The Chankillo Archeoastronomical Complex is an incredibly impressive structure that was built long before the Inca civilization. While we know very little about the people who built it, the site serves as a testament to the incredible knowledge and ingenuity of ancient cultures.
What is the Chankillo complex?
The Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex, located in the Casma Valley on the north-central coast of Peru, is a prehistoric site dating from 250-200 BC. It consists of various structures in a desert landscape combined with natural features that functioned as a calendrical device, using the sun to determine dates throughout the year.
The site includes the fortified temple, a triple-walled hilltop complex, along with two other complexes – the Observatory and the Administrative Center – as well as a series of 13 cuboid towers that extend across the ridge of a hill. Cerro Mucho Malo is a natural feature that complements the Thirteen Towers as a marker.
The ceremonial center was probably dedicated to the worship of the sun, and the inclusion of an observation point on either side of the north-south line of the Thirteen Towers allowed for year-round observation of the rising and setting of the sun.
It is also a testimony to the long historical evolution of astronomical practices in the Casma Valley, as it shows significant innovation in the use of the solar cycle and an artificial horizon to mark the solstices, equinoxes and any other date within the year with an accuracy of 1-2 days.
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What was the purpose of the 13 towers at Chankillo?
The purpose of the 13 towers at Chankillo was to serve as an observatory, possibly the earliest known in the Americas. By observing the sunrise or sunset from the correct tower, the inhabitants of Chankillo would have been able to determine an accurate date. This was despite an error of only one or two days.
The towers were arranged in a straight line and spaced 18.6 degrees apart, the same angle of the sun’s apparent movement across the sky over the course of a year. This allowed the people of Chankillo to accurately track the sun’s movement and calculate the days of the year (Source).
The Chankillo Solar Observatory
The Chankillo Solar Observatory is an ancient monument located in the Casma Valley on the coast of Peru. This ceremonial center, believed to date from the 13th century BC, contains a collection of structures that use the natural landscape and sunlight. This creates a unique calendar tool for marking special dates of importance throughout the year.
The property, consisting of historical monuments and towers, includes the triple-walled hilltop complex known as the Fortified Temple, two building complexes known as the Observatory and the Administrative Center, thirteen cuboid towers located along a ridge, and Cerro Mucho Malo, which reinforces the Thirteen Towers as a natural marker.
The Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex is a remarkable example of ancient landscape timekeeping, a practice observed by civilizations worldwide that made use of visible natural or cultural features.
The Thirteen Towers integrated into the complex allow for the precise determination of the time of year throughout the seasonal year, rather than just a specific date.
Unlike several other ancient sites around the world, the line of towers covers the entire annual arc of the sun’s rising and setting. This is, as observed from two separate observation points. One of these points is still visible, making the astronomical structures at Chankillo a testament to human ingenuity.
The Chankillo Complex was in use for a relatively short period between 250 and 200 BC, during the late phase of the Early Horizon Period (500-200 BC) of Peruvian prehistory. The Chankillo Complex is a unique building that represents an early stage in the development of indigenous astronomy in the Americas.
It demonstrates great innovation by using the solar cycle and an artificial horizon to mark the solstices, equinoxes, and every other date in the year with an accuracy of 1-2 days. As a result, the Chankillo solar observatory represents the culmination of a long historical evolution of astronomical practices in the Casma Valley.