Monday, November 5, 2018

Buena Vista and Chankillo: Oldest Peruvian Observatories – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding the continuation of  Chankillo, and the ancient Buena Vista observatory.
    Anciently, calendars of the world were set by observations of the Sun and Moon, marking the day, month and year, and were important to agricultural societies. Such information was essential, for a harvest depended on knowing when to plant at the correct time of the year. It was also essential for early man to know when the moon would rise and set, when it would wax and wane (Gibbous moon) and wax and wane (Crescent Moon), since the moon was the only lighting available anciently for outside the home work or travel into night-time markets, or distant travel (Martin P. Nilsson, Primitive Time-Reckoning: A Study in the Origins and Development of the Art of Counting Time among the Primitive and Early Culture Peoples, Writings published by Kungl, Humanist Science Society, Lund Sweden, vol.12, Is.4-5, CWK Gleerup, 1920).
Obviously, when the Nephites reached the Land of Promise, they would not have had any of the usual landmarks or skies or constellations or even stars familiar to them, consequently it would have been important to create observable areas where certain astronomical events could be noted and recorded for constant usage, such as for planting and harvesting. After all, the Sumerians of Mesopotamia were dividing a circle into 360º and an hour into 60 minutes long before Lehi’s time. In addition, knowledge of astronomical phenomena were periodic and therefore could be measured through the year had been developed by the Babylonians, again long before Lehi’s time. The Hebrews would also have been well aware that the measurement of frequency of Babylonian observations were both measured and understood as early as 747 BC during the reign of Nabonassar. Even calendars had been established dring the 3rd millennium BC (Pierre-Yves Bely; Carol Christian; Jean-René Roy, A Question and Answer Guide to Astronomy, Cambridge University Press, UK, 2010, p197).
    As stated in the previous post, Chankillo, was an observatory built in coastal Peru during the last half of the last century BC, when the early Nephites were in the Land of Promise. Several other observatories have also been located in Peru, many dating from that early time period. Chankillo is one of those observatories that has been well studied by numerous archaeologists over the years since it was first reported by explorers Ephraim G. Squier and Antonio Middendorf, and naturalist Antonio Raimondi, in the late 19th century. In the early 20th century C.V. Roosevelt, Julio C. Tello, Alfred L. Kroeber, D. Collier, and Donald E. Thompson discussed its function and chronology, but Rosa Fung and Victor Pimentels’ synthesis of their 1968-69 excavations remains the most comprehensive description of the site. Later, Thomas Pozorski, John R. Topic, and D. J. Wilson reported it in their surveys. Since 2001, Iván Ghezzi has led the investigations of the Chankillo Archaeological Project, which currently has a consensus on the date and function of the most significant features, that is the Fortress and the Thirteen Towers.
Location of the two Observatories: Chankillo and Buena Vista in relationship to Lima (Zarahemla) Peru. Note Chankillo is along the coastal desert strip, and Buena Vista is in the foothills of the Andes
The site is located in the coastal landscape of Peru, one of the world’s driest desert areas, 227-miles north of Lima and 9-miles from the Pacific coast. Lying to the west of the Andes mountain range, this landscape of foothills, valleys, and plains has remained geologically stable for thousands of years. The site itself lies adjacent to the irrigated and fertile southern branch of the Casma-Sechin river basin, amidst rock outcrops and sand ramps, near the rugged foothills of the western slopes of the Andes. Like many other coastal valleys, the Casma-Sechin basin has long been an ‘oasis’ for settlement in an otherwise inhospitable desert.
   The Chankillo observatory consists of a row of 13 towers that precisely tracked solar movement throughout the year. When viewed from two main observation points, the sun would have reached one end of the tower line at the winter solstice and the other end at the summer solstice. The regularly spaced gaps between each tower could have been used to divide the year into even shorter intervals of 10 to 12 days.
    Ghezzi and his colleagues found one of the main observation points near a pair of courtyards about 220 yards west of the towers. A long white corridor, accessible from one of the courtyards, opened onto a view of the towers. This opening lacked proper structure for affixing a door, which led the researchers to identify it as a clear, unobstructed vantage point. Additionally, pottery and artifacts that could have served as ritualistic offerings surrounded this opening but no others.
The various areas in Peru where ancient observatories have been uncovered by archaeologists

In addition, the ancient Peruvians had an observatory at Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuaman at Cuzco, Espiritu Pampa in Vilcabamba, and Nazca among others, including Buena Vista—a 20acre archaeological site located about 25 miles inland in the Chillon River Valley It is also located about an hour's drive north of Lima, in the Santa Rosa de Quives District, Canta Province, in the foothills of the Andes, about eight miles from El Paraiso. It is the oldest observatory in the Americas (Thomas H. Maugh II, “Celestial Find at Ancient Andes,” Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2006). The observatory is believed to be 4,200 years old, and carbon dated to 1880 to 2040 BC, that has marked the summer and winter solstices, and is as old as the stone pillars of Stonehenge.
    Archaeologists from Peru and the University of Missouri, led by Robert Benfer discovered an ancient temple at Buena Vista situated on a bleak, rock-strewn hill, on top of a stepped pyramid 33 feet tall over-looking a fertile valley watered by the Chillon River. The valley was preserved for agriculture with dwellings and other permanent structures built on unproductive hillsides. The Team found a fox mural on the inside of the temple on top of the pyramid, and named the structure “The Temple of the Fox.”
    This observatory was built on the top of the pyramid with precise astronomical alignments and sight lines that provide an astronomical calendar for agriculture, according to biological anthropologist Robert Benfer of the University of Missouri said. He added that: “In 2005 we excavated a second temple, in 2007 a third, both with additional astronomical alignments.”
Archaeological field-walking is a systematic exploration of an area by a team of investigators, walking, collecting, and recording surface artifacts or noting earthworks and other phenomena as they moved across a field or zone

Since then, Benfer claims their pedestrian surveys (primary method of current survey archaeology of field-walking) revealed a large number of complex alignments, many with multiple reference points, some reference points themselves describing another alignment. Befer said that “continuing this work at two other sites on the ground, we found rich sets of alignments in two other sites of similar age.” In fact, Benfer claims that Google Earth reveals that most early Peruvian coastal valley sites may have similar alignments.
    However, the early Peruvians who built the observatory—three millenniums before the emergence of the Incas—remain a mystery, but it is obvious they achieved a level of art and science that archeologists believed was unknown in the region for almost 1000 years later.
    Using a surveyor’s transit to measure the azimuth from due north between the Temple and the surrounding hills, they found that at 114º the transit pointed to a large stone which appeared to have been carved to show a human face. Turned to 180º (the transit pointed to a platform on the surrounding hills on which evidenced the fires of an ancient people. Because the 114º was the azimuth for the December solstice sunrise which south of the Equator was the summer solstice, they called in Larry Adkins, and astronomer to help further study of the alignments. 
(See the next post, “Buena Vista and Chankillo: Oldest Peruvian Observatories – Part III,” for more on what additionally was found at Buena Vista and what it had to do with the early Peruvians who settled this area)

No comments:

Post a Comment