging in time from millennia-old cuneiform tablets from Babylonia to modern works on the anthropology of the Gwich'in and interviews with tribal elders, and it concludes with some thoughts on the shared human experience of looking at the sky.
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At first glance, a comparative study of the astronomical traditions of the Gwich’in of contemporary Arctic North America and those of Ancient Babylonia seems unlikely. Yet, the comparative study represents a meeting of two very different areas of research, which have proven to inform one another, yielding both interesting and important results for our understanding of what may be called “comparative ethnoastronomy.” WH came to the field of ethnoastronomy almost by accident. At two conferences sponsored in part by the CAENO foundation, one at Notre Dame University in July of 2005 (Steele 2007) and the second at Pagosa Springs Colorado in June of 2011,1 WH was introduced to archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy and began to think about the extensive cuneiform astronomical text corpus along the lines of these two related disciplines. Then, a research grant from the Halbert Center for Canadian Studies of the Hebrew University in the Winter of 2012 allowed WH to pursue this line of research in Canada’s Northwest Territories and Yukon, bringing him into contact with AA and IK of the Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute (GSCI).2 Further study visits to the north provided a platform for continuing this research, which is presented in part for the first time in this article. Before this, however, we provide an overview of previous studies of the astronomy of the Gwich’in.3
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