You Are Here:  HOME >> MYSTIC PLACES >> CHICHEN  ITZA » El Castillo


World-Mysteries.com - MYSTIC PLACES - SHTML

  Bermuda Triangle
  Chichen Itza
  Coral Castle
  Easter Island
  Gobekli Tepe
  Great Pyramid
  Khajuraho Temples
  Kailasa Temple - India
  Machu Picchu
  Megalith Building
  Nazca Lines
  PiscoValley Holes
  Pyramids in China
  Red Pyramid
  Satellite Images
  Taj Mahal



Subject related links:




El Castillo's design is thought to relate to the Mayan calendar. Each of the four faces incorporates a broad, steep staircase consisting of 91 steps that ascends to the top platform. Counting the top platform as an additional step gives a total of 365 steps: 1step for each day of the year.

Don't miss: Geometry of the sunset at Chichen Itza on the Vernal Equinox

MYSTIC PLACES: Chichen Itza - El Castillo

Chichen Itza¡ - Introduction  |  HISTORY Architecture  |   3D model of El Castillo | Design and Dimensions 

 Decoding Kukulkan's Longitude  |  Precessional Alarm Clock  |  The Shadow of the Equinox
Chirping Pyramid  |  Kukulcán - The Legend of Quetzalcóatl  | Celestial AlignmentsKhufu and Kukulcan
3D Model of El Castillo | CHICHEN ITZA - More Photos, 3-D MODELChichen Itza Main MenuResources

The Temple of Kukulcan
(El Castillo)
Chichen Itza


20º 40´ 01 N  (20.6667)
88º 34´09 W (-88.6)

Interactive Satellite Map >>

Decoding Kukulkan's Longitude>>

Location of El Castillo within the site of Chichen Itza

Design and Dimensions

Built around 800 A.D. ( between 550-900 A.D. )
Oriented to East from true North: 19 deg
 24m - top platform (+6m with the temple)

Kukulcán's pyramid is essentially a nine-step structure culminating in a flat platform
that supports a two-story temple. The height to the top platform is 24 m,
the temple adding another 6 m.

Image Source:

El Castillo's design is thought to relate to the Mayan calendar. Each of the four faces incorporates a broad, steep staircase consisting of 91 steps that ascends to the top platform. Counting the top platform as an additional step gives a total of 365 steps: 1step for each day of the year. The staircases rise at an angle of 45 degrees to the horizontal, while the average inclination of the stepped pyramid itself is 53.3 degrees. The faces of the individual steps are sloped at a greater angle, approximately 73 degrees.

The nine main platforms of the pyramid are thought to represent the 18 months of the haab, and the 52 panels represent the number of years it takes for a calendar round date to recur.

Design Summary

  • Height:  24m - top platform (+6m with the temple)

  • The temple at the top of the pyramid is 6 m high, 13.42 m wide, and 16.5 m long.

  • Staircases rise at an angle of 45 degrees to the horizontal

  • The average inclination of the stepped pyramid itself is 53.3 degrees.

  • The faces of the individual steps are sloped at a greater angle, approximately 73 degrees.


Meters Zapal equivalent Conversion factor

Shadow-play on the Pyramid of Kukulcan. Secrets of Mayan Science/Religion. C. 1990. Hunbatz MenKukulcán's pyramid is notable for the fact that at the spring and fall equinoxes (March 21 and September 22) the sun projects an undulating pattern of light on the northern stairway for a few hours in the late afternoon—a pattern caused by the angle of the sun and the edge of the nine steps that define the pyramid's construction.
These triangles of light link up with the massive stone carvings of snake heads at the base of the stairs, suggesting a massive serpent snaking down the structure.

Additionally, when one looks at the western face during the winter solstice, the sun appears to climb up the edge of the staircase until it rests momentarily directly above the temple before beginning its descent down the other side. The orientation of the pyramid is approximately 17 degrees east of magnetic north, in an area where the declination is approximately 2 degrees east, so the actual orientation is around 19 degrees east of true north. Several other major structures on the site are oriented in approximately the same way.

Read more about celestial alignments >>

Chichen Itza at Spring Equinox. Image Source >>

Vernal Equinox Animation. This animation can be viewed as: 
Flash Movie (452KB), or Animated GIF (424KB)

View our 3D Model of El Castillo>>

Chichen Itza Photos

Geometry of the sunset at Chichen Itza on the Vernal Equinox

The following images are the result of amazing hi-tech combination of satellite images with program called The Photographer’s Ephemeris which shows you the exact direction of where the sunrise and moonrise will be at any particular location and time using Google maps.

Geometry of the sunset at Chichen Itza on the Vernal Equinox (March 21, 2010). Click to enlarge.
Image generated by The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) -

Geometry of the sunset at Chichen Itza on the Summer Solstice (June 21, 2010). Click to enlarge.
Image generated by The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) -


HOT  The Photographer's Ephemeris

The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) is a free application for Mac/Windows/Linux designed for landscape photographers. It shows you the exact direction of where the sunrise and moonrise will be at any particular location and time using Google maps. Landscape photographers typically wishing to plan their shoots around the times of sunrise/sunset or twilight, or alternatively when the moon is in a particular place or a particular phase. Click on the logo to learn more and download this free program.

Comparison of Khufu and Kukulcan

By Craig B. Smith, P.E., and Kelly E. Parmenter

The pyramids built by the pharaohs of ancient Egypt—especially the magnificent tomb of the Fourth Dynasty’s Khufu, or Cheops—have prompted extensive inquiry through the ages. Not so the pyramids erected by other ancient peoples—those of the Maya, for example. But the pyramids of the Maya—Kukulcán’s among them—reveal much about the sophisticated skills of their builders.

Khufu and Kukulcán:   Read featureRead Abstract

Decoding Kukulkan's Longitude

Kukulkan Pyramid. When the world's pyramids were built, their longitudes were reckoned from a very ancient Prime Meridian (0/360° longitude) that ran from pole to pole across the Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt, a full 31 degrees, 08 minutes, 00.8 seconds to the east of our modern Greenwich Prime Meridian.

In order to "read" our western pyramids this 31° 08' 00.8" longitudinal variance must be factored in to our present-day longitudes for these western monuments.

Carl Munck - Archaeocryptography

Carl Munck's work is extensive! Here's but one pyramid decoded. (For the purposes of posting this on our Web page, Carl chose one of the simplest monuments to decode.) What follows is copyrighted Carl Munck 1996:

Like the other pyramids of the Western Hemisphere, the Kukulkan Pyramid at Chichan Itza was a terraced monument as opposed to being a true pyramid form such an we see in Egypt. There were clear reasons for this departure from Egyptian architectural practice because in the West, pyramids convey specific numbers which can enable us to see why they were built where they were upon the earth.

The decoding process is generally quite simple, the only exceptions apparently having been at Tikal where the decoding process is not without certain complexities, otherwise the decoding is a simple process. The Kukulkan is a classic example of this.

KUKULKAN PYRAMID at Chichen Itza on Mexico's Yucatan .
Also known as the El Castillo (The Castle) and Quetzalcoatl,
Kukulkan Pyramid has staircases on all four sides.
With each staircase comprising 91 steps, the four
show 364 steps with the upper platform being the 365th step.


In this 3/4 view from ground level., notice that the pyramid shows us nine terraces. This, the first number we use to assemble our formula for the decoding process.

The second number is 365. Kukulkan has four staircases, one on each side of the monument, on each staircase are 91 steps. For the four., that totals to 364 steps with the top platform of the pyramid being the 365th step. We now have our second number - 365.


In the overhead view, we see that the pyramid has four sides, and four staircases. We now have all the numbers shown by the architect and can put the decoding formula together:

  • 9 terraces x 365 steps x 4 sides x 4 stairways = 52,560

There are also other numbers which also multiply to 52,560. These are 119, 42 and 10.51620648. Two rational numbers and an irrational, but these are not shown on the pyramid. These appear only on maps.

When the world's pyramids were built, their longitudes were reckoned from a very ancient Prime Meridian (0/360° longitude) that ran from pole to pole across the Great Pyramid at Giza, a full 31 degrees, 08 minutes, 00.8 seconds to the east or our modern Greenwich Prime Meridian. In order to "read" our western pyramids this 31° 08' 00.8" longitudinal variance must be factored in to our present-day longitudes for these Western monuments, viz:

Hence, those other three numbers of 119, 42, and 10.51620648 shown above, are the elements of Kukulkan's original longitude which multiply to its GRID longitude which was left to us in the 4-4-9-365 message conveyed by the Kukulkan itself.

Copyright © 1996 - 2004, Carl Munck. All Rights Reserved.
Source: http://www.pyramidmatrix.com/kukulkan_pyramid.htm

The Pyramid of Kukulcan - a Precessional Alarm Clock

When the Toltec people moved to Chichen Itza, they merged their own zenith cosmology with the Mayan system, and the result was the Pyramid of Kukulcan.  This has been designed so that every year, on Spring Equinox, the afternoon sun causes a shadow play so that it appears that a huge serpent is descending from the sky, down the pyramid. However, John Major Jenkins shows that the pyramid is much more than an equinox indicator. It is a ‘PRECESSIONAL CLOCK WITH ITS ALARM SET FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY’.

Photo from souvenir book

The Pyramid of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza. 
This image shows the Seven Triangles of Light and Shadow as they appear on the west face of the
northern staircase of El Castillo between 4:30 and 5:00 PM during the Spring equinox on March 21st.
Our computer model animation can be seen

Jenkins says that Kukulcan, (or Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent), was the symbol of a sun-Pleiades-zenith conjunction. Exactly 60 days after the Spring Equinox, on May 20, the zenith passage of the sun takes place over Chichen Itza. The Crotalus rattlesnake, whose pattern is constantly used in Mesoamerican art, has a marking on it which is identical to the Solar ‘Ahau’ glyph of the Maya, and its rattle was called ‘tzab’, which is the same word used for the Pleiades star cluster

 Zenith cosmology over Chichen Itza. Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. C. 1998. J. M. Jenkins
From John Major Jenkins' essential book,
Maya Cosmogenesis 2012
 - The True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date

The moving snake on the Pyramid is an annual reminder of a conjunction of the zenith sun with the Pleiades over Chichen Itza, but this is an event which will only occur during a 72-year time window, from 1976 to 2048. Right at the centre of this time window is the year 2012, when the Great Cycle ends. On May 20 2012, the zenith passage combines with a solar eclipse, on the Tzolkin day 10 Chichan, which means serpent. The winter solstice end-point will be 4 Ahau in the Tzolkin calendar, meaning Lord/Sun, and 3 Kankin in the Haab calendar, which means ‘snake-day’.

Related link: http://www.diagnosis2012.co.uk/5.htm

The Shadow of the Equinox

Summary of Events Reflected by El Castillo

The cycle of the sun and how it interacts with the pyramid El Castillo at Chichén Itzá.

Key dates that are all approximately 91 days apart from each other.


July 16
Start of Mayan new year. Add 52 days to this date (the same as the number of years in Maya "cycle" and you arrive at Sept 6th.

Sept 6th
All nine triangles of light are visible between 5 and 5:30 PM.

Sept 22
Fall equinox (Day and night equal length) when seven triangles are visible. This is 92 days from previous summer solstice of June 21.

Oct 9th
Six triangles visible between 4 and 4:30 PM.

Dec 21
Winter solstice, longest night of the year. (91 days from Sept 22 fall equinox) North and East sides in total darkness while West and South are in daylight. 91 Days from fall equinox

March 5
Six triangles visible between 4 and 4:30 PM.

March 21
Spring Equinox. (Day and night equal length) Seven triangles between 4:30 - 5 PM. 91 days (same as stairs on the pyramid) from December 21 solstice.

April 6
Nine triangles between 5 and 5:30 PM All possible triangles visible at this time.

June 21
Summer solstice. Longest day of the year. (91 days from the March 21 show of seven triangles) South and West sides in total darkness between 7 and 7:30 AM.

General information on the phenomenon

The Mayans succeeded in an almost impossible mission with the completion of their structures at Chichén Itzá. A poetic combination of form, style, function, religion, philosophy, mathematics and geometry. A true symbiosis of all of their intelligence and art in one location, to be studied and admired by all that visit. By far the most impressive aspect of the Pyramid of Kukulkan is it's relationship with the sun and how it reflects the equinoxes and solstices of our solar year with stunning accuracy. Before one can fully understand the workings of the Shadow of the Equinox, a few basics on astronomy need to be reviewed.

An equinox occurs twice each year when our sun, in its orbit around the earth in a fashion unique to these times of the year, passes directly over the Earth's equator and the length of the daylight and evening hours is equal. Hence the word equinox is derived from the Latin for "equal" aequus, and nox meaning "night". The spring equinox occurs on March 21. Six months later, on Sept 22, we have the Fall Equinox. The summer solstice occurs on June 21st. On this day earth sees the longest duration of daylight. Six months later is the winter solstice on December 22, when we see the shortest daylight and the longest night of the year. On these days the sun almost seems to pause in its orbit before resuming its course, and it is why the word solstice is based on the Latin sol, for "sun", and sistere or "to cause to stand". This cycle then repeats itself as the Earth continues to rotate around the sun. It is interesting to note that there are exactly 91 days between each of these events, and 92 days between the June 21 summer solstice and the September 21 equinox. This adds up to a 365 day solar year with the 91 days between each event matching the 91 steps to each side of the pyramid (described here).

Each of these solar events, the two solstices and the two equinoxes, can be measured and predicted using the patterns of light and shadow that fall on EL Castillo at various times of the year. It is believed that the Mayans used the various shadows and designs formed by the Pyramid to signal the beginning of a harvest or of a planting, to predict the best dates to be married or to be buried, and for other various ceremonial reasons. The cycles of the sun also play out to another Mayan tradition of the number 52. To us, it is a coincidence that this is the number of weeks in our standard year. But to the Maya it represented, in years, the time of one "cycle".

The Mayan Calendar began on on the first day of Pop month, or our July 16th.
They kept a count of 52 days (breaking down into 2 months with 20 days each,
2 weeks with 5 days each, and 2 additional days.
This count puts us in the 12th day of the 3rd month called Sip, or September 6th by our calendar.
This was the day the Mayans held their most significant ceremonies at the base of the pyramid as September 6th (as well as April 6th) is when the complete nine triangles of shadow and light can be seen on the western side of the north staircase. Nine triangles being the most complete example of the phenomenon, with eight visible on the staircase and the ninth illuminating the head of Kukulkan.

7triangles.jpg (20589 bytes)
Photo from souvenir book

This image shows the Seven Triangles of Light and Shadow as they appear on the west face of the northern staircase of El Castillo between 4:30 and 5:00 PM during the Spring equinox on March 21st. Also visible just to the right of the illuminated serpent head is the entrance to the inner antechamber and the smaller structure over which the larger one was constructed.

From the 12th day of Sip (or September 6th) count foreword three weeks (Mayan weeks with 5 days in each) and one additional day (16 days total) and we arrive at the 9th day in the 4th month Zoodz (or September 22). On this date there are seven triangles on the same side of the main staircase which indicated to the Mayan astronomers that the Earth had completed its cycle around the sun.
Two of the triangles seen on September 6th completely shift off the pyramid and are projected onto the ground at the floor of the staircase. On the 6th day in the month of Tseek (October 9th or 17 days after September 22nd) there are 6 triangles visible.

There are several dates and variations of the shadows and triangles as the sun approached the positions for which the pyramid was built. They all had varying degrees of significance within the Mayan culture and I have only focused on the "main" ones.

Source: http://www.isourcecom.com/maya/cities/chichenitza/shadowof.htm

Related Link: Hypothesis of how the the location for the pyramid was derived

Chichen Itza at Spring Equinox.  Image Source >>

The Legend of Quetzalcóatl

Quetzalcoatl: "Feathered Snake." Quetzalcoatl is one of the major deities of the Aztecs, Toltecs, and other Middle American peoples. The story goes that he descended to Mictlan, the underworld, and gathered the bones of the human beings of the previous epochs. Upon his return, he sprinkled his own blood upon these bones and thus fashioned the humans of the new era. After he banned himself from earth, and was burned while traveling on the ocean, the heart of Quetzalcoatl became the morning-star. According to legend, Quetzalcoatl, described as light-skinned and bearded, would return one day to rule over his people and destroy his enemies (Tezcatlipoca). Thus, when the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés appeared in 1519, the Aztec king, Montezuma II, was easily convinced that Cortés was the returning god.


According to Aztec legend, Ometecutli, "Lord of Duality," and Omecihuatl, "Lady of Duality," initially created all life and produced four sons, Quetzalcoatl, Tezcatlipoca, Huitzilopochtli and Tonatiuh, who represented different cardinal directions and who were associated with different colors. These sons became very powerful, ruling gods.

Quetzalcoatl was a benevolent god, and the founder of agriculture, industry, and the arts. Tezcatlipoca was the patron of evil and sorcerers, god of the night, omnipotent and multiform. Tezcatlipoca had transformed himself into the first sun, wanting to light the world. Because he was evil, the other gods were not pleased, and Quetzalcoatl struck Tezcatlipoca down into the sea, causing Tezcatlipoca to assume the form of a tiger. In the darkness that followed, the tiger Tezcatlipoca devoured all the giants and humans.

Quetzalcoatl then became the second sun. He ruled until one day Tezcatlipoca reached up with his tiger paw from the ocean and pulled Quetzacoatl down to earth. The fall of Quetzalcoatl caused a hurricane, which uprooted all growing things and destroyed man (again). The few humans that survived were turned into monkeys.

The other gods then banished the two quarrelers, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, from the sky and made Tlaloc, god of rain and heavenly fire, the third sun. But angry Quetzalcoatl caused a rain of fire to devastate the earth, drying up all the rivers and destroying man (yet again). Those few men who did not perish were transformed into birds.

Quetzalcoatl then made the goddess Chalchiutlicue, "She of the Jade-Green Skirts," the fourth sun. But jealous Tezcatlipoca sent a flood to destroy both the sun and the earth, and most of humanity perished(for the fourth time). Those who survived became fish.

In response to the darkness, all of the gods assembled in Teotihuacan to offer sacrifice so that there might be light again. Two gods sacrificed themselves, such a large offering that, because of the sacrifice, a brilliant moon appeared. The gods, angered at the moon's nerve, threw a rabbit at it, causing the dark holes in the moon that form the shape of a rabbit. The sacrifice was, after all, successful, and light returned to the earth.

Quetzalcoatl then descended to the underworld and collected all of the bones of the humans who had been destroyed. He fashioned new humans by sprinkling the bones with his own blood. Thus the Aztec people are the direct descendants of Quetzalcoatl himself.

Tezcatlipoca, still angry, laced Quetzalcoatl's drink with a poisonous mushroom, causing him to commit incest with his sister. Being a good god, Quetzalcoatl was so overcome with shame that he left Teotihuacan, never to return.

Legend has it that Quetzalcoatl's raft caught on fire on the ocean when the sun was especially hot one day, and his ashes turned into birds and carried his heart back into the sky. This is how Quetzalcoatl became the god of the morning star.

The Aztec people believed that one day, Quetzalcoatl would return to destroy his enemies and reign once again. In anticipation, every Aztec king was named Quetzalcoatl. Unfortunately, this messianic belief was exploited by the Spaniards who, upon arrival in Mexico, spoke of peace and prosperity, causing the Aztecs to believe that Quetzalcoatl himself had returned in the shape of the Spanish priests. Instead, the Spaniards took advantage of the vulnerability of the Aztecs and the Aztecs, despite their military might, were ruthlessly slaughtered.

Source: http://pages.pomona.edu/~tlm02000/www/aztec_religion.html

The legend of Quetzalcóatl is well known to Mexican children. It is the origin of how the plumed serpent god, originally from the Toltec region of central Mexico, came to be known to the Maya.

Quetzalcoatl ("feathered snake") is the Aztec name
for the Feathered-Serpent deity of ancient Mesoamerica,
one of the main gods of many Mexican and northern
Central American civilizations.

It tells of a man who was revered as a great mystical leader much in the same ilk as Britain's King Arthur. Though there is some evidence to suggest that Quetzalcóatl was actually a living man that ruled the Toltecs. He first appeared to the people of Teotehuican near current day Mexico City, and taught the Toltecs all of their arts and science and became their ruler and led thir city to great prosperity and importance. He eventually fell in disgrace for violating his own laws and set himself on fire. He rose in flames to become the planet Venus and vowed to return one day to his people.

After this event, all priests in the Toltec cult were given the title of Quetzalcóatl. One such priest by the name of Ce Acatl Topiltzin rose to power and proclaimed himself as the second coming of Quetzalcóatl returning as promised, and in 968 AD became king of the Toltec people once again. He reigned for decades and built the Toltec capital of Tula. Eventually he was disposed of by his enemies and this time sailed east on a raft of snakes, vowing, like the first Quetzalcóatl, to return one day to rule his people. It is this snake reference that has caused the artwork depicting Quetzalcóatl as emerging, or being "reborn" as he emerges from the mouth of a serpent.

This raft of snakes carried Quetzalcóatl east and south across the gulf of Mexico to a Yucatan beach. By coincidence, the Mayan people were, at this time, expecting the return of their plumed serpent god Kukulkan. Kukulkan, in the same fashion as Quetzalcóatl, promised to return to rule his people after being forced to leave, and he was greeted as the returning Kukulkan by those that discovered him. Topiltzin-Quetzalcóatl-Kukulkan became the king of the Itzá Maya and rebuilt the ancient capital of Chichén Itzá. Massive stone sculptures reflecting his image as the plumed serpent god were built in his honor and can be seen in a large portion of their artwork.

His enemies eventually caught up with him again and he fled to Uxmal where he committed suicide and, according to legend, was buried under the Temple of the Dwarf where he remains to this day, though no burial plot has yet been discovered.

Related Link: http://weber.ucsd.edu/~anthclub/quetzalcoatl/que.htm

The Chirping Pyramid

Tourists delight in the strange chirping echoes they produce when they clap their hands at the base of the steep staircases that sweep up the face of Kukulkan, a 1,300-year-old Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan. While amusing themselves, the tourists may unwittingly be replicating an ancient Mayan ritual, says David Lubman, an acoustical consultant based in California. The echoes are eerily reminiscent of the call of the quetzal, a bird the Maya considered a representative of the gods.

The long-tailed quetzal of Mexico and Central America
was associated by the ancient Maya and Aztecs with
the plumed serpent god Quetzalcoatl.
They used its magnificent tail feathers in religious ceremonies.

Lubman recorded the enigmatic echoes while on vacation in Mexico and analyzed them when he returned home. The echoes sound like chirps, he realized, because the sound from the tapping doesn't hit a solid wall but hundreds of small steps, producing hundreds of echoes. The difference in the distance traveled by echoes bouncing off lower steps is rather small, so the echoes follow each other closely and make a high-pitched sound; the distances and intervals between successive echoes returning from the higher steps, however, are longer, so their pitch is lower. When the echoes reach a listener's ear, the change in pitch sounds like a chirping bird.

The dimensions of the steps, it turns out, are the key to the effect. Each step is tall, but the tread, where the foot is placed, doesn't cut deeply into the pyramid. If the stairs were deeper and not so high, the effect on the echoes would not be as great, and they wouldn't sound like a chirp.

That Lubman noticed the similarity between the echo and the quetzal's call was a "lucky hunch," he says, but the Maya, he thinks, knew exactly what they were doing when they built the staircase at Kukulkan. "For about 1,000 years before this, they had been building stone staircases in the open, where you are going to get an echo," he says. "All it would take is one person in 1,000 years to notice that when you shorten the staircase tread, the pitch of the tone rises."

The Maya could have used the sound in ceremonies conducted at the pyramid, which was clearly linked to the sacred bird. Kukulkan is a Mayan deity whose name shares the same root as the Mayan word for "quetzal" and who is often depicted with the bird on his back.

Archeologists had always considered hand-clapping tourists a nuisance at Kukulkan, but now some are admitting that Lubman's theories are possible. "The Maya were people of the forest, where it was really important to listen," Lubman says. "The visual sense has been dominant in our culture, but there's much to be gained if historians learn that ears were more than mere pegs for jewelry."

COPYRIGHT 1999 Discover, COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group
Source: http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1511/is_2_20/ai_53631750


Celestial Alignments


As with other ancient cultures, observatories, pyramids and temples were erected based on celestial alignments.

Prior to the Maya rising to power circa 400 AD in Central America and Mexico, there is evidence that the Olmec people had already begun to use astronomical orientations to direct the layout of several ceremonial centers, with the Pyramids of the New World oriented to observing and predicting the motions of the Sun and Mon. As with the Egyptians, we can deduce that Mayan astronomical endeavors, heavily relied upon the ritual and ceremonial worlds of the culture, however, here we have a wealth of evidence to substantiate such claims. Left behind are codices, or systems of hieroglyphic recordings of the Maya, and which include celestial sightings and how these sightings and predictions are woven into the entire cultural complex.

'The Dresden Codex' has perhaps proved the most fruitful in helping to recreate the ancient environment, and containing an elaborate calendar used to record the observations of Venus, which seems to be an object of utmost importance to them. Working with both a solar calendar and a ritual calendar, the ancient Maya imparted much meaning in the helical rising of Venus, which is made evident in the structure of several ceremonial centers throughout the area. Unlike the Megalithic and Egyptian complexes, scientific observation can be better deciphered here, because of the elaborate records left behind, and because of the fact that so many of the deductions the Maya made so closely resemble recent calculations of the same recorded cycles.

Like the Egyptians, the Maya had devised two calendars, one solar and one ritual which interacted and depended upon one another for the dictation of certain ritual events to be carried out. The sky for the Maya was a seeming personification of Gods and deities who played important roles in the daily lives of the population. Most significantly, the relationship between the Sun and Venus (talked about previously in the helical rising, conjunction, phases) was representative of Kutaikcan, the God of Venus , and "symbolizes the cyclic myth of departure and return or death and resurrection." (Aveni 1984). In addition other objects may have been tracked in order to predict certain 'natural' phenomenon in accordance to seasonal changes therefor placing major importance on the accurate predictions undertaken to better predict the earthly events thought to be under the control of the Gods.

A great many structures are indicative of the devotion to and dependence upon Venus, to the Maya, and can be found in the architecture ceremonial centers throughout the region. Caracol, at Chichen Itza sits atop a large earthen mound and is a structure obviously intended for observing Venus at its most extreme points on the horizon.

Just as famous, is the Governor's Palace at Uxmal, constructed so that it would center on the helical rising of Venus at its southernmost point during the eight year cycle it follows. Such an alignment can be further substantiated by the fact that the Palace deviates from the remainder of the buildings at Uxmal by twenty degrees, indicating the care taken to insure the sight lines of the observation windows. The careful planning inherent in the design and building of such structures is made evident in the precision of their alignments, however this precision was indispensable to the planning of ritual events and the prediction of natural processes that so dictated the lives of the Maya.

In Chichen Itza, in Mexico there is a celestial observatory to the stars that was aligned along the line of the summer and winter solstice. It was built by the ancient Maya and / or their God Quatzequatl. The western orientation of the Castillo at Chichen Itza faces within a degree the zenith passage sunset. The east faces sunrise at the time of solar nadir.

The Upper Temple of the Jaguars and the Temple of the Warriors align to the zenith sunset. The Castillo has 365 steps. The Caracol at Chichen Itza is recognized as an astronomical observatory (Milbrath 1988). The Caracol has three Venus alignments, including the building's alignment to the northerly extremes of Venus. A pair of turret window alignments and a pair of base alignments point to Venus' western horizon standstills around 1000 A.D. The Caracol's platform, an irregular rectangle, has a diagonal directed toward the winter solstice sunset and summer solstice sunrise (Broda 1986). The platform staircase faces the Venus extreme north position.

Astronomical alignments are also obvious in Peru. One of Machu Picchu's primary functions was that of astronomical observatory. The Intihuatana stone (meaning 'Hitching Post of the Sun') has been shown to be a precise indicator of the date of the two equinoxes and other significant celestial periods. The Intihuatana (also called the Saywa or Sukhanka stone) is designed to hitch the sun at the two equinoxes, not at the solstice (as is stated in some tourist literature and new-age books). At midday on March 21st and September 21st, the sun stands almost directly above the pillar, creating no shadow at all. At this precise moment the sun "sits with all his might upon the pillar" and is for a moment "tied" to the rock. At these periods, the Incas held ceremonies at the stone in which they ?tied the sun? to halt its northward movement in the sky.

There is also an Intihuatana alignment with the December solstice (the summer solstice of the southern hemisphere), when at sunset the sun sinks behind Pumasillo (the Puma's claw), the most sacred mountain of the western Vilcabamba range, but the shrine itself is primarily equinoctial.

Shamanic legends say that when sensitive persons touch their foreheads to the stone, the Intihuatana opens one's vision to the spirit world (the author had such an experience, which is described in detail in Chapter one of Places of Peace and Power, on the web site, www.sacredsites.com). Intihuatana stones were the supremely sacred objects of the Inca people and were systematically searched for and destroyed by the Spaniards. When the Intihuatana stone was broken at an Inca shrine, the Inca believed that the deities of the place died or departed. The Spaniards never found Machu Picchu, even though they suspected its existence, thus the Intihuatana stone and its resident spirits remain in their original position.

The mountain top sanctuary fell into disuse and was abandoned some forty years after the Spanish took Cuzco in 1533. Supply lines linking the many Inca social centers were disrupted and the great empire came to an end. The photograph shows the ruins of Machu Picchu in the foreground with the sacred peak of Wayna Picchu towering behind. Partway down the northern side of Wayna Picchu is the so-called Temple of the Moon inside a cavern. As with the ruins of Machu Picchu, there is no archaeological or iconographical evidence to substantiate the new-age assumption that this cave was a goddess site.


The Intihuatana Stone - The Hitching Post of the Sun Source: Machu Picchu >>

Related Links

Chichén-Itzá Menu (this site)


Interactive Google Earth satellite map of Chichen Itza

Below is an interactive Google Earth satellite map of Chichen Itza.
Use the buttons on the map to zoom in; drag the map with your mouse to move around.


Click on any image icon to enlarge.
All images Copyright by World-Mysteries.com


Read more:

From Digital Collection of the American Philosphical Society

Worth a Look

Mexico and Its Ancient Ruins - PHOTO CD
Photographs from Mexico include ancient ruins of Teotihuacán, Chichen Itza and Palenque as well as images of small towns, magnificent churches, and a bullfight. This Photo CD contains 50 Royalty Free images: Win/Mac format .TIF images 9 x 6 inches
at 300 dpi.

An Introduction to the Study of the Maya Hieroglyphs
by Sylvanus Griswold Morley, Eric S. Thompson (Designer)

Secrets of Mayan Science/Religion
Hunbatz Men

More Subject Related Books


 Recommend this website to your friends: 
Send to a Friend

Recommended: 1920x1200+ display, CSS and Java Script support : : : Hosted by Lunarpages
© 2002-2010, World-Mysteries.com, All Rights Reserved.

Chichen Itza  virtual Tour, Temple of Kukulca¡n (El Castillo), Pyramids, Mystic Lands Vacation,
Ancient Observatories. El Castillo, Chichén Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico