Researchers in Mexico Yucatán have announced that an ancient Mayan temple is not only aligned to the sun, it’s also designed to track the movement of the planet Venus. This advanced observatory is confirming (if it was still necessary) that the ancient central american civilisation had extensive knowledge of astronomy.
The observatory is thought to have been used in the Mayan’s early Classic period, between 300 and 600 AD, a millennia or so 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 the Mexico City newspaper Excelsior.
The structure aligns 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.
It appears that Venus (represented in the mythology by the god Noh Ek), the third brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon, was so important to the priests-astronomers of Acanceh that they build the southern edge of the observatory to align 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.