|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.
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."
For more information,
- Rosebud Sioux Tribe
- Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center
- Photos: Watch the 'Shadow Dagger' Solar Calendar Mark the Equinox
- Western Digs, 2016.
- Chankillo: A 2300-Year-Old Solar Observatory in Coastal Peru
- Ivan Ghezzi and Clive Ruggles, Science Magazine, 2007.
- World Monuments Fund
- Ancient Observatories | Chaco Canyon Online Exhibit
- Solstice Project
- Sinte Gleska University
- The Seasons, the Equinox, and the Solstices
- National Weather Service
- Cahokia State Historic Site Link Page
- UNESCO World Heritage
- Astronomy and World Heritage Thematic Initiative
- Archaeological Zone of Paquimé, Casas Grandes
- Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
- Chaco Culture
- Chankillo Astronomical Complex Tentative Nomination
- Chichén Itzá
- Ojibwe Cosmos: Mercury in Retrograde, Earthly Stardust and Intricate Stellar Maps
- April 19, 2016.
- 'Bring Them Home': Rosebud Sioux Seeking Return of Relatives Buried at Carlisle Indian Industrial School
- February 18, 2016.
- How Far Did Hohokam Reach? Researcher Thinks They Dominated Southwest for Centuries
- January 28, 2016.
- Living Maya Time: Sun, Corn, and the Calendar
- October 27, 2015.
- Clues From Ancient Maya Reveal Lasting Impact on Environment
- September 21, 2015.
- August 18, 2015.
- Who You Callin' a Savage? The Beauty and Brilliance of Indian Science
- August 14, 2015.
- UNESCO World Heritage Center's Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy
- May 21, 2015.
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Which Contain Earthworks or Monumental Architecture*
- May 12, 2015
- Celestial Timekeeping
- April 8, 2015.
- Pe'Sla Purchase Guarantees Sacred Land Will Be Used for Ceremonies
- January 23, 2015.
- A Chocolate Habit in Ancient North America
- November 13, 2014.