© Laura Griffin
Archaeologists have discovered a pyramid in southern Peru, built between 600 B.C. and 50 B.C. ago, would have aligned with two stone lines and the setting sun during the winter solstice. Here, a 3D model shows the event that happened at the Cerro del Gentil pyramid during the winter solstice. The two stone lines frame the pyramid with the sun setting directly behind it. This alignment may have had cosmological significance for the people who lived there.
An ancient astronomical alignment in southern Peru has been discovered by researchers between a pyramid, two stone lines and the setting sun during the winter solstice. During the solstice, hundreds of years ago, the three would have lined up to frame the pyramid in light.
The two stone lines, called geoglyphs
, are located about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) east-southeast from the pyramid. They run for about 1,640 feet (500 meters), and researchers say the lines were "positioned in such a way as to frame the pyramid as one descended down the valley from the highlands."
Using astronomical software and 3D modeling, the researchers determined that a remarkable event would have occurred during the time of the winter solstice. [See Images of the Pyramid and Solstice Alignment
"When viewed in 3D models, these lines appear to converge at a point beyond the horizon and frame not only the site of Cerro del Gentil [where the pyramid is], but also the setting sun during the time of the winter solstice," the research team wrote in a poster presentation given recently at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting in Honolulu.
"Thus someone viewing the sunset from these lines during the winter solstice
would have seen the sun setting directly behind, or sinking into, the adobe pyramid," they write. "Thus the pyramid and the linear geoglyph constitute part of a single architectural complex, with potential cosmological significance, that ritualized the entire pampa landscape." (The word "pampa" stands for plain.)
The flattop pyramid is 16 feet (5 m) high and was built sometime between 600 B.C. and 50 B.C., being reoccupied somewhere between A.D. 200 and 400. Finds near the pyramid include textiles, shells and ceramics. The stone lines were constructed at some point between 500 B.C. and A.D. 400.