Ancient Archaeoastronomy of the Mesoamericans – Occasion proposal
For centuries cultures have Relied on the stars in several facets of their daily lives. Whether heavenly bodies were used for navigation, ceremonial, insight for agriculture, or socio-political motives these folks frequently put celestial bodies in the center of their ideology. Many civilizations held these heavenly bodies in such high esteem that they integrated their whole society around specific celestial bodies and the yearly celestial events, like the equinoxes and the solstices, and very often associated those bodies and happenings with their gods. 1 such people, the Mesoamericans appeared to have a tight synthesis between archaeoastronomy and their daily life. The purpose of this paper is to show how the different individuals that were connected with Mesoamerica regarded celestial bodies and the way they integrated certain celestial events within their own architecture, ideology, and daily life.
Archaeoastronomy is justified to permit for a better comprehension of what is being discussed . A.F. Aveni defined archaeastronomy in his article entitled,”Archaeoastronomy at Mesoamerica and Peru: Comment: as”over the study of ancient astronomy through using archeological data and using historical texts. Archaeoastronomy is an interdisciplinary meeting ground for people who are concerned about the understanding and conception of the natural world by those of early civilizations.” To outline this it might be stated that archaeoastronomy isn’t just these ancient people watched and recorded if they looked into the skies, but also how they realized what they saw and drew conclusions based on these findings which were carried over to aspects of their lives like agricultural, religious, and even city planning. This archaeoastronomy is not simply scientific information, but also what contexts these findings are plugged into as a way to make an ideology based on celestial bodies or events. These implementations of celestial bodies and events in various facets of pre-Columbian civilizations of these Mesoamerican are usually seen in the art, architecture, and in many of the recorded religious practices that have been preserved through codices. Even though Averi may also assert that Teotihuacan is located in a particular manner because the alignment of it is based on Cerro Gordo (that was the primary area where they brought water) that does not necessarily mean that archaeoastronomy doesn’t have a scientific leg to stand on. In fact, offering multiple concepts of the orientation stimulates new debates which may, finally, uncover new information concerning the particular rationale that Teotihuacan is oriented the way that it is. While Averi holds fast to his argument many others seem to think that the astronomical alignment of Teotihuacan has to do with particular occasions. For instance, some anthropologists seem to believe that the fifteen-point-five level orientation of the Pyramid of the Sun correlates with the placing of the sun on August 13th. Moreover, the Pyramid of the Moon’s summit has been associated with the notification of noon and midnight by its own orientation. It would be tough to feel that the orientation of the structures and the coinciding relationship between celestial events are pure coincidence.
Next, It’s unlikely that Civilizations ignored the heavens and what they saw in the night sky. There is so much information to the contrary. Although Averi might not think that the orientation of Teotihuacan has something to do with celestial events that he does assert that many cultures were aware of the heavens; their orientation in the sky, and the paths in which they travel every day (and daily). According to an article that Averi wrote entitled,”Tropical Archeoastronomy” he says that many of these civilizations had a conscious awareness of the celestial environment. He wrote,”In all early societies, the sky and its contents lay in the very base of individual cognition. Early hunter-gatherers and afterwards sedentary societies were profoundly affected by the dependable accuracy of cyclic recurrence unfolding from the celestial canopy.”
Averi points out that the celestial
Bodies and their positions (and paths) were appreciated by early civilizations and were used in these ways, for example, as in aiding seafarers in navigation. In his paper, Averi proceeds to describe some of the Mesoamerican astronomical theories. He focuses on the Maya and commented concerning their advanced types of writing, astronomy and mathematics. He moves on to talk about the way they”also utilized the horizon system to track celestial events and also to mark time.” By way of example, Averi talks about rock markers that were used to indicate certain celestial events and their correlation to terrestrial events. He writes,”Stone markers extending from behind Campo Santo around the top of mountain west of city. By Campo Santo to top approx. 1.5km. Sun rises on traces PS & OS seen from rocks O & P on March 19th 1940 two days before the equinox.” This information, in itself, tells us nothing outstanding about the rock markers, however, it does give a bit of background information and assists a reader to create a mental image in their mind. It sets the scene for another quote. Averi then writes,”Sun climbs this day at 6 levels 31.5 ms. Direction detected with simple adjustable compass. Observations are made in the rock today by zahorins (shamans) for harvesting and planting.” This passage, though lengthy and full of scientific jargon, does show these markers stones that were erected could be, and were/are, used in conjunction with the planting and harvesting of these plants. Consider these markers as a”Maya Agriculture Almanac”. Each year that a shaman can go to the stones and, together with the simplest of instruments, create detailed calculations which will be utilized in ensuring a positive impact on their own agriculture. Without mark such as these early Mayas could have had a tougher time trying to determine when to plant their crops to guarantee optimum return, and when to harvest in order to guarantee optimum quality of their plants.
Averi has also written concerning He, along with his associates, discussed the calendrical symbolism of particular buildings in Chichén Itzá and certain correlations which could be observed from inside the Maya calendar. By way of instance, Averi talks specially cabout that the Castillo of Chichén Itzá and the way specific elements of it could be associated with aspects of the Maya theology, calendar, and celestial events. He describes that the Castillo of Chichén Itzá and ties it to all these different facets. As an instance, he writes,”This stepped groundbreaking pyramid owns nine terraces, the same as the amount of levels of the Maya underwold.” Averi is revealing the way the Maya incorporated parts of their ideology in their architectural strategies. He goes on to say”Divided by means of a stairway, every side includes eighteen such layers, which is equal to the number of twenty-day months at a Maya year.” When it is by coincidence or completed by purpose there isn’t any denying the similarities to the two features mentioned concerning the Castillo shows the Maya could have been putting those ideologies to the stone monuments which dominated the landscape. Whenever the Castillo is viewed from above it”looks like the quadripartite diagrams of the world the early Mesoamericans painted inside their codices, which show that the four dimensional gods, plants, creatures, day names, etc” (Avery;129). Why would these Mesoamericans integrate this kind of theological depth to some physical structure that could only be viewed from above? Is it a mixture of theology and calendric mathematics that only happened to take the form it did and the fact that it may be seen most completely from the skies is simply a coincidence? This author thinks not. This author believes that there was a conscious intent to appease the gods, perhaps in the hopes of years of bountiful harvests and the flourishing of the culture. The structure of this Castillo of all Chichén Itzá is full of potential inferences. (Averi; 129). This added layer of symbiosis between architecture and Maya ideology lays additional credibility to the argument that the physical makeup of this Castillo in Chichén Itzá is not arbitrary and that there was conscious thought that has been given in order to incorporate these astronomical and theological ideas. Averi is arguing the Castillo was built and served at a”calendrical ritual capability from the context of this early four-directional New year festival practice, which was conducted throughout the previous five days of the seasonal calendar” This building, in Averi’s eyes, had a particular ritualistic purpose. The building itself was incorporated with this much Maya ideology and theological beliefs that it was definitely erected as a sacred site.
Avery has not cornered the market as Far as archaeoastronomy is anxious. There are many other anthropologists and other interested parties which have chimed in on the topic. Once such individual is Elizabeth Baity. She wrote a post for Current Anthropology entitled”Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy So Far”. In her paper she discusses the construction of megalithic structures of early times and also the astronomical methods which were used in their structure. She delves into describing a brand new sub disciple that integrates engineering, archeology, and astronomy. She makes the argument that there are many structures which were built in early civilizations that held that a particular purpose of predicting astronomical events. These constructions were not just built for their aesthetic value alone even though a lot of these constructions are breath-taking inside their beauty. In talking about archaeoastronomy she explains that it”focuses on the evaluation of their orientations and measurements of megalithic and other enormous ancient structures, many of which, as we will see, could have functioned for the forecast of solar and lunar eclipses and unquestionably did function for the conclusion of solstices and equinoxes, allowing the setting of dates to agricultural activities and for the ritual cycle of the year”. As you can see that there are some similarities between what she is arguing along with the debate which Avery presented. Both are under the belief that these structures that the ancient Mesoamerican people constructed were built with the aim of astronomical, agricultural, and religious events. Most of these structures were integrated into rituals that coincided with particular seasonal events and the evidence can be seen on ceramics, artwork, and other mediums. It is safe to say the Mesoamerican people place an emphasis on specific celestial events such as solstices and equinoxes. Some of those celestial events directly coincided with the planting or harvesting of the yearly plants that supplied the sustenance the Mesoamericans required to thrive as a civilization. The idea of structures to forecast specific celestial events is not a new one and is not unique to the Mesoamericans. A number of different cultures throughout history have erected structures for the exact same function. By way of example, Stonehenge is maybe among the most famous celestial monuments in the world. Archeologists have attempted to decipher what the position of the stones relate to. Some archeologists theorize that they mark the swing of the azimuth of the moon, while some seem to believe they are directly related to the solstices and equinoxes. Regardless of what differences the astronomers and anthropologists have concerning Stonehenge something is for sure — it was built for a purpose other than that of pure utility. It is this pushing and extending of long held beliefs concerning the uses of these monolithic structures that cause new advancements and breakthroughs in anthropology.
There are many other sites in Mesoamerica who have archaeoastronomical content. 1 such website is the one in the Maya site of Copán. Harvey and Victorian Bricker clarify a number of the astronomical content in this site, referred to as Group 8N-11. Like Teotihuacan the orientation of the Skyband Bench at Copán plays an Integral role in laying credibility to the argument for archaeoastronomical content in Mesoamerican cultures. Panels 2, 5, and 8 are views of the mind of this personified Sun or Sun god. Panels 4 and 6 are personifications of, respectively night and day.” This evidence cannot be ignored. The simple fact that the Mesoamericans are creating artwork that depicts celestial bodies and, moreover, personifying them shows that they had a profound connection with the bodies up in the heavens. The Skyband Bench is a great example of early Mesoamericans demonstrating their understanding of the skies above and the celestial bodies that are held within. The Brickers’ paper is a fantastic example of the way in which part of Mesoamerican architecture may offer various knowledge and authenticity for archaeoastronomy. As in any other area the more papers that become printed on a particular subject the more the scientific community will notice and, hopefully, focus towards accepting these hypotheses.
The Mayas were not the sole Mesoamerican civilization to incorporate celestial imagery into their construction, and subsequently, into their own culture. David Carrasco talks about the culture in his post,”Star Gatherers and Wobbling Suns: Astral Symbolism from the Aztec Tradition”. In his essay he describes spatial symbolism and orientation. He writes,”The Aztecs observed stars, measured them, and calculated them into their agricultural and social cycles” Can you see a trend appearing? In virtually all the cases of Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy one of the prime elements is agriculture. Without agriculture of some kind a civilization will certainly perish. The capacity to produce a bountiful harvest may mean the difference between a thriving civilization and one that is in ruins. There are a number of things to think about when agriculture is concerned. Its warmth and ultraviolet rays are required by the plants in order to grow and flourish. Too much or not enough heat, in addition to too much or insufficient ultraviolet rays as well as the crop will endure. Secondly, water is necessary for agriculture to flourish. Without life-giving water a crop can dry up and the civilization will suffer. Too much water and the crops can be flooded, which will affect the yield, and the people will suffer as well. The ancient Mesoamericans thought that dinosaurs controlled all of these aspects of agriculture. Rituals were held in order to support the gods. By appeasing the gods that the people were expecting that the gods could look generously down to them and give them a bountiful harvest which would help to sustain them for the following year. It is only logical that they wanted to be well-equipped as possible when it came to the planting, overseeing, and harvesting of the crops. Many of these ancient Mesoamerican shamans could be looked at as early scientists without them even knowing that they had been. In their eyes they were just being messengers, or arbitrators, for the gods. In fact, they have been using the scientific method and applying it to various measuring tools (architectural structures) so as to demonstrate a means of scientific replication year after year. These shamans knew that the solstices and equinoxes happened at particular times of the year, each year. By being able to reproduce these results they weren’t only helping their own people, but putting credibility as being messengers to the gods. These structures were essential tools for the shaman to efficiently do their divine duties.
All these examples of Archeaoastonomy are linked by specific imagery and heavenly bodies. Though they could be associated with various gods, these celestial bodies were highly regarded from the Mesoamericans as key elements for their survival. With no sun the crops would, definitely, fail. With no moon the tides wouldn’t crest and ebb and so fishing and navigation could be inconsistent. These all-important heavenly gods make up an integral part of Mesoamerican ideology.
To explore this point further you In this paper he describes elements of several mosaics in Uxmal. By viewing those mosaics one can see how they’re loaded with archaeoastronomical data. Sheldon delves into this topic by describing details concerning the moon, sun and Venus which are observed in the mosaics in the website. He writes,”these attributes taken together preserve knowledge of eight facts about the sun, moon, and Venus: the moon’s synodic period is 29.53 days; the lunar sidereal phase lasts nearly 27.33 days; the Venus synodic imply is all but 584 times; the detected Venus synodic can change between 581 and 587 times; any five successive Venus synodics equal or return to within one day of eight vague years of 365 days each; one sun-moon correlation has five short years and three long ones together equal to eight obscure years or eight solar years or even 99 lunations; the Venus sidereal period is nearly 224 days long; and lastly, 13 Venus sidereals virtually equivalent five Venus synodics.” Even though this seems as though it’s simply a bunch of scientific information because of the vocabulary where the data is housed one has to take into consideration that these mosaics were made around 750-1000 A.D. Considering that into consideration an individual can observe the way the Maya were quite curious about celestial bodies and were quite technologically in song with all the skies. This kind of information gathering would not be performed over a span of months or days, but over years and generations. That kind of devotion can only mean that the Maya were very engrossed in archaeoastronomy. All these mosaics also have animal such as figures, mostly bird serpents, portrayed on the walls of a few of the buildings too. This demonstrates that astronomy was integrated and meshed very closely with their faith. Having deities alongside astronomical data shows a strong correlation between the religious beliefs of the people and how closely knit it had been in astronomy. The Maya were definitely curious about astronomy and were more interested in trying to preserve their culture by understanding their gods. To better understand their gods is a way to be able to serve their gods, and appease their gods. When the gods are appeased, the Maya believed that there would be a more bountiful crop, stronger war campaigns, and the fruition of their civilization.
In Summary, there are lots of Anthropologists out there that may not totally agree with the several interpretations that some archaeoastronomy scientists have made concerning the ideology and architecture of the Mesoamerican men and women. Much of it is just that: up for translation, however enough scientific data is coming through to demonstrate there is, in fact, correlation between the events that occur in the heavens and the theological, agricultural, and cultural ties that bind many of these Mesoamerica individuals to various celestial bodies. Looking up at the modern sky it’s no surprise that so many civilizations were fascinated by the marvels from the skies both in the day time and at nighttime. Now we’ve got astronomers and advanced technology to compute, compute, and make sense out of all the data that is extracted in the skies. Back at the time of the Aztec, Maya, and other Mesoamericans it’s mind blowing to envision they made quite scientific calculations concerning celestial bodies without the assistance of computers along with other pieces of modern technology. Add that with the amazing looking nature of the skies and it’s no wonder that these folks often associated heavenly bodies with that of their gods –the Sun, the Moon, and other celestial bodies. Across the world there are comparable beliefs from pole to pole and hemisphere to hemisphere. Next time you look up in the sky and pick out your favorite constellation, or other heavenly bodies imagine what the Maya, or the Aztec, watched. Looking up in the heavens is like looking into a window leading from the past.