Sample Astronomy Essay Paper on Archaeoastronomy

            Archaeoastronomy is a subject that has attracted several arguments, particularly many people who watched the America Unearthed movie. However, the archaeoastronomy concept has been misused on several occasions with misleading meaning, mainly in the pseudoarcheology fringe. The current paper provides the clear meaning of the concept of archaeoastronomy. The precise meaning of the term is applied in a collection of methods used by many ancient populations, which describes a field of study among the archaeology communities (ArchyFantasies).   Archaeoastronomy includes the study of astronomical practices, spiritual knowledge, folklores, faiths, and the world interpretations of antique cultures. Therefore, in a basic definition, archaeoastronomy is the study of how populations in the ancient times understood the spectacles in the sky, how they interpreted these phenomena, and the function that the sky performed in their cultures (Sinclair 13).

            According to Ruggles (13), archaeoastronomy entails the study of early astronomy that is applied as modern astronomy in the scientific field that focuses on the characteristically strong cultural understanding of other cultures’ marvels. There is a close relationship between archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy. They both entail the study of sky watching in the modern world. Generally, archaeoastronomy is directly associated with the historical astronomy where the use of historical records of heavenly events is employed in providing answers to the astronomical concerns and written records applied in assessing the past astrophysical practices. Several archaeoastronomy techniques are used to affirm the past practices, for instance, archaeology, history, and astronomy among others. Since the techniques are assorted and incorporate information from different sources, integrating them into a logical argument is a challenge that most archaeoastronomers have persistently encountered. There are various examples of what could be considered as archaeoastronomy, such as the Venus de Laussel in France, the Stonehenge in England, the Goseck in Germany, and the Nabta Playa in Egypt.

History of the Mexican Astronomy

            There has been a long tradition concerning the history of Astronomy in Mexico (Lee 133). Astronomy in Mexico has been in existence since the Mesoamerican era, which was characterized by a time line and the design of an exact calendar. This was among the basic inspirations that triggered the study in Mexico. Moreover, the early Mesoamerican astronomers were able to observe and precisely envisage the eclipses as well as the planetary positions, such as, the full and new moons, the onset of equinoxes, and solstices among others (Aretxaga 3). Among the initial forms of astronomy that was developed in Mexico under the Mesoamerican astronomers include the famous Aztec calendar that is acknowledged to be more accurate as compared to the Gregorian calendar, which is used until today. Despite the fact that there were several eminent Mexicans who took part in the astronomical studies in the past, the first national professional observatory was established in 1878 in Mexico City (Arteaga 3). This facility was among the initial ones used in mapping the sky.

            The beginning of the contemporary astronomy in Mexico entailed what was commonly referred to as the analytical and explanatory study of the developing appliances of heavenly bodies, which commenced in 1942. This was when the National Astrophysical Observatory of Tonantzintla (NAOT) was established in the peripheries of Puebla ((Aretxaga 3). By this time, the NAOT contained one of the major Schmidt cameras globally, which was used in discovering some of the heavenly bodies, for instance, Haro-Herbig protostellar objects, flare stars, and blue galaxies that had emission lines (Aretxaga 3). In the early 1940s, Dr. Pismis emerged as one of the famous astronomers in the country who developed the field as it had been initially laid by the development of astrophysics. Other jey figures in the history of Mexican astronomy include Joaquin Gallo, Luis Enrique Erro, and Guillermo Haro. By 1950s, there was a tremendous growth of astronomical community in Mexico.

Examples of Mexican Archaeoastronomy

Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán is among the ancient sacred places that are situated a few miles from the northeast of Mexico City, Mexico. Teotihuacán is a common site that are considered as part of the shells of the world. Teotihuacán is a Mexican phrase that means a place where gods were born. The name originated form the Aztec community credence that the gods formed the cosmos at the site. The site is believed to have been built around 300 AD and considered a holy place, which is featured by its many monuments that are carefully laid out (Sprajc 404). There is no clear explanation of the early history of Teotihuacán. Little information about its earliest builders has been provided, for example, their names, spiritual philosophies or language. According to the folklore that is explained from the initial evidence by most ancient people of Central America is that the Teotihuacán was created for a reason. During the time of its establishment, the world had gone through four different cycles, also referred to as suns. The people lived in the fifth sun that they believed was by that time old. Therefore, they anticipated that the world would come to an end at any time, which was to take place through earthquakes. In an attempt to defer this catastrophic occurrence, the place was established to sacrifice many human beings.

Cinco Pisos Pyramid

The Cinco Pisos Pyramid is located in the northern part of the Mexican state of Campeche. The pyramid is a fascinating structure with a mixture of styles and features, which symbolizes the position that is acknowledged for trade and rich culture. The Cinco Pisos Pyramid was built around 600 BC. Nonetheless, it took some time before it was fully developed. The Pirámide de los Cinco Pisos or otherwise referred to as the pyramid of the five storeys entails a five levels temple that is crowned by a roof comb. The main intention of constructing the Cinco Pisos Pyramid by the Maya priests was to regulate the zenithal sun route through the Edzna gnomon at the base of the pyramid. Therefore, during the moments that the sun set uprightly overhead, the priest would use the pyramid and its erections to determine the days that would begin the new year. 

El Caracol

The El Caracol also referred to as the Observatory is an exceptional structure that is located in Mexico. The name “El Caracol” is also a Spanish name that denotes a snail. The name was used because of the spiral nature of the staircases that are found inside the tower (Sharer and Traxler 563). The structure is believed to have been constructed around AD 906. The main reason for its construction is that it provided a site for the Mayan as an observatory place to view the changes that were taking place in the sky. This was believed to take place as a result of the flattened scene of the Yucatán region that is around Chichen Itza. The observers in the El Caracol were in a position to view the sky above the flora on the Yucatán Peninsula with no obstruction. Moreover, the place provided a clear picture for the Mayan astronomers to read from the naked-eye observations since they understood that the Venus was seen on the western and vanished on the eastern skylines at altered times in the course of the yea. According to them, it took 584 days to complete one cycle.

Three Ceremonial Rings of Zempoala

The Three Ceremonial Rings of Zempoala Zempoala are located in Mexico. The name Zempoala means the place of the 20 waters because there are several rivers that join adjacent to the site. Mainly, the place was occupied by the Totonacs, Chinantecas and Zapotecs. Moreover, the place around the site was significant for the Totonac settlements in the aftermath of the classical Mesoamerican era. Historically, it is believed that the place was established around 1,500 years prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. Fundamentally, the Three Ceremonial Rings of Zempoala were erected using the rings by the Totonacs because the Totonacs priests used the sites to attune movements of the moon.

The field of archaeoastronomy entails the study of the ancient populations’ understanding of the sky phenomena and its role in the culture. Several archaeostronomical sites still exist until now as discussed in the paper. However, some have been completely destroyed. The existing archaeostronomical sites still serve their purpose and function in the contemporary society. The sites are significant in the understanding of the ancient history in relation to the current science.

Works Cited

Sinclair, Rolf M. “The nature of Archaeoastronomy.” Viewing the Sky Through Past and Present Cultures; Selected Papers from the Oxford VII International Conference on Archaeoastronomy. Todd W. Bostwick and Bryan Bates, eds. 2006.

Ruggles, C. L. N. Ancient Astronomy. ABC-Clio. ISBN 1-85109-477-6, 2005.

ArchyFantasies. What is Archaeoastronomy? 2016. https://archyfantasies.com/2016/02/08/what-is-archaeoastronomy/ Accessed on 26 April 2017.

Aretxaga, I. “THE STATE OF ASTRONOMY IN MEXICO.” (2008).

Šprajc, Ivan. “Astronomical alignments at Teotihuacan, Mexico.” Latin American Antiquity (2000): 403-415.

Sharer, Robert J., and Loa P. Traxler. The ancient maya. Stanford University Press, 2006.

Lee, William. Astronomy in Mexico. 2013. http://www.venngeist.org/opsa2_lee.pdf