Archaeologists Discover Astronomical Observatory in Machu Picchu
A monument discovered in part of Machu Picchu in Peru has been identified as an astronomical observatory by a research team led by Professor Mariusz of the University of Warsaw.
The monument, called El Mirador, is made of custom cut stones and is thought to have been used by priests to observe the position of celestial bodies. This discovery is important because it is a different type of structure compared to ones found so far - the ceremonial places of the Incas are normally oriented towards the direction of the sunrise or the sunset during the solstice, however, this is not the case with this one. El Mirador is so far the only discovered precise Inca astronomical observatory, apart from the Astronomical Grotto Intimachay located also in Machu Picchu.
The results of the discovery are going to be presented in the weeks to follow during the International Conference ‘Societe Europeenne pour l’ Astronomie’ in Athens.
For the Inca Empire, astronomy was an important part of their culture. They used astronomical events to govern religion, agriculture and daily events, as well as to honour their origins. The city of Cuzco, for example, was constructed in such a way that it would replicate the sky and point to specific astronomical bodies. Pleiades was one of the important constellations of the Incas who called it ‘Seven Kids’.
The Incas have built observatories in many different places and their main type of observatory was called the Coricancha (Qurikancha) and was completely covered in gold (inside and outside), revealing their dedication to the Sun God.
Findings such as these raise important questions about how a so-called ‘primitive’ society was able to acquire such advanced astronomical knowledge without the advanced technology we have today. It seems we are only beginning to scratch the surface in unravelling the mysteries of our ancestors and the incredible wealth of knowledge they possessed relating to the stars and the cosmos.
By John Black