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Equinox ‘serpent’ at Kukulkan debunked at archaeology conference

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Chichén Itzá’s feathered “serpent.” Photo: Getty


“New and controversial” information about the Mayan civilization has been revealed during the first days of presentations at the Palenque Round Table, an INAH archeologist told La Jornada Maya.

Some experts suggest that we’ve misunderstood the “feathered serpent” illusion all along — or at least over the last several decades — said Adriana Velázquez Morlet, director of the INAH-Quintana Roo Center.

Thousands of tourists gatherer there twice a year — at the spring and autumn equinox — when the sun’s angle creates shadows on the temple staircase. As the shadow moves, it appears that a creature is descending the stairs.

It’s been a crowd-pleaser for years, since. ….

The general theme of the meeting, in which specialists from Mexico, Guatemala, the United States, Japan, Spain, Slovakia and Slovenia participate, is the sustainability of the Mayan cities.

One of the most revealing interventions is that of Octavio Esparza Olguín, alluding to the epigraphic studies carried out on the engraved monuments of the ancient Mayan city of Cobá, identifying 14 Mayan rulers. The data also show that this site, in Quintana Roo, maintained interaction with other Mayan cities, including the Guatemalan Petén.

Ivan Sprajc and Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava, national coordinator of Archeology of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), suggested that, based on studies of 106 Mayan sites, Mesoamerican peoples studied the year in quarters, not by equinoxes or solstices.

Equinoxes and solstices were not as relevant to the Maya as is traditionally believed, Velazquez Morlet said.

So the phenomenon of the descent of Kukulkan in the Chichén Itzá pyramid, as well as other light games related to the arrival of spring or sunsets on a special date, were not made on purpose.

Sprajc and Sánchez Nava said that the “myth” of the play of lights and shadows at El Castillo, Chichén Itzá, was started just a few decades ago, in publications by Jean Jacques Rivard and Luis E. Arochi, who affirmed that it was a phenomenon consciously designed by the Mayans, “which is false.”

The eighth Mesa Redonda de Palenque, or Palenque Round Table, the Chaipas site’s museum named for Alberto Ruz L’Huillier, the archaeologist who discovered Pakal’s tomb.

Sources: La Jornada Maya, El Universal

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