Astronomical Correlates of Architecture and Landscape in Mesoamerica

Reference work entry


Mesoamerican civic and ceremonial buildings were largely oriented to astronomical phenomena on the horizon, mostly to sunrises and sunsets on particular dates; some orientations were probably intended to mark major lunar standstills and Venus extremes. Solar orientations must have had a practical function, allowing the use of observational calendars that facilitated a proper scheduling of agricultural activities. Moreover, some important buildings seem to have been erected on carefully selected places, with the purpose of employing prominent peaks on the local horizon as natural markers of sunrises and sunsets on relevant dates. However, the characteristics of buildings incorporating deliberate alignments, their predominant clockwise skew from cardinal directions, and their relations to the surrounding natural and cultural landscape reveal that the architectural and urban planning in Mesoamerica was dictated by a complex set of rules, in which astronomical considerations were embedded in a broader framework of cosmological concepts substantiated by political ideology.


West Wall Local Horizon December Solstice Evening Star Canonize Moment 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Anthropological and Spatial StudiesResearch Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and ArtsLjubljanaSlovenia

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