Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of March 27th - April 2nd, 2009

Sunlight gets in your Eyes

Columns Archive

  As time marches on, evidence of stellar observations of great antiquity continues to emerge. Myths suggest a knowledge of the stars reaching back further than we've been taught in the classroom. Evidence continues to push back the years in every land. Researchers have recently announced the oldest known solar observatory in the Americas, a beautiful site located in coastal Peru.

Thirteen Towers

Thirteen Towers

  Chankillo was studied extensively in 2002 and 2003. Tree ring dating on the site suggests it goes back to the fourth century BC, making it about 2,300 years old.

  Like a great earthen dinosaur breaking the surface from some vast subterranean sea, the thirteen towers line the dorsal spine of these hills, perfect for watching alignments on eastern and western ridges as the Sun rises and sets.

  Through the course of a day, the Sun rises in the east, culminates along the southern meridian at noon, and then sets in the west. On the equinoxes it rises precisely in the east and sets directly in the west, but for the rest of the year, the Sun is either a little north or south of these cardinal points.

Chankillo sunrise

Waiting for the Sun

Like the inches on a yardstick, the towers along the ridge were used to monitor the Sun's motion on a daily basis, carefully marking its seasonal progress. Archaeologists soon realized these man-made buildings were in exact-mirror positions to each other as they watched the Sun rise and set over the toothed heavenometer.

  "'Chankillo is arguably the oldest solar calendar that can be identified as such with confidence within the Americas,' said lead study author Ivan Ghezzi from Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru."*

  The length of the walls allows for the calibration of the Sun through the course of the year, but here's where they drop the ball.

  If a civilization goes to all the time, trouble and effort to construct a mirror-model with notches accurate enough for celestial mapping, readable down to the nearest degree of arc, don't you think they'd not limit themselves to simply solar observation? The work is already done. You have just established a grid system for two-thirds of the sky. Why just use it during the day? The planets all hug the path of the ecliptic (the path of the Sun).

Chankillo Temple

Chankillo Temple

This grid system covers the same celestial territory used by all the visible planets and a majority of the stars.

Armenian stone ring

Armeanian stone ring

  Given a sophisticated instrument to map the heavens, this is far more than simply a 'solar observatory'. At the moment Chankillo claims the prize for the oldest and wisest of them all here in the Americas. But in Europe, Asia and Africa, stellar sites of greater antiquity continue to be unearthed. Nabta Playa, Karahundj and Goseck may not be household words now, but they all make Stonehenge (approx. 3000 BC) look like a Johnny-Come-Lately.

  Nabta Playa in Egypt had a working solstice calendar site in 4800 BC. Goseck, Germany claims a site that suggests Neolithic and Bronze Age people measured the heavens far earlier and more accurately than scientists realized. Linear designs on pottery shards suggest the observatory was built in 4900 BC. Metsamor in Armenia claims to date to 5000 BC.

  The Bushmen have stone sights that monitor the heavens dating back 75,000 years ago.

South Aftrican calendar

South African calendar?

  "In the heart of southern Africa lies the scattered evidence of a lost civilisation whose people built some 20,000 stone structures. These breathtaking ruins constitute the largest continuous stone settlement ever built on Earth as it stretches over thousands of kilometres from South Africa all the way to Kenya and beyond."

  But the first signs of human intelligence and consciousness only appeared around 75,000 years ago, when the Khoisan people of southern Africa (Bushmen), started leaving behind an array of spectacular cave paintings all over this part of the continent."**

  Chankillo is only the beginning here in the Americas. There will be more, even older discoveries soon. Whether or not they are solar calendars or not remains to be seen.

  We're just beginning to get warmed up.

  Chankillo (

  Nabta Playa 4900 BC (

  Goseck 4900 BC (

  Carahunge 5000 BC (

  Makomati 75000 BC (


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