For centuries civilizations have Relied on the stars in several facets of their daily lives. Whether heavenly bodies were utilized for navigation, ceremonial, insight for agriculture, or socio-political motives these people often place celestial bodies in the center of their ideology. Many civilizations held these celestial bodies at such high esteem that they incorporated their whole society around certain celestial bodies along with the yearly celestial events, such as the equinoxes and the solstices, and quite often associated those bodies and happenings together with their gods. One such men and women, the Mesoamericans appeared to have a tight spacing involving archaeoastronomy and their everyday life. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how the different people which were associated with Mesoamerica seen celestial bodies and the way they integrated certain celestial events in their architecture, ideology, and daily life.
Archaeoastronomy is warranted to permit for a better comprehension of what’s being discussed . A.F. Aveni described archaeastronomy in his post entitled,”Archaeoastronomy in Mesoamerica and Peru: Comment: as”over the study of ancient astronomy through the use of archeological data and using historical texts. Archaeoastronomy is an interdisciplinary meeting ground for people who are worried about the perception and conception of the natural world by those of early cultures” To outline this it could be said that archaeoastronomy isn’t only what these ancient people saw and recorded when they looked into the skies, but also the way they implemented what they saw and drew conclusions based on these findings which were carried over to facets of their lives like religious, agricultural, and even town planning. Averi is suggesting the argument that there is more than meets the eye where archaeoastronomy is concerned. This archaeoastronomy is not only scientific data, but also what contexts these findings are plugged into in order to form an ideology based on celestial bodies or events. These implementations of celestial bodies and events in various facets of pre-Columbian civilizations of the Mesoamerican are usually seen in the artwork, architecture, and also in many of those listed religious practices that were preserved through codices. Even though Averi may also argue that Teotihuacan is located in a particular fashion because the alignment of it is in line with Cerro Gordo (that was the key area where they brought water) which does not necessarily signify that archaeoastronomy does not have a scientific leg to stand on. In reality, offering multiple theories of this orientation arouses new debates which may, ultimately, uncover new information concerning the specific rationale that Teotihuacan is oriented the way it is. While Averi holds fast to his debate many others appear to think that the astronomical alignment of Teotihuacan has to do with particular events. By way of instance, some anthropologists seem to believe that the fifteen-point-five degree orientation of the Pyramid of the Sun correlates with the setting 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 believe that the orientation of the structures along with the coinciding relationship between celestial events are pure coincidence.
Next, It’s unlikely that Civilizations ignored the skies and what they saw in the night sky. There is so much data to the contrary. Though Averi may not think that the orientation of Teotihuacan has anything related to celestial events that he does assert that many civilizations were conscious of the heavens; their orientation in the sky, and the paths in which they travel every day (and daily). According to a post that Averi wrote entitled,”Tropical Archeoastronomy” he states that many of these civilizations had a conscious awareness of their celestial surroundings. He wrote,”In all ancient societies, the sky and its contents lay in the base of human cognition. Early hunter-gatherers and later sedentary societies were deeply affected by the dependable precision of cyclic recurrence unfolding from the canopy.”
Averi points out that the celestial
Bodies and their ranks (and paths) were appreciated by early cultures and have been used in such ways, for example, as in helping seafarers in navigation. In his newspaper, Averi goes on to explain some of the Mesoamerican astronomical theories. He focuses on the Maya and commented about their advanced forms of writing, astronomy and mathematics. He moves on to talk about how they”also utilized the horizon method to track celestial events and to indicate time.” For example, Averi talks about rock markers which were used to mark specific celestial events and their correlation to terrestrial events. He writes,”Stone markers stretching from Campo Santo around the top of high hill west of city. From Campo Santo to high approx. 1.5km. Sun rises on traces PS & OS seen from stones O & P on March 19th 1940 two days ahead of the equinox.” (Averi;162-3). This information, in itself, tells us nothing extraordinary about the stone markers, however, it will give a little bit of background information and assists a reader to create a mental image in their thoughts. Averi then writes,”Sun climbs this day at 6 degrees 31.5 ms. Direction observed with simple adjustable compass. Observations are made at the rock now by zahorins (shamans) for planting and harvesting.” This passage, although lengthy and filled with scientific jargon, does reveal that these marker stones which were erected could be, and were/are, utilized in conjunction with the planting and harvesting of these crops. Every year that a shaman can visit the stone and, with the simplest of tools, create detailed calculations which will be used in making sure a positive impact on their own agriculture. Without markers such as these early Mayas could have had a harder time trying to determine when to plant their own crops to ensure optimum yield, and when to harvest so as to ensure optimum quality of the crops.
Averi has also written concerning 1 such website that Averi talks about in detail is that of Chichén Itzá. He, along with his associates, discussed the calendrical symbolism of particular buildings in Chichén Itzá and certain correlations that could be seen from inside the Maya calendar. By way of example, Averi talks specially cabout the Castillo of Chichén Itzá and the way certain aspects of it could be related to aspects of the Maya theology, calendar, and celestial events. He clarifies the Castillo of Chichén Itzá and ties it to all these different aspects. As an instance, he writes,”This stepped groundbreaking pyramid owns nine terraces, the same as the amount of levels of the Maya underwold.” (Averi; 129). Averi is showing the way the Maya incorporated pieces of their ideology into their architectural strategies. He proceeds to state “Divided by means of a stairway, each side contains eighteen such layers, which is equal to the amount of twenty-day months at a Maya year.” When it is by coincidence or completed by purpose there is no denying that the similarities to the two features mentioned about the Castillo demonstrates that the Maya could’ve very well been putting those ideologies into the stone monuments that dominated the landscape. When the Castillo is viewed from above it”looks like the quadripartite diagrams of the world the early Mesoamericans painted inside their codices, which reveal that the four directional godsplants, animals, day titles, etc” (Avery;129). Why do these Mesoamericans integrate this type of theological depth to some physical arrangement that could only be considered from above? Could it be simply a mixture of theology and calendric math that just happened to select the form it did and that it can be viewed most completely from the sky is simply a coincidence? This writer thinks not. This writer believes that there was a conscious intent to appease the gods, perhaps in the hopes of years of bountiful harvests and the flourishing of this culture. The architecture of this Castillo of Chichén Itzá is full of potential inferences. For instance, Averi continues to describe the Castillo by writing,”Fifty-two recessed panels decorate both sides of each stairway, the same as the number of years in a calendar around, the shortest interval in which the seasonal year is commensurate with the tzolkin or sacred round of 260 days.” This added layer of symbiosis between Maya and architecture ideology lays further credibility to the argument that the physical makeup of this Castillo at Chichén Itzá is not arbitrary and that there was conscious thought that was given as a way to integrate these astronomical and theological thoughts. Averi is arguing the Castillo was built and functioned in a”calendrical ritual capacity from the context of this early four-directional New year festival cycle, which was conducted during the previous five days of their seasonal calendar” (Averi; 129). This construction, in Averi’s eyes, had a particular ritualistic function. The building itself was incorporated with this much Maya ideology and theological beliefs which it was definitely erected as a sacred location.
Avery hasn’t cornered the market as Far as archaeoastronomy is anxious. There are a number of other anthropologists and other interested parties which have chimed in on the subject. Once such individual is Elizabeth Baity. In her paper she discusses the building of megalithic constructions of ancient times and also the astronomical methods which were used in their construction. She delves into explaining a brand new sub disciple that integrates technology, archeology, and astronomy. She’s the argument that there are many structures which were erected in early civilizations that held a particular intention of predicting astronomical events. These structures were not just built because of their aesthetic value alone even though a lot of these structures are breath-taking in their attractiveness. In talking about archaeoastronomy she explains that it”focuses on the evaluation of their orientations and dimensions of megalithic and other monumental ancient structures, many of which, as we will see, could have served for the prediction of solar and lunar eclipses and unquestionably did function for the conclusion of solstices and equinoxes, allowing the setting of dates for agricultural pursuits and for its ritual cycle of the year”. (Baity; 390). As you can see there are some similarities between what she is arguing along with the argument 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 incorporated into rituals that coincided with specific seasonal occasions and the signs can be understood on ceramics, artwork, and other mediums. It is safe to say that the Mesoamerican people place an emphasis on particular celestial events such as solstices and equinoxes. A few of those celestial events directly correlates with the planting or harvesting of the yearly crops that provided the sustenance that the Mesoamericans needed to thrive as a civilization. The concept of structures to forecast specific celestial events is not a new one and is not unique to the Mesoamericans. By way of example, Stonehenge is maybe one of the most famous celestial monuments on the planet. Archeologists have attempted to decipher what the position of the stones relate to. Some archeologists theorize they indicate the swing of the azimuth of the moon, but others seem to believe they are directly related to the solstices and equinoxes. No matter what differences the astronomers and anthropologists have about Stonehenge one thing is for certain — it was built for a purpose other than that of pure usefulness. It’s this pushing and extending of long held beliefs concerning the uses of these monolithic structures that lead to new advancements and discoveries in anthropology.
There are many other sites in Mesoamerica that have archaeoastronomical content. One such website is the one in the Maya site of Copán. Harvey and Victorian Bricker describe some of the astronomical content in this site, referred to as Group 8N-11. In their paper,”Astronomical Orientation of this Skyband Bench at Copán”, the Bricker’s talk especially about the Skyband Bench. Much like Teotihuacan the orientation of the Skyband Bench in Copán plays an Integral role in putting credibility to the debate for archaeoastronomical articles in Mesoamerican cultures. Panels 2, 5, and 8 are frontal views of the mind of this personified Sun or Sun god. Panels 6 and 4 are personifications of, respectively night and day.” (Bricker; 435). This evidence cannot be ignored. The fact that the Mesoamericans are creating art that defines celestial bodies also, moreover, personifying them demonstrates that they had a deep connection with the bodies up in the heavens. The Skyband Bench is a great example of ancient 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 a part of Mesoamerican architecture may offer various knowledge and authenticity for archaeoastronomy. As in almost any other area the more newspapers that become published on a certain topic the more the scientific community will detect and, hopefully, focus towards accepting those hypotheses.
The Mayas weren’t the sole Mesoamerican civilization to integrate celestial imagery in their construction, and then, into their own culture. David Carrasco talks about the Aztec culture in his post,”Star Gatherers and Wobbling Suns: Astral Symbolism in the Tradition”. In his article he describes spatial orientation and symbolism. He writes,”The Aztecs observed celebrities, measured themand calculated them into their agricultural and social cycles.” (Carrasco; 284). Can you see a trend emerging? In virtually every one of the examples of Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy among the prime components is agriculture. Without agriculture of some kind a civilization will surely perish. The ability to produce a bountiful harvest may mean the difference between a flourishing civilization and one that is in ruins. There are a few factors to consider when agriculture is concerned. Its heat and ultraviolet rays are required by the plants in order to grow and thrive. Too much or not enough warmth, in addition to too much or insufficient ultraviolet rays as well as the harvest will endure. Second, water is needed for agriculture to thrive. Without life-giving water a harvest can dry up and the civilization will suffer. Too much water and the plants can be bombarded, which will affect the yield, and the people will suffer also. The ancient Mesoamericans thought that dinosaurs controlled all of these facets of agriculture. Rituals were held so as to support the gods. By appeasing the gods that the people were expecting that the gods would seem down to them and grant them a bountiful harvest that would help to sustain them for the following year. It’s only logical that they wanted to be well-equipped as possible when it came to the planting, overseeing, and harvesting of these plants. By integrating a means to predict the best times to plant, and harvest, these individuals could help to ensure the sustainability of their culture for a future generation. Many of these ancient Mesoamerican shamans could be viewed as early scientists without them even knowing they had been. In their eyes that they were simply being messengers, or arbitrators, for its gods. In reality, they have been utilizing the scientific method and applying it to different measuring tools (architectural structures) in order to demonstrate a means of scientific replication year after year. These shamans understood the solstices and equinoxes occurred at particular times of the year, each year. By having the ability to reproduce these results they were not only helping out their people, but putting credibility to themselves as being messengers to the gods. These constructions were essential tools in order for the shaman to efficiently do their celestial duties.
All of these examples of Archeaoastonomy are connected by specific vision and celestial bodies. Though they could be associated with different gods, these celestial bodies were highly regarded from the Mesoamericans as crucial elements for their own survival. Without the sun the crops would, definitely, fail. With no moon the tides would not crest and ebb and so navigation and fishing would be inconsistent. These all-important celestial gods compose an integral part of Mesoamerican ideology.
To explore this point further one In this paper he describes elements of several mosaics in Uxmal. By looking at those mosaics you can observe how they are packed with archaeoastronomical data. Sheldon delves into this subject by explaining details concerning the moon, sun and Venus that are found in the mosaics at the website. He writes,”that 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 mean is almost 584 days; the detected Venus synodic can change between 581 and 587 days; any five successive Venus synodics equal or come to within one day of eight vague years of 365 days each; one sun-moon correlation has five short years and three extended ones together equal to eight obscure years or eight solar years or 99 lunations; the Venus sidereal period is almost 224 days long; and lastly, 13 Venus sidereals virtually equivalent five Venus synodics.” Though this looks as if it is simply a lot of scientific information due to the vocabulary in which the information is housed one must consider that these mosaics were made about 750-1000 A.D. Taking that into consideration one can see the way the Maya were quite interested in celestial bodies and so were quite technologically in tune with all the heavens. This type of information gathering would not be done over a span of months or days, but over years and generations. That type of devotion can only signify that the Maya were quite enthusiastic about archaeoastronomy. All these mosaics also have animal such as figures, largely bird serpents, portrayed on the walls of some of the buildings as well. This demonstrates that astronomy was integrated and meshed very tightly with their faith. Having deities alongside astronomical data shows a strong correlation between the religious beliefs of the people and how closely knit it was in astronomy. The Maya were definitely interested in astronomy and were even more interested in attempting to preserve their culture by understanding their gods. To better comprehend their religions is a method to be able to serve their gods, and appease their gods. When the gods are appeased, the Maya thought that there would be a more bountiful crop, more successful war attempts, and the fruition of their culture.
In Summary, there are lots of Anthropologists out there that may not entirely concur with the various interpretations that some archaeoastronomy researchers have made concerning the ideology and architecture of the Mesoamerican men and women. Much of it’s thatup: for interpretation, but enough scientific information is coming to show that there is, in fact, correlation between the events that occur in the heavens and the theological, agricultural, and cultural ties which bind a lot of these Mesoamerica individuals to various celestial bodies. Looking up in the contemporary skies it is no wonder that so many cultures were fascinated by the marvels from the sky both in the day time and at nighttime. Today we’ve got astronomers and advanced technology to compute, compute, and make sense from all of the data that is extracted in the skies. Back in the time of the Aztec, Maya, and other Mesoamericans it is mind blowing to imagine that they made quite scientific calculations concerning celestial bodies without the assistance of computers or other parts of contemporary technology. Add that together with the awesome looking nature of the skies and it is no surprise that these people often associated celestial bodies with that of their gods –the Sun, the Moon, and other celestial bodies. Around the world there are comparable beliefs from pole to pole and hemisphere to hemisphere. The next time you look up at the sky and pick out your favorite constellation, or other heavenly bodies imagine what the Maya, or the Aztec, saw. Looking up into the heavens is like buying window leading from the past.