Anthony (Tony) Aveni

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Anthony (Tony) Aveni

Russell Colgate Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and Anthropology and Native American Studies, Emeritus

Department/Office Information

Physics and Astronomy, Sociology and Anthropology


Anthony F. Aveni helped develop the field of archaeoastronomy and now is considered one of the founders of Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy, in particular for his research in the astronomical history of the Maya Indians of ancient Mexico.

He is a lecturer, speaker, and editor/author of more than two dozen books on ancient astronomy. Featured in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 10 best university professors in the country, Aveni was also voted National Professor of the Year by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, Washington, D.C., the highest national award for teaching. At Colgate, he has received, among other teaching awards, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching (1997) and the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society Distinguished Teaching Award voted by the Freshman Class of 1990. 

Aveni has spoken or written on astronomy-related subjects on the Learning Channel, the Discovery Channel, PBS-Nova, BBC, NPR, The Larry King Show, NBC's Today ShowUnsolved Mysteries and in the New York Times, Newsweek, and USA Today. He has lectured in more than 300 universities around the world. 

Aveni has involved his students in research through regular field trips to Central America and Peru to study history, hieroglyphic writing, calendars, and architecture; they often contribute as co-authors in the publication of new discoveries. In 2004, Aveni was the recipient of the H.B. Nicholson Award for Excellence in Mesoamerican Studies, given by the Peabody Museum and the Moses Mesoamerican Archive at Harvard University. 

He has been awarded research grants by the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation and various private foundations for work in both American continents as well as in Europe and the Middle East. He has more than 300 research publications to his credit, including three cover articles in Science magazine and key works in American Scientist, The Sciences, American Antiquity, Latin American Antiquity, and The Journal of Archaeological Research. Two of his short pieces have been cited as "notable essays" in the volumes Best American Essays of 2002 and Best American Science Writing of 2002.

His books include Empires of Time, on the history of timekeeping; Conversing With the Planets, a work that weaves together cosmology, mythology, and the anthropology of ancient cultures by showing how they discovered harmony between their beliefs and their study of the sky; and, most recently, The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012.

His latest book has generated wide interest as the date Dec. 21, 2012, became a focal point for a wide variety of theories about how it marks the end of the world, or at least the end of the world as we know it. 

Whether the end will result from the magnetic realignment of the north and south poles, bringing floods, earthquakes, death, and destruction; or from the return of alien caretakers to enlighten or enslave us; or from a global awakening, a sudden evolution of Homo sapiens into non-corporeal beings — theories of great, impending changes abound in Internet forums, Hollywood movies, and TV specials. 

In The End of Time, Aveni explores these theories, explains their origins, and measures them objectively against evidence unearthed by Maya archaeologists, iconographers, and epigraphers. He probes the latest information astronomers and earth scientists have gathered on the likelihood of Armageddon and the oft-proposed link between the Maya Long Count cycle and the precession of the equinoxes. He then expands on these prophecies to include the broader context of how other cultures, ancient and modern, thought about the “end of things” and speculates on why cataclysmic events in human history have such a strong appeal within American pop culture.

With his artist wife Lorraine, Aveni resides in Hamilton, N.Y. For his personal webpage, click here.

BA, Boston University, 1960; PhD, University of Arizona, 1965

University of South Florida; University of Colorado; University of Padua (Italy)

Astronomy, Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy, history of science

Astronomy of ancient cultures of the Americas, isolated star clusters / frequent research trips to Mexico, Central, and South America

  • The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012 (University Press of Colorado, 2009)
  • People and the Sky: Our Ancestors and the Cosmos (Thames & Hudson, 2008)
  • Foundations of New World Cultural Astronomy: A Reader With Commentary, Editor. (University Press of Colorado, 2008)
  • The First Americans: Where They Came From and Who They Became (Scholastic, 2005)
  • The Madrid Codex: New Approaches to Understanding an Ancient Maya Manuscript, edited with Gabrielle Vail (University Press of Colorado 2004)
  • The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays (Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • Stairways to the Stars (Wiley, 1997)
  • Behind the Crystal Ball (Times, 1996)
  • Conversing With the Planets (Times, Random House, 1992)
  • Ancient Astronomers (Smithsonian, 1992)
  • The Lines of Nazca, ed. (American Philosophical Society, 1990)
  • Empires of Time (Basic Books, 1989)
  • World Archaeoastronomy, ed. (Cambridge University Press, 1988)
  • Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico (University of Texas Press, 1980), (Translations in German, Italian, Chinese, Korean, Polish, Portugese)
  • Numerous edited volumes, articles: "Somebody Else's Cosmology" in Mysteries of Life in the Universe (Harcourt Brace, 1992); "Mystery on the Desert: The Lines of Nazca" in Mysteries of Mankind (National Geographic Society, 1992); "Moctezuma's Sky: Aztec Astronomy and Ritual" in Moctezuma's Mexico: Visions of the Aztec World (University Press of Colorado, 1992)
  • Numerous articles, reviews, and commentaries in Science, American Scientist, American Antiquity, Monographs of the American Philosophical Society, Archaeology, and Sky & Telescope
  • Grants include those from NSF, Sigma Xi, the OSCO Fund, Earthwatch (Educational Expeditions International), and the National Geographic Society
  • Visiting Scholar, University of Padua 1985, 1989
  • Resident Scholar, Centro Internazionale A. Beltrame di Storio dello Spazio & Tempo, Padua 1985
  • National Professor of the Year 1982, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, elected 1980

Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard; Mesoamerican Archive and Research Project, Princeton