Friday, February 27, 2015

Bus to Alta Vista, Chalchihuites, Zacatecas Stone Observation Buildings

This row of stones laid east to west would
have shown an ever decreasing shadow
at mid day on the north side as the sun
approached zenith day of June 21
Bus to Alta Vista Chalchihuites, Zacatecas
Update Feb 2015

Solar Observations, Zenith Day

Alta Vista ruin site's position on the Tropic of Cancer would allow the observation of the one Zenith day each year for this point on earth.  The people living south of the tropic of Cancer in the ancient MesoAmerican cities would have observed two zenith days annually.  Alta vista being on the Tropic of Cancer would observe just one: June 21 or June 22.
     When I saw the Hall of Columns at Chalchihuites I was reminded of Stonehenge.  The literature claims that the tightly grouped columns, 28 in all, supported a roof in ancient times but this is hard to swallow; the columns are too closely packed and appear to be significant in themselves.  I suspect that they were used to observe the movement of the sun over the earth in its seasonal changes. (28 columns)
     With the standing stones of Stonehenge still in my mind I remembered other standing stones a lot closer to Chalchihuites, a group of isolated columns at the ruin site of Izapa in Chiapas.  At Izapa, a sprawling ruin site in the thick, humid jungle along the coast of
Hall of Columns, Alta Vista Zacatecas
Mexico's Chiapas State, three stone columns with no apparent utility stand widely spaced at three Cardinal points in a plaza below a pyramidal structure located at the fourth cardinal point.  The columns, about eye level in height, support only round stone spheres that are approximately equal in circumference to the diameter of the columns.

Stone column at Izapa
Ruin Site, Tapachula,  Chiapas
     Izapa is an old site with early Olmec influence in its artwork.  The area grows abundant chocolate and has been desirable turf for many cultures over the years including the Olmecs, Zapotecs, Mixtecs and the Aztecs.  The columns at Izapa Ruin site would have been elegantly simple devices for observing the zenith day.  On those two zenith days per year at Izapa, the sun would have cast no shadow at the base of those columns at mid day on May first and again on August twelfth.  Of course the columns would need to be perfectly plumb but archaeologists have found plumb bobs in ancient sites.  Could the Hall of Columns at Chalchihuites have served a similar purpose as those columns at Izapa I wondered.
     It is tempting to believe that all the civilizations in Mesoamerica followed plans formulated by the Olmec culture of 1200 BC.  When you see these columns and stones with no apparent utility you could imagine a sun worshiper religion that developed their observational skills over thousands of years to evolve into the use of mathematics and detailed observations of planets and stars.  These observations later fluoresced into the complex calculations evident in the later Mayan civilization.

     Other standing stones on the Alta Vista site which seem to have no structural significance could also have been sun trackers.  A row of low stone blocks runs roughly from east to west and another crosses it that runs north to south.  These would make a perfect solar time piece and calendar.  By observing the length and direction of shadows throughout the day and throughout the year, one could track the seasonal progression of the sun and its approach to the annual zenith day.
Walls at Alta vista Ruin that create
sight lines to the distant peaks
     The caretaker told me that many Europeans visit Chalchuhuites during the zenith days of June 21-22 to note the alignments created by the builders.  I could only imagine from what I had seen of the equinox serpent shadow at Chichen Itza and the 5000 visitors watching it, what tiny Alta Vista would look like when a few thousand sun worshipers arrive to watch the solstice sunrise over Mount Picacho.

     The town of Chalchihuites could provide lodging and limited services for visitors but it must be some scramble for lodging on the runup to the 21st of June. On a recent 2014 trip I found only one hotel open due to the influx on mine workers occupying all other hotels.     I didn't need to worry about a hotel on this trip  I was on a day trip so I caught a late afternoon bus back to Zacatecas where I spent the night in the Hotel Condesa, a solid place in the Historic Center and not a bad value at $39.00 USD although it did not offer WiFi.

     Early the next day I went about 30 miles south from Zacatecas City by local bus to the town of Vilanueva where I could get a taxi back north nine miles to another enigmatic Zacatecas ruin site, the ruin of La Quemada.

Next, Ruin of La Quemada  or Chicomostoc

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