Living Maya Time - http://maya.nmai.si.edu/

(from Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian)

News, Updates, and Resources for Astronomy of the Americas

  • 2020-03-13. 3400-year-old ballgame court unearthed in mountains of Mexico. By Lizzie Wade, Science Magazine. Excerpt: In 2015, archaeologists Jeffrey Blomster and Víctor Salazar Chávez began excavating the Mexican site of Etlatongo, a 3400-year-old village in the mountains of Oaxaca. They chose a spot in the center of the site, one that appeared to be an important public space. But instead of finding anything resembling a palace or a temple, the team unearthed a flat stone floor that extended at least 46 meters (about half the length of a soccer field), flanked by low steps made from clay and stone. Mounds at least 1 meter tall enclosed this narrow area on either side. After several years of excavations and mapping, the scientists now conclude that the mysterious structure was a court used in a famous ballgame once played all over Mesoamerica. This court’s early date may point to the game’s important role in helping Mesoamerican societies develop social hierarchies and political complexity. Radiocarbon dates show the Etlatongo court was constructed between 1443 and 1305 B.C.E. The court was used for about 175 years and remodeled once during that time, Salazar Chávez and Blomster—both at George Washington University, report today in Science Advances. The only older known ball court is at the site of Paso de la Amada in the Mexican state of Chiapas, built about 1650 B.C.E. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/03/3400-year-old-ballgame-court-unearthed-mountains-mexico]

    • 2011 Oct 24. NASA Telescopes Help Solve Ancient Supernova Mystery (NASA RELEASE : 11-360) Excerpt: WASHINGTON -- A mystery that began nearly 2,000 years ago, when Chinese astronomers witnessed what would turn out to be an exploding star in the sky, has been solved. New infrared observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer) and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE (http://www.nasa.gov/wise), reveal how the first supernova ever recorded occurred and how its shattered remains ultimately spread out to great distances. The findings show that the stellar explosion took place in a hollowed-out cavity, allowing material expelled by the star to travel much faster and farther than it would have otherwise.

    • "This supernova remnant got really big, really fast," said Brian J. Williams, an astronomer at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Williams is lead author of a new study detailing the findings online in the Astrophysical Journal. "It's two to three times bigger than we would expect for a supernova that was witnessed exploding nearly 2,000 years ago. Now, we've been able to finally pinpoint the cause."

    • In 185 A.D., Chinese astronomers noted a "guest star" that mysteriously appeared in the sky and stayed for about 8 months. By the 1960s, scientists had determined that the mysterious object was the first documented supernova. Later, they pinpointed RCW 86 as a supernova remnant located about 8,000 light-years away. But a puzzle persisted. The star's spherical remains are larger than expected. If they could be seen in the sky today in infrared light, they'd take up more space than our full moon.

    • ... observations also show for the first time that a white dwarf can create a cavity around it before blowing up in a Type Ia event. A cavity would explain why the remains of RCW 86 are so big. When the explosion occurred, the ejected material would have traveled unimpeded by gas and dust and spread out quickly.

    • 1 March 2007. Solar Observatory in Americas Found in Peru. By Richard Harris, for NPR. Excerpt: All things considered, archeologists may have uncovered what they say is by far the oldest astronomical observatory in the Americas: a series of towers near a temple in coastal Peru, built in the fourth century B.C. The towers at Chankillo mark the sun's progress across the sky, according to a new study in Science. ...A few years ago, Ivan Ghezzi at long last drummed up enough funding to excavate the Chankillo site, and uncover its secrets. ...He quickly realized the towers had nothing to do with the moon, but everything to do with the sun. The key was viewing the sky from either of two structures that stood nearby. "You could actually watch the sunrise align with the northernmost tower during the June solstice," he says. "And with the opposite tower... you could see the sunrise at the December solstice. So we realized that here we had an astronomical device that was designed to keep track of the movement of the sun and therefore keep track of time." Built 2,300 years ago, the towers are by far the earliest example of an observatory in the Americas....

    • September 2006. Links from "Ancient Native American Astronomy" article in Reflector, newsmagazine of the Astronomical League.

      • Spiro Mounds - Oklahoma - 12 mounds which contain evidence of an Indian culture that occupied the site from 850 A.D. to 1450 A.D. ...ceremonies included the celebration of planting, harvesting, and the changing of the seasons. Winter Solstice Walks on Thursday, December 21, 2006, Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center by Dennis Peterson, about the mounds, the history, excavations, stories, ceremonies and why some of the mounds line up with the Solstice and Equinox sunsets. http://www.myspiro.com/spiroMounds.asp

      • Rock Art sites in northwest Arkansas http://www.cast.uark.edu/rockart/

      • Petroglyphs in Washington State Park, Missouri. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_State_Park

    • 1 February 2006. Native American stories of the stars. RON SEELY - Wisconsin State Journal. Excerpt: Native Americans ...had their eyesight and a rich history of astronomical observation passed on by ancestors ... those tools were enough to allow them to develop an impressive and practical understanding of the movements of constellations, stars and planets. In fact, stories about celestial objects, including explanations for their origin and instructions for their practical use as guides to navigation and time, are woven deeply through all native cultures, including those of Wisconsin's Native Americans. Now, a new UW-Madison project is helping students from the state's tribal reservations understand that their ancestors also had a sophisticated and accurate understanding of the stars and the planets. Called "One Sky, Two Views: Expanding Our Cultural Universe," the program is the brainchild of Sanjay Limaye, an astronomer, and Patty Loew, an associate professor in the Department of Life Sciences Communication and a scholar of Native American history and issues. Loew, who is also a tribal member of the Bad River Ojibwe near Ashland, and Limaye, have already worked with students from Bad River and plan other programs in the coming weeks, including visits to several other reservations... Making the connections between the ancient stories and modern science is an ideal way to get young tribal members interested in a field such as astronomy, Pertzborn said. "Their ancestors watched the heavens," Pertzborn said. "They collected data. And they made predictions. And that's science!"

    • 15 November 2004. Science@NASA Story. The Rise and Fall of the Mayan Empire. Scientists are using space satellites to unravel one of the great mysteries of the ancient world. Where the rain forests of Guatemala now stand, a great civilization once flourished. The people of Mayan society built vast cities, ornate temples, and towering pyramids. At its peak around 900 A.D., the population numbered 500 people per square mile in rural areas, and more than 2,000 people per square mile in the cities -- comparable to modern Los Angeles County. This vibrant "Classic Period" of Mayan civilization thrived for six centuries. Then, for some reason, it collapsed. The fall of the Maya has long been one of the great mysteries of the ancient world. But it's more than a historical curiosity. Within sight of the Mayan ruins, in the Petén region of Guatemala near the border with Mexico, the population is growing again, and rain forest is being cut to make farmland. "By learning what the Maya did right and what they did wrong, maybe we can help local people find sustainable ways to farm the land while stopping short of the excesses that doomed the Maya," says Tom Sever at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).

    • http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2004/15nov_maya.htm?list617264

    • Slide show of South American astroarcheology images -- http://cse.ssl.berkeley.edu/archeo/01.html

    • Jan 2002. Medicine Wheel Update (below)

    • 20 December 2000 Decision Turns Off the Trinity River Tap Article in Berkeley Daily Planet

Medicine Wheel Update

from Association on American Indian Affairs

Issue 150, Winter/Spring 2002


As reported in previous editions of Indian Affairs, AAIA is providing legal representation to the Medicine Wheel Coalition in a lawsuit filed by a local logging company to overturn the landmark Historic Preservation Plan (HPP) designed to protect the sacred Bighorn Medicine Wheel and Medicine Wheel Mountain in Wyoming. The HPP was signed in 1996 by the Coalition, the Medicine Wheel Alliance and a number of federal, state and local governments, including the Forest Service. AAIA provided legal and organizational assistance to the Coalition during the seven year process that culminated in the HPP. The logging company is represented in this case by Mountain States Legal Foundation, a rightwing legal organization that has consistently opposed government efforts to voluntarily protect Native American sacred sites.

On December 6, 2001, the Federal District Court in Wyoming rendered a decision in this case (Wyoming Sawmills v. United States Forest Service) in favor of the Forest Service and the Medicine Wheel Coalition. It ruled that Wyoming Sawmills had no right to challenge the HPP based upon either the First Amendment or applicable environmental law. It also ruled that a claim could be filed based upon two narrower federal statute, but found that both the HPP and the process in which it was developed did not violate either statute.

This is a resounding victory not only for the Medicine Wheel Coalition and AAIA, but also and more importantly, a significant step toward permanent protection of the Medicine Wheel and Medicine Mountain and other sacred sites. Should Wyoming Sawmills appeal, AAIA will continue to provide legal representation to the Medicine Wheel Coalition.

Hard Copy Articles

    • Oct 2002. An Astronomer Reads Archaeology's Message, by Patricia A. Kurtz. Article about archaeoastronomer Anthony Aveni.

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