Written in the Stars: UNESCO to create a pre-Hispanic astronomy database

By John Mitchell

It’s no secret that Mexico’s pre-Hispanic civilizations were accomplished stargazers. The ancient Maya, for instance, accurately charted the movements of the moon and Venus, plus they could predict eclipses and other celestial events. And then there is the famous Aztec Calendar or Sun Stone, a huge and incredibly complex circular calendar that is thought to have originated with the Olmecs, the mother of all the ancient Mexican cultures.

As part of the International Year of Astronomy (2009) celebrations, UNESCO and the Mexican National Institute of History and Anthropology (INAH) will be compiling a database of pre-Hispanic archaeological zones that have astronomical significance. The list will include well known sites such as Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Monte Alban, and Palenque as well as many lesser known locales. Paintings and sculptures will also be added to the database.

For more information, visit the INAH website.

El Caracol, The Mayan astronomical observatory at Chichen Itza
El Caracol, The Mayan astronomical observatory at Chichen Itza

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