Friday, April 22, 2016

First Day of Spring Marked with Sun Daggers, Light Snakes

At equinox, a blazing serpent of light (left) appears to slither down the side of El Castillo pyramid,  at the Mayan site of  Chichén Itzá. Image Courtesy of Israel Leal and National Geographic.
At equinox, a blazing serpent of light (left) appears to slither down the side of El Castillo pyramid,
at the Mayan site of  Chichén Itzá. Image Courtesy of Israel Leal and National Geographic.
March 17, 2016.
Nadia Drake, of National Geographic, has written an illuminating article about astronomical alignments, like the spring equinox, which have been incorporated and celebrated by various cultures in their lasting monuments.

"But sometimes, simply marking astronomical alignments isn’t enough; another ancient method of tracing the sun’s meanderings through the sky involves using light and shadow to paint particular images. Here, the sunlight itself does the work, inscribing illuminated shapes or casting shadows. One example of this is at Chichén Itzá, where the Mayans crafted a sculpture that transforms itself into a blazing serpent at equinox, representing their deity Kukulcan. 

Another image in light was discovered in 1977, when rock artist Anna Sofaer was exploring the petroglyphs of the American southwest. There, at the top of New Mexico’s Fajada Butte, Sofaer found what’s known as the Sun Dagger, a calendrical marking created from two spirals etched into the rock. During summer solstice and equinox, the spirals are sliced by a dagger of light as the sun shines through slabs of rock; at winter solstice, two daggers appear on either side of the spiral—or did. The rock slabs have shifted and the images no longer appear."

To read the full articleclick here.

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