8 May 2019 - El Caracol - The Observatory of Chichen Itza, Mexico
of Chichen Itza, Mexico
No telescopes, no power, no gift shop—one of the world's oldest observatories in Mexico takes astronomy back to basics.
Slowly eroding in the world-famous Mayan city of Chichen Itza, the El
Caracol “observatory” stands as a monument not only to the architectural
skill of the ancient Mayans but also to their surprisingly advanced
understanding of the heavens.
El Caracol, which translates to “spiral-shaped” or more literally
“snail” is named after the winding staircase that rounds the interior of
the central tower. The stacked levels of the building resemble a pocked
stone wedding cake with staggered staircases leading to the central
tower whose collapsed dome impressively compares to the design of modern
El Caracol’s crumbling viewing tower rises above the lush Yucatan jungle
so that ancient astronomers could view the stars in 360 degrees, and
track solstices, equinoxes and eclipses. Most delighting is the
alignment of the remaining viewing windows, which seem to be designed
specifically to track the appearance and disappearance of Venus in the
night sky. In addition to assigning the second planet some religious
significance, the Mayans were able to track the movements of Venus and
thus measure longer intervals of the Earth’s orbit.
Within eyeshot of the pyramid El Castillo (one of the NEW seven wonders
of the world), El Caracol is easy to visit and is considered a major
Mexican tourist attraction.
Clancy's comment: Extraordinary building, eh? Wow, these people were so smart.