Yesterday was the first day of spring and it reminded me of a project we did back in 2004-2005. Traditions of the Sun was a NASA-funded project that explored ancient observatories. The project brought us to New Mexico as we explored Chaco Culture National Historical Park. It also took us to the Yucatan where we explored the famous sites of Chichen Itza and Uxmal, along with the lesser-known sites of Mayapan, Kabah, Ek Balam, and Dzibilchaltun.
The photograph above was taken at Dzibilchaltun on the spring equinox back in 2005. At sunrise the sun shines directly through the doorway of the temple and rises above the structure. Here’s the description of the photograph from the Traditions of the Sun website.
The House of the Seven Dolls, also known as the Sun Temple, is extremely important to Mayan archaeoastronomers because of its function in charting the sun’s movement. Dzibilchaltun’s urban core is aligned along an east-west running sacbe, or ancient road, which effectively dedicates the city as a marker of the sun’s range and movement, back and forth each solar cycle.
The Sun Temple sits at the far east end of the site, and from this temple, a high priest would chart the sun’s passage, particularly when nearing the time of the equinox. The priest, during this time, would await the sunrise from inside the temple, where he alone was first privy to the birth of the fiery sun, while the masses waited in the plaza below for his announcement. They would not see the sun until it rose above the temple’s door jamb and actually shone through the temple.
We took hundreds of photographs of ancient sites in the Yucatan and Northern New Mexico as part of the project (including some very unique aerial photographs of the Yucatan). These images along with descriptions are available on the Traditions of the Sun website.