Archeoastronomy- Chichen Itza

Located in Southeast Mexico, Chichen Itza served as the home to one of the largest Mayan cities and possesses pristine examples of complex archeoastronomy. Perhaps the most interesting structure is the pyamid El Castillo which translates to “the castle.” This pyramid serves as a prime example due to its complex engineering and design that highlights the Mayan’s fascination with the cosmos. This building was designed so that twice a year, during the spring and fall equinoxes, the shadow cast by the sun creates a serpentine like pattern that connects to a snakehead at the bottom.

Image result for el castillo shadow
An image of El Castillo casting its serpentine like shadow during an eclipse.

Each side of the pyramid consists of 91 steps, and when considering the top platform as an additional step, there are a total of 365 steps signifying an individual step for each day of the year. This complex design only serves as an example as to how the cosmos was studied and cherished thousands of years ago. If you would like to learn more about El Castillo, follow this link.


Historical Astronomers in Context

Nicholas Copernicus was born in 1473 and died in 1543.

Copernicus was one of the first “modern day” astronomers and his work changed the way that scientist of his time viewed the solar system. His most notable work involved proposing a model of the solar system. This model suggested that earth was revolving around the sun, the opposite of what had been believed up until this point. His model was not 100% correct, however it re-framed the way that many astronomers and scientists viewed our solar system.

Two other major historical events that happened within Copernicus’s lifetime were the invention of the pocket watch in 1500 and Christopher Columbus discovering the new world in 1492. The pocket watch was a revolutionary invention as it allowed anybody who could afford it, the ability to tell the time at any instance. It also looked very classy, especially with a nice chain. Christopher Columbus discovering the new world is obviously an important historical event as they teach it in every history class. His discovery led to the developments that now make the Americas what they are, for better or for worse.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1520) also lived during this time period. Da Vinci was important as his artistic ability spoke volumes to the population at large as well as the church. His paintings of the Last Supper, Mona Lisa, and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel all took place within the years 1495-1512. Every one of these pieces carries immense historical significance and are still talked about to this day.

Learning about this context was interesting as you often learn about every impactful historical figure separately, but not usually all together. The ability that humans have, the capability that humans have for discovery, invention, and beauty is overwhelming. When looking at a timeline from the past of major events, it seems impossible to condense as there are always meaning events to point to, learn from, and change the way that humans will exist in the future.