Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Vernal Equinox and a Magic Show From the Maya

Still a crowd-pleaser all these centuries later.
For people interested in astronomical history, it is no secret that the Maya were probably the best astronomers the ancient world produced when it came to practical, real life observing. Over the course of centuries, the Maya made advances in astronomy that still leave modern experts astounded. Perhaps the most surprising this about the Maya is the paradox of their achievements vs, the things they didn't have: Example: the Maya came up with a perfectly interlocking series of 3 calendars that cycled for 5,125 years yet didn't grasp the concept of the wheel or ever use metal tools.

Perhaps more than any other civilization, the Maya set their record of astronomical achievement in stone. Of all these astronomically-themed buildings, the pyramid of Kukulkan in Chichin Itza is probably the most dramatic. The fact that thousands of people still gather on the equinoxes to watch the play of light and shadow is testament to this fact.
Besides being a calendar in stone (91 steps on 4 sides plus the temple on top make 365), the pyramid was orientated so that, only on the equinoxes, a play of light and dark would combine to create the illusion of a serpent (Kukalkan was depicted as a snake) slithering its way down the pyramid. Obviously, the combination of planning for such a show and then constructing it so flawlessly into the design of a building took a lot of brains on the part of the Maya.
Now, over a thousand years later, people still stand in awe, at least for a day, of the people who built this amazing structure over a millennium ago.

Humble requests:
If you found this informative (or at least entertaining), help me pay my bills and check out my Examiner pages for space news, cleveland photography, national photography, and astronomy for more great stuff.

If you think this was cool, why not tell a friend?

For something even better, follow this blog.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, I'd appreciate it if you would link to my original photo or take the photo off your blog. Here is the link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9381661@N06/4407675190/in/set-72157617004459022.
    Thank you.