Ancient Astronomers of Chichen-Itza, Mexico



Chichén Itzá – El Castillo (pyramid of Kukulkan

“El Caracol” at Chichén Itzá has long been recognized as an astronomical observatory whose foundations are Maya and whose subsequent embellishments are Toltec. Perhaps the most significant alignments of this structure are those of its front door and its principal window, located just above it, both of which look out at the western horizon toward the sunset position on August 13.

The Maya were expert sky-watchers, careful observers of the motions of the celestial bodies. Proof of the Mayan fascination with astronomy is literally carved in stone in the grand architecture at sites such as Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Uaxactun, Edzna, and dozens more. At many of these sites, hieroglyphic carvings refer to celestial bodies and cycles. Often, the buildings they adorn have been built to align with significant cyclical astronomical events—solstices, equinoxes, the shifting moon, or the rise of planets.

At Chichén Itzá, two structures bear witness to Mayan astronomy: El Castillo and El Caracol. Every year, tens of thousands of visitors flock to Chichén Itzá to see “the snake,” an apparition made of shadows that descends the stairs at El Castillo during the solar equinoxes each spring and fall. At El Caracol, dubbed “the observatory,” narrow shaftlike windows frame important astronomical events. One such window marks an appearance of Venus at a particular point on the horizon that takes place—like clockwork—once every eight years.

“El Caracol” and  El Castillo at Chichén Itzá

“El Caracol” at Chichén Itzá

Giza Pyramids

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A striking characteristic of the pyramids and Sphinx of Giza is the way in which they are integrated into a grand architectural plan, based on mathematical and astronomical data. There is no evidence that the pyramids were used as tombs.

What is certain is that two narrow shafts emanating from inside the Great Pyramid were directed to two specific stars: Zeta Orionis, one of the three stars in Orion’s belt, and Sirius, in the constellation of Canis Major. It is certain, too, that the principal Giza monuments form an accurate terrestrial ‘map’ of the three stars of Orion’s belt as these constellations appeared in 10,500 BC.

Ancient Pyramids

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As is well known there are literally hundreds of pyramids of various styles scattered over the Earth, in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Far East, Southeast Asia and South Pacific, and in North and South America. A few of these sites demonstrating the different styles are:

  • Iraq: The reconstructed ziggurat-pyramid at Ur, in ancient Sumer.
  • Egypt: The step pyramid at Saqqara.
  • Egypt: The smooth-walled pyramids at Giza. Hancock and Bauval (1996) suggest that the ‘ground plan’ of the three great pyramids was physically established in 10,500 bc, but that the pyramids were built around 2,500 bc. This supports the notion that the pyramid base rock with its underground chamber was an early AA terminal, and the Sphinx was the associated landmark easily identified from space.
  • Mexico: The highly decorated step pyramids at Chichen-Itza, Monte Alban, and elsewhere. In the Temple of Inscriptions at Palenque, a shaft runs from the tomb up to the temple floor, similar to some of the Egyptian pyramids. There was initially a 40 ft “comb” on the top. Was this an additional identifying marker?
  • Mexico: The unusual elliptical pyramid at Uxmal.
  • Mexico: The huge, unexcavated pyramid at Cholula (Fig 4-1), in the shadow of the volcano, Popocatepetl (“El Popo”). Its ancient name, Tlachihualtepetl, means “man-made mountain”. On Quetzalcoatl’s pilgrimage his first stop was Cholula, which means ‘the place of flight’ in Nahuatl. The huge “Piramide Tepanapa”, 200 ft high and 1300 ft on a side, is the largest ancient pyramid in the Americas, and possibly the largest in the world. The earliest construction has been traced to 200 bc. It was covered with dirt to hide it from the invading Spaniards and a small shrine was placed at the top, which the Spanish replaced with a church (Fig 4-1). The small portion which has been excavated reveals remarkable masonry.

  • Mexico: Tres Zapotes, an Olmec site (1300 – 400 bc), was the first adobe-brick pyramid site in Mesoamerica. (Mystery buffs please note: Before the arrival of Cortez ALL of the Olmec sites were destroyed, except El Tijin, which had been abandoned!)

  • Mexico: The truncated cone pyramid of Cuicuilco. In 1917 Manuel Gamio, excavating off the road from Mexico City to Cuernavaca, found an overgrown hill called ‘Cuicuilco’ enveloped by pre-historic lava streams. It turned out to be an enormous ancient pyramid or truncated cone with four galleries and central staircase. It is one of the few remaining round stepped pyramids. The base is 370 ft and it is about 60 ft high now, although it was originally much higher. Archeologist Paul Heinrich reports the age to be 800 to 600 bc, not 6000 bc as reported by others. (Miller, 2000)
  • Mexico: The beautiful miniature pyramid at Cecilia, D.F.
  • Mexico: The platform-pyramids at Teotenango, Tenayaca, and Tula.
  • Mexico: The multi-platform style of the Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan. In his discussion of Teotihuacan, John Michel (1995) quotes another researcher: “During the 1970s Hugh Harleston, Jr …established that ‘the basic unit of measurement at Teotihuacan was 1.0594 meters, the same unit which represents the ‘Jewish rod’ of 3.4757 ft., the same unit which represents the width of the Stonehenge lintels, a six-millionth part of the earth’s polar radius…’”
  • Guatemala: The huge pre-classic (150 bc-150 ad) Mayan site of El Mirador with its dozens of pyramids, including the Tigre Pyramid rising 18 stories high, probably the largest pyramid ever built by the Maya.
  • Peru: Moche Temple of the Sun. The earlier Moche built this temple-pyramid style pyramid from 140 million adobe bricks.
  • Peru: Sipan Pyramid. This Moche pyramid-tomb near the town of Sipan proves that some of the early SA pyramids were tombs, as in Egypt and Mesoamerica.
  • Peru: Pyramids of Cahuachi. A ceremonial site comprised of six pyramids, the highest being about 70 ft, overlooking a walled court of 4050 sq yards. (Morrison, 1988). Hadingham (1987) mentions that the “great temple” was a stepped pyramid. He quotes Helaine Silverman’s estimate that the period of most activity at Cahuachi was short lived, about 200 years, and the site was mysteriously abandoned around 200 ad, along with other several other important sites.
  • Peru: The pyramids of Tucume. “Covering over 540 acres and including 26 major pyramids as well as myriad smaller structures…first built around 1100 ad by people of the Lambayeque culture…” The largest of the adobe brick pyramids, Huaca Larga, is 2300 ft long, 910 ft wide and 65 ft high. (Heyerdahl, 1995). Robert Schoch (1999) writes, “The largest of the pyramids, called Tucume…was only a little over 200 feet high, but it contained one-third more volume that the Pyramid of Khufu at Giza.”
  • Peru: Huaca del Sol, Moche Valley. This is a 120 ft high pyramid on the Peruvian north coast. The 1.5 million mud brick pyramid is the largest man-made mound in SA. Facing Huaca del Sol across the main plaza was a smaller mound, Huaca del Luna. The site lies at the foot of Cerro Blanco, an obvious landmark from space for this ceremonial/feeding center (Hadingham, 1987)
  • Bolivia: The Akapana platform-pyramid at Tiahuanaco. The Bolivian archaeologists date the site to 1580 bc. The Akapana measures 688 ft on a side and is 49 ft high. “The earthen interior was shaped like a stepped pyramid and faced with fitted stones.” (Demetrio, 1983)
  • Java: Cani Sukuh pyramid, resembling the Mexico pyramid style (Childress, 1996). Who carried this style across the Pacific?
  • Ryukyu Islands: The Yonaguni underwater pyramid. This unique step-pyramid-platform, 240 ft long and 90 ft high, resting 75 ft underwater, has been dated to 8000 bc! (Dopatka, 2000)
  • China: The White Pyramid, near Xi’an. Hartwig Hausdorf (1998) says there are 90-100 pyramids in China, near Xi’an, the tallest being about 200 ft. Xi’an incidentally is the site of the amazing ‘Terracotta Army’ of Qin Shi Huang.
  • Polynesia: “modest pyramids” at Tongatabu; a temple-pyramid on Tahiti; the Langi stepped pyramid-platform at Tauhala (a large stone, 24 x 7 ft and weighing 30-40 tons, is in the wall).
  • Ancient pyramids are also found on Samoa and Java. (Childress, 1996)
  • Greece: Pyramid of Hellinikon, near Argos. The author writes, “…built in the style reminiscent of cyclopean walls…” Its base is 15 x 13 meters, and the tallest wall still standing it only 14 ft. From the photos it probably would have stood about 10 meters high when completed. Thermoluminescent analysis of the pyramid in 1997 yielded a construction date of 2720 bc, older than the archeologists state for the Cheops pyramid! (Tsoukalow, 2000)
  • Canary Islands: The pyramids of Guimar. Thor Heyerdahl writes, “…They were painstakingly built step-pyramids, constructed according to similar principles as those of Mexico, Peru, and ancient Mesopotamia.”
  • United States: Monk’s pyramid-mound at Cahokia, Illinois, a mud brick platform-pyramid. A large stone wall or room has recently been discovered inside the mound, but has not been excavated as of Oct 2000.
  • Yonaguni: Situated between the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea, about 300 miles from Okinawa, is the island of Yonaguni-Jima. Off it’s coast is a huge apparently manmade (god-made?) monument about 100 ft below the surface. Its a platform pyramid 600 ft wide, 90 ft high constructed of precisely hewn megalithic stones. The pyramid, apparently a part of a ceremonial center, has been dated to 8000 bc, 5000 years before the oldest pyramid in Egypt!

The best clue we have that the gods orchestrated the pyramid building is the tale of Gudea who built the temple-ziggurat at Lagash (apparently the god Kothar-Hasis was the only one authorized to design the temples. He was likely the same “Greek divine craftsman Hepahaestus” who built the temple-abode of Zeus, and the Egyptian god Thoth). For Ninurta’s temple at Lagash Gudea was given elaborate and continuous instructions by the gods. He built a seven-tier ziggurat, named Eninnu, referring to a ingenious tablet which gave a plan view and 7 scales – one for each tier (Zecharia Sitchin describes this story in detail in his 1976 and 1993 books. See also figs 748, 749 of Pritchard, 1969).

Zecharia Sitchin makes an interesting connection with his statement that the three great pyramids of Giza are at 52 degree, but the later pyramids collapsed at this angle and were built at 43.5 degrees, and he maintains that the pyramids at Teotihuacan are also at 43.5 degrees. Furthermore “although the 2nd pyramid at Giza is shorter than the Great Pyramid, their peaks are at the same height above sea level because the 2nd one is built on higher ground; the same holds true at Teotihuacan where the smaller Pyramid of the Moon is built on ground some thirty feet higher than the Sun Pyramid, giving their peaks equal height above sea level.” We should note here also that both the Great Pyramid at Giza and the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan have a descending shaft burrowed into the bedrock on which the pyramids were built.

One of the problems in choosing a landing site for a vertical-lift aircraft is the dust and dirt generated by the exhaust. Before pyramids were built this problem was apparently minimized by landing on large rock outcrops.
The problem is better solved however by landing on step pyramids, or step platforms, since the tiers at each level would effectively deflect the exhaust.

The ziggurats at Urand Babylon, the Zoser pyramid in Egypt (Fig 4-4), the Canary Island pyramids, and most of the Mexican pyramids and South American pyramids, employed this design.

Interestingly some of the Egyptian pyramids have multiple chambers which seem to have been built over periods of time, e.g. Sneferu’s pyramid has an underground chamber, a 2nd chamber near the surface, and a 3rd chamber up in the pyramid, as if the site was in use before, possibly long before, the pyramid was erected, probably as a landing and feeding site. The chambers of the Great Pyramid also follow this pattern; the 1st one being deep underground, then the 2nd (‘Queens’) chamber built low in the center of the pyramid, and the 3rd (‘Kings’) chamber higher up. This pattern suggests that one goal was to provide continuous and increasing degrees of protection from above.

The pyramids of Mycerinus, Unas, Teti and most others also had underground chambers. In fact the pyramids of Mycerinus and some others did not even have chambers in the pyramids themselves – all chambers were underground! Obviously this design would make excellent bomb shelters, and I suspect that the large pyramids, and any hapless occupants, if they had been located at “ground zero” at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, would have survived. The pyramidal shape would have effectively deflected most of the blast wave and fireball, and the neutron and gamma-ray pulses would have been attenuated to negligible levels by the stone mass.

Zecharia Sitchin (1985) offers a rather fantastic function for the pyramids of Giza: that they were built by the Nefilim, not by mankind, as part of a guidance grid for “the Tilmun spaceport”. He develops a theory that ties the pyramids and the “sacred cities” into a guidance and communication grid for two approach corridors, one west-to-east over Mesopotamia and one west-to-east over the Sinai. “Built by the gods (Anunnaki), they were landmarks and beacons for the spaceport in Sinai, and existed long before kingship began in Egypt.
” The great pyramid was “…the mountain by which Utu ascends…”.

Regarding the Giza pyramids some scholars argue that the stones were pulled up long ramps on sleds, referencing the familiar painting from the tomb of Djehutihotepe of 204 workers moving his 60 ton statute on a sled (Fig 4-5). But this only proves that this statue was moved on a sled. I am not aware of a single image or inscription which depict the methods used to construct the great pyramids. We simply do not know how it was done.

Incidentally Mark and Richard Wells (2000) have discovered an amazing similarity in the alignment and size of the three stars in Orion’s belt and the alignment and size of the major pyramids at Giza, Egypt; Xi’an, China; Teotihuacan, Mexico. Don’t miss their essay.

So we have pyramids of heights ranging from 30 ft to over 400 ft, lengths from 100 ft to 2300 ft; some with inner chambers and some solid throughout; stepped and smooth walled; square, round and elliptical bases; stone, mud and adobe brick construction; highly decorated or plain; some topped with small buildings.

From these various styles, sizes, and composition I think we can conclude that the pyramids had several functions: burial sites, landmarks, landing sites, feeding stations, bomb shelters, and ceremonial sites; and there is evidence that many of them served several functions simultaneously. But one thing seems certain – the pyramids, platforms and mounds around the world were places where the gods and mankind came together.

Stolen Artifacts from Iraq


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BAGHDAD (AFP) – Archaeological sites in southern Iraq have been systematically looted for over two years, but experts say the dig will have to go much deeper to find out where thousands of lost artifacts have ended up.

“The complete lack of knowledge is devastating,” says archaeologist Elizabeth Stone, who spent years excavating the Old Babylonian city of Mashkan Shapir.

“One article said that a billion Iraqi dinars worth of artifacts had been smuggled to Syria, but that’s absurd. We just don’t know what’s gone,” she says.

The mystery has emerged as new site protection forces finally begin to make a dent in thefts from the cradle of civilisation, rampant since the US-led invasion of March 2003, but experts say it may be years before the riddle is solved.

Meanwhile, artifacts are surprisingly absent from the ever-hungry illegal market. “Artifacts aren’t turning up yet,” says Seth Richardson of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. “The market’s too hot. People don’t want to trade them, for good reasons and
bad.”
“We’ll probably have to wait four or five years for this stuff to turn up. And it could be anywhere — London, New York, Geneva, Tokyo.”

What is known is the shocking breadth of looting, with satellite images showing ancient sites turned into chessboards of square-shaped holes. “There’s been more dirt moved after the (2003) war by looters than there ever was by archaeologists and looters combined before the war,” says Stone.

On the ground, archaeologist Abdal Amir Hamdani, in charge of antiquities for Dhi Qar province, home to some of Iraq’s most famous archaeological sites, says his focus has shifted from looters to smugglers.

“I’m not an archaeologist. I’m a policeman,” he says.

Hamdani uses what he calls a “hunting dog” — a former looter turned paid informant — who follows up on rumours and goes out with a digital camera and global positioning system (GPS) equipment to locate and mark smugglers’ houses. Italian carabinieri forces disguised as Bedouin then go with Hamdani to carry out often fruitful raids. “This is the war within the war, the forgotten war,” he says of his dangerous job.

Last October, eight Iraqi customs officers were found dead and their recently seized cargo of antiquities disappeared on the road to Baghdad. Al-Fajir, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Hamdani’s base in Nassiriyah, is rife with smugglers and dealers, he says, and 60 suspect homes in the small town of 10,000 have already been identified.

Hamdani shows photos of seized artifacts: Parthian glasswork, Sumerian statues and erotic images on temple tablets, hundreds of coins, gold jewellery and bowls inscribed in ancient Aramaic, some clumsily glued together, damaged forever. “I don’t know how much they’re worth to a dealer,” says Hamdani. “To me, they’re priceless.”

He laments what he says are lax sentences of two or three years handed down to smugglers. “It’s not enough. They should be getting 10 years or more. I would like to kill them, but then what happens to human rights in this country?”

Stone says that families in the area have been selling artifacts for generations, but the lawlessness of recent years combined with increased demand from the West, Japan and Israel has made them more daring.

“You can see the purposefulness of it. People are very well-organised. They come with food and water and guns. That’s different from what Iraq has always had, farmers and villagers coming to take something to sell at the local souk.” “The assumption is that they won’t have to hold onto it for 100 years. But some families have been doing it for generations and might think their grandchildren will sell it. There must be warehouses bursting with the stuff,” she says.

“It will start coming onto the market when people decide authorities can’t be bothered to prosecute anymore.” While the director of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, Donny George, says that an object sold by a farmer in Baghdad for 50 dollars can fetch “200,000 to 300,000 dollars in New York,” the financial loss pales in comparison to the cultural one.

“The frightening thing is objects going to private collectors, where they are hidden, just for investment, like hoarding gold,” says George. He says ill-informed buyers in the West, such as the man who paid 80,000 dollars for a non-descript cylinder seal, are also inflating prices and inspiring more thieves.

“They’ve been taking out at least 3,000 tablets a week, by the truckload. That’s got to be 400-500 dissertations,” says Richardson, adding that some looters die when the tunnels they use collapse, becoming artifacts themselves. Iraq currently has 12,000 registered archaeological sites, but once the whole country has been surveyed, that number will jump to 100,000, says George.

Hamdani says there are 800 sites around Nassiriyah alone, with 200 site
protection forces to patrol them in just seven vehicles.
As a result, no amount of policing is going to suffice and the museum is
placing its hopes in changing people’s mindsets.
“Ninety percent of schoolbooks used to be dedicated to Saddam and the Baath
party. If we can dedicate five percent of books to antiquities, children can
learn a lot — and they can teach their parents.”

Meanwhile, generous foreign aid is well-intended, but not always useful. In the corner of George’s office is a box of 40 satellite phones donated for site protection forces by UNESCO. “We’ve had them for three months, but they didn’t give us SIM cards,” says George. “Now we have extra funding so we can buy the cards and use them.”

Chronology of Ancient Mesopotamia

Chronology of Ancient Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia Egypt Israel / Palestine
3500-3100 BCE Uruk
3100-2900 BCE Jemdet-Nasr 3100-2686 Early Dynastic 3150-2200 Early Bronze
2900-2700 BCE Early Dynastic I
2700-2500 BCE Early Dynastic II
2500-2300 BCE Early Dynastic III 2686-2200 Old Kingdom
2300-2150 BCE Sardonic/Akkadian
2150-2100 BCE Guti 2200-2040 1st Intermediate
2100-2000 BCE Ur III 2040-1786 Middle Kingdom
2000-1600 BCE
2000-1700 BCE
Old Babylonian
Old Assyrian
2000-1200 Middle Bronze II
1600-1500 BCE Dark Age 1786-1558
2nd Intermediate
1600-1050 BCE Kassite/Middle Babylonian 1558-1085 New Kingdom 1100 “Conquest”
1400-1000 BCE Middle Assyrian
1000-626 BCE Neo-Assyrian 1050-925 United Kingdom
625-539 BCE Neo-Babylonian 586 Exile
539-330 BCE Persian/Achaemenid 539 Return
330-65 BCE Alexander and Seleucid successors
250 BCE – 230 CE Parthians (Arsacid)
230-650 CE Sassanian
650 CE – present Arab / Islamic

Late Helladic

Late Helladic I

Outside the partial circuit wall, Grave Circle B, named for its enclosing wall, contained ten cist graves in Middle Helladic style and four shaft graves, sunk more deeply, with interments resting in cists. Richer grave goods mark the burials as possibly regal. Mounds over the top contained broken drinking vessels and bones from a repast, testifying to a more than ordinary farewell. Stelae surmounted the mounds.

A walled enclosure, Grave Circle A, included six more shaft graves, with 9 female, 8 male, and two juvenile interments. Grave goods were wealthier than in Circle B. The presence of engraved and inlaid swords and daggers, with spear points and arrowheads, leave little doubt that warrior chieftains and their families were buried here. Some art objects obtained from the graves are the Silver Siege Rhyton, the Mask of Agamemnon, the Cup of Nestor, and weapons both votive and practical.