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Mayan observatory even more ingenious than we thought

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A tricycle taxi stops at a Maya archaeological site in Acanceh. Photo: Getty
A tricycle taxi stops at a Maya archaeological site in Acanceh. Photo: Getty

The ancient Maya were even more sophisticated in their star-gazing that we have previously thought.

Researchers announced that an ancient Mayan observatory is aligned not only to the sun, but also built to track the movement of Venus across the sky.

First unearthed at Acanceh, Yucatán in 2002, the observatory is thought to have been used in the Mayan’s early Classic period, between 300 and 600 AD, at least a millennia before the arrival of the Spanish.


“We believe this building used to be a multifunctional facility that was used exclusively by the Mayan elite, specifically for priests-astronomers,” Beatriz Quintal Suaste, a researcher at the Yucatán National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), told Excelsior.

Doors in the structure align with the rising and setting of the sun during the spring and fall equinoxes, and the semicircular building is set up so that it casts no shadow in the midday sun.

Venus, the brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon, was obviously important to the priests-astronomers of Acanceh; the southern edge of the observatory aligns with the planet’s northernmost position in the night sky.

Quintal Suaste told Excelsior that the Mayans were able to track Venus’ 584-day cycle through the night sky from the observatory, a hypothesis that’s backed up by the text contained in three codexes that were found at the site.

Venus held an important cultural significance to the Maya, who represented the planet in their mythology by a god called Noh Ek.

With information from Fox News

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