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Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication

Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication
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Addressing a field that has been dominated by astronomers, physicists, engineers, and computer scientists, the contributors to this collection raise questions that may have been overlooked by physical scientists about the ease of establishing meaningful communication with an extraterrestrial intelligence. These scholars are grappling with some of the enormous challenges that will face humanity if an information-rich signal emanating from another world is detected. By drawing on issues at the core of contemporary archaeology and anthropology, we can be much better prepared for contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, should that day ever come.


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Table of Contents

Table of Contents:


List of Figures

I. Introduction
Reconstructing Distant Civilizations
and Encountering Alien Cultures
Douglas A. Vakoch

II. Historical Perspectives on SETI
Chapter 1:
SETI: The NASA Years
John Billingham

Chapter 2:
A Political History of NASA’s SETI Program
Stephen J. Garber

Chapter 3:
The Role of Anthropology in SETI
A Historical View
Steven J. Dick

III. Archaeological Analogues
Chapter 4:
A Tale of Two Analogues
Learning at a Distance from the Ancient Greeks and Maya and the
Problem of Deciphering Extraterrestrial Radio Transmissions
Ben Finney and Jerry Bentley

Chapter 5:
Beyond Linear B
The Metasemiotic Challenge of Communication
with Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Richard Saint-Gelais

Chapter 6:
Learning To Read
Interstellar Message Decipherment from Archaeological and
Anthropological Perspectives
Kathryn E. Denning

Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication
Chapter 7:
Inferring Intelligence
Prehistoric and Extraterrestrial
Paul K. Wason

IV. Anthropology, Culture, and Communication
Chapter 8:
Anthropology at a Distance
SETI and the Production of Knowledge
in the Encounter with an Extraterrestrial Other
John W. Traphagan

Chapter 9:
Contact Considerations
A Cross-Cultural Perspective
Douglas Raybeck

Chapter 10:
Culture and Communication
with Extraterrestrial Intelligence
John W. Traphagan

Chapter 11:
Speaking for Earth
Projecting Cultural Values Across Deep Space and Time
Albert A. Harrison

V. The Evolution and Embodiment of Extraterrestrials
Chapter 12:
The Evolution of Extraterrestrials
The Evolutionary Synthesis and Estimates
of the Prevalence of Intelligence Beyond Earth
Douglas A. Vakoch

Chapter 13:
Biocultural Prerequisites for the Development of
Interstellar Communication
Garry Chick

Chapter 14:
Ethology, Ethnology, and Communication with
Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Dominique Lestel


Individuals, especially scientists, anthropologists, physicists, engineers, astronomers, and others that may have an interest in the philosophy of extraterrestrial civilizations and life beyond Earth may have an interest in this scholarly book.


Selected as a 2014 Notable Government Document by the American Library Association and promoted in the Library Journal magazine May/June issue. 

"Known in the scientific community as SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence), the quest for identifying and contacting sentient beings from other planets has long captivated the public’s imagination. While most research in extraterrestrial communication has been conducted by scholars in the physical sciences, this collection highlights studies from scholars in the social sciences and humanities. It is hoped that the interdisciplinary perspective will better prepare us for the exchange of information with as-yet-unknown civilizations. While this is serious scholarship, general readers will appreciate the accessible writing."

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National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Communications, Public Outreach Division, History Program Office
  • Vakoch, Douglas A.
2014: 332 p.; ill.
Key Phrases:
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Interstellar Communication
  • Astronomy
  • Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
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