Chankillo, Peru, Ancient Solar Observatory?
an ArchaeoBlog by James Q. Jacobs

2007.03.02 - Chankillo Thirteen Towers news is getting global headlines:

Ancient Peruvian Astronomical Observatory Noted by Modern Scientists

However, noone seems to have worded it quite that way. Google's News and Blog searches provide a window into how media editors view the feed on this information. Different headlines are written at individual media outlets to a story repeated word-for-word the world over. How the headlines vary is itself a story, more interesting I'm sure to anthropologists than science news readers. Too many "solar cult" instances for my taste is why I mention it. They are repeating the words used in the press release, "sophisticated Sun cults uncovered." (Photo credit: courtesy of Ivan Ghezzi.)

The news and "cult" verbage is widely repeated already. University of Leicester issued the press release late there yesterday:

The Thirteen Towers: Peruvian Citadel is Site of
Earliest Ancient Solar Observatory in the Americas

Existence of sophisticated Sun cults uncovered by
researchers from University of Leicester and Yale University

A 2,300 year old solar observatory in Peru has been identified by new research published today (March 2), in the journal Science ....

.... The research was carried out by Ivan Ghezzi, a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at Yale University who is now Archaeological Director of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute for Culture) in Peru, and Professor Clive Ruggles, of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester. Professor Ruggles is one of the world's leading authorities on archaeoastronomy.

.... "Chankillo ... provided a complete set of horizon markers - the Thirteen Towers - and two unique and indisputable observation points," Ruggles said. "The fact that, as seen from these two points, the towers just span the solar rising and setting arcs provides the clearest possible indication that they were built specifically to facilitate sunrise and sunset observations throughout the seasonal year...."

Much more. See also Science 2 March 2007: Vol. 315:5816, 1239-1243.

Peru is one of my beats, ancient astronomy another, so this is big news in the right combination to really change my morning coffee. Casma-Sechin is huge in scale as monument sites go, so this is not a surprise. The casma.kmz placemark file is suddenly a wildly popular download. Check out the massive monuments surrounding the Thirteen Towers.

Chankillo Castillo is a nearby hilltop ruin with possible horizon alignments as seen from the towers and other Chankillo constructs. Viewing a horizon tower accords with ethnohistorical reports of horizon towers viewed from Cuzco. Coincidentally, scroll down for an image of one of the Cuzco towers, visible atop Saxsayhuaman in an aerial image. Here follow the Chankillo site coordinates from Google Earth's digital globe. Does anyone have elevation readings? Chankillo is higher in elevation in the direction of level lunar major, about 60 degrees from North.

Chankillo Castillo A
Chankillo Castillo B
Chankillo Thirteen Towers

Landscape lines visible in the Chankillo neighborhood evidence numerous large ancient constructs, including rectangular enclosures (kankas). More after I read the Science article. Here again, the casma.kmz file, plus the press release from Yale University this time.

2008.05.06 - I finally have several comments on the Science article. First, the statement, sun pillars "are described by various chroniclers ... but all the Cusco pillars have vanished without trace and their precise location remains unknown" is contradicted by the photo above. Second, Chankillo is located in the Casma River valley, not a basin as stated, "... the Thirteen Towers is found within Chankillo, a ceremonial center in the Casma-Sechín River Basin." The rivers join downstream north of Chankillo before flowing to the sea.

There is an inheret contradiction in the work, "From the eastern observing point, the southernmost tower (tower 13) would not have been visible at all, and the top of tower 12 would only just have been visible..." If the purpose was as stated, why wouldn't all the structures be visible from their hypothetical observation point? Also, stairs in each structure and a flat top infers use atop the structures. The authors make a very valid point, and like Horn and Hively, ignore their own advice,

"Astronomical “explanations” can be fitted notoriously easily to preexisting alignments.... Fortuitous stellar alignments are particularly likely, given the number of stars in the sky and the fact that their positions change steadily over the centuries owing to precession."

Finally, I fail to see the relationship postulated by these authors, "Given the similarity between the solar observation device at Chankillo and the Cusco pillars documented some two millennia later..." Especially in light of their statement they do not know the locations of the Cuzco towers. The scale is very different, as is the architecture. Any relationship seems a far-reaching conjecture. I recently further commented on the "temple vs. astronomical observatory" issue in another blog, The Ur and Harran Latitudes, and Göbekli Tepe.

Science is always subject to review, and I look forward to other analyses of this site, especially from the persective of the thirteen towers as viewing stations in relation to Chankillo.

2011.10.17 - A functional consideration regarding observing the cosmos is the geometry of our reference spheres. Latitude properties expressing integral number relationships to the pole and equator reinforce astronomical observation interpretations of major monuments. Several site latitudes nearby have a functional advantage over Chankillo. The Chavin latitude arcsine equals one-sixth (asin(1/6) = 9.5941 degrees).  A right triangle at Chavin with sides extended to the pole star and to the geodetic center expresses the ratio 1:6; the axis is the hypotenuse equaling six and the geodetic radius equals one. 

Sechin Alto latitude

The latitude with arctangent equaling one-sixth (atan(1/6) = 9.46232 degrees) falls in the vicinity of the largest pyramids in the Casma-Sechin, Sechin Alto, Sechin Bajo, and the best-preserved Sechin Alto huaca, Taukachi-Konkan. The latitude with arctangent equaling one-seventh (atan 1/7 = 8.13010 degrees) crosses Huaca del Sol, in the Moche Valley. The following aerial image outline of Huaca del Sol is based on the Hastings and Moseley projected basal form. Most of the monument was eroded historically by grave robbers channeling the nearby Moche river. The horizontal iine is the current atan(1/7) latitude.

Huaca del Sol latitude

ArchaeoBlog Home Page

More ArchaeoBlog Pages:

Thornborough Henges and the Ure-Swale Monuments

Neolithic Monuments in Northeastern Europe Threatened

Summer Solstice 2006 - Big Horn Medicine Wheel

Google Earth Placemarks

The Original ArchaeoBlog Pages:
Mound Builders of the Eastern Woodlands, Fall 2005

Due to family, friends, and students requesting images of my journey
to visit major ancient earthworks in the Ohio Valley region, I started the
ArchaeoBlog with the following photo galleries. Hopefully, the journals
impart a sense of 'being there now AND long before' while read.

Discourse: Collected discussion group postings.
  March 2006 April 2006  
EDUCATORS: Use my images free and without hassle - Permissions

Home  |  Archaeology  |  Astronomy  |  Photo Galleries   |  Contact and Feedback

"Antiquity willfully veils the truth so that the fool will go astray and only the wise may know." 
Phaedrus, writer of fables, writing in Rome.

  © 2007 by James Q. Jacobs. All Rights Reserved.