Sunday, March 04, 2007

Amazing Solar Observatory found in Peru

"Chankillo is one of the most exciting archaeoastronomical sites I have come across," said Clive Ruggles, a leading British authority on archeoastronomy. "It seems extraordinary that an ancient astronomical device as clear as this could have remained undiscovered for so long."

Archeologists from Yale and the University of Leicester have identified an ancient solar observatory at Chankillo, Peru as the oldest in the Americas with alignments covering the entire solar year. Recorded accounts from the 16th century CE detail practices of state-regulated sun worship during Inca times, and related social and cosmological beliefs. These speak of towers being used to mark the rising or setting position of the sun at certain times in the year, but no trace of the towers has ever been found.

At Chankillo, not only were there towers marking the sun's position throughout the
year, but they remain in place, and the site was constructed much earlier - in approximately the 4th century BCE. Ivan Ghezzi, a graduate student in the department of Anthropology at Yale University and lead author of the study said: "In this case, the 2,300 year old solar
observatory at Chankillo is the earliest such structure identified and unlike all other sites contains alignments that cover the entire solar year."

Chankillo is a large ceremonial center covering several square kilometers in the costal Peruvian desert. It was better known in the past for a heavily fortified hilltop structure with massive walls, restricted gates, and parapets. For many years, there has been a
controversy as to whether this part of Chankillo was a fort or a ceremonial center. But the purpose of a 300meter long line of Thirteen Towers lying along a small hill nearby had remained a mystery. The new evidence now identifies it as a solar observatory.


The Thirteen Towers of Chankillo run from north to south along the ridge of a low hill within the site; they are relatively well-preserved and each has a pair of inset staircases leading to the summit. The rectangular structures, between 75 and 125 square metres (807-1,345 sq ft) in size, are regularly spaced - forming a "toothed" horizon with narrow gaps at regular intervals. About 230m (750ft) to the east and west are what scientists believe to be two observation points. From these vantages, the 300m- (1,000ft-) long spread of the towers along the horizon corresponds very closely to the rising and setting positions of the Sun over the year. At the end of a 131-foot-long corridor in the building to the west of the towers, the researchers found pottery, shells, and stone artifacts in an area possibly for commoners who participated in rituals linked to solar observations. The current report offers strong evidence for an additional use of the site at Chankillo - as a solar observatory.

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