Friday, July 9, 2010

Is The Atacama Giant Geoglyph Of Chile A PreColumbian Religious Response To Total Solar Eclipses?

Please forgive my rhetorical question. ;-)

Needless to say I believe that it is highly probable that the Atacama Giant geoglyph, along with other geoglyphs in the Atacama desert of northern Chile, is in fact an ancient religious response to total solar eclipses that took place over the Atacama desert over a thousand years ago. I have long thought that the Atacama Giant geoglyph aka "El Gigante" probably depicts an anthropomorphized sky god inspired by ancient observations of the total solar eclipse "Eye of God." I recently decided to do some eclipsology research to try to determine which total solar eclipses may have inspired the preColumbian, indeed pre-Inca, natives of northern Chile to create the "El Gigante" geoglyph, and other geoglyphs that appear to be inspired by total solar eclipses, and found that a few total solar eclipses that occurred over northern Chile in the 10th century CE are those which are most likely to have inspired these geoglyphs although it is possible that earlier total solar eclipses may have inspired some geoglyphs that were created before the 10 century BCE.

My research, which is based on the currently accepted archaeological data for the dating of the Atacama desert geoglyphs, suggests that the series of three total solar eclipses that occurred between March 16, 945 CE and April 18, 999 CE, was the most probable inspiration for these geoglyphs, although it is quite possible that the annular eclipse of December 22nd, 930 CE, which preceded this series of three total solar eclipses, may have had some influence as well. The fact that this annular eclipse occurred during the summer solstice may have had a profound impact on the religious beliefs and practices of the people in the region. Needless to say it is possible that earlier total solar eclipses which occurred over the region may have inspired some older geoglyphs that predate the 10th century CE.

As usual NASA's World Atlas of Solar Eclipse Paths helped me to quickly determine which total solar eclipses may have inspired the Atacama Giant and other geoglyphs in the Atacama desert. NASA's Solar Eclipse Search Engine, which allows one to search NASA's Five Millennium Canon of Solar Eclipses and thus find and view Google maps charts of the paths of totality (or annularity) of individual solar eclipses, allowed me to determine which solar eclipses were witnessed by the creators of these ancient geoglyphs.

The Google maps chart of the path of totality of the March 16, 945 total solar eclipse shows that "El Gigante" was created on a hill that is just to the west of the centerline of the path of totality of this TSE. The geoglyphs at Salar de Pintados are to the south of the centerline of this path of totality. Select the Hybrid option which shows a map of modern roads and towns overlaying satellite imagery and zoom in until the town of Tarapaca becomes visble. The Atacama giant geoglyph was created on an isoltaed hill called Cerro Unita that is about 10 kilometers to the west of the town of Tarapaca, just north of the A-55 highway. "El Gigante faces west, notably the direction of the setting sun, at the ridge of the hill just east of El Gigante's head there is a ring shaped structure that may have been an astronomical viewpoint. On the southern flank of Cerro Unita there are geometric geoglyphs that are very similar to some of Peru's Nasca Lines radiating outwards from another ring shaped structure. Geoglyphs in the shape of concentric rings are found on the hill and a string of five or six concentric ring geoglyphs begins abour 400 meters to the east of the Atacama Giant geoglyph.

The Atacama Giant geoglyph is located at the red dot.
The centerline of the path of totality of the March 16, 945
total solar eclipse runs through the lower right side of this
screenshot of NASA's Google Maps chart of this solar eclipse.

Note the round structure on the ridge of Cerro Unitas,
just to the east of the rayed head of the Atacama Giant.
Might it have been an astronomical observation point?

The November 21, 960 CE, total solar eclipse path of totality passed somewhat to the south of the Atacama giant and Pintados geoglyphs, between modern Antofagasta to the north and Taltal to the south, but none-the-less may have had an impact on the region, especially if the March 16 945 TSE had already inspired the construction of the Atacama Giant and other geoglyphs.

The path of totality of the April 18, 999 CE total solar eclipse over what is now northern Chile was very similar to that of the March 16 945 TSE albeit somewhat to the south. The hill that the Atacama Giant was created on is still well within the path of totality of this total solar eclipse as are the locations of other Atacama desert geoglyphs.such as the Pintados geoglyphs. The website kindly provides a helpful highlighted Google map of the Pintados geoglyphs. Maarten van Hoek provides a few photos of the Pintado geoglyphs and "El Gigante" here. A decent photo of some of the Pintados geoglyphs is found on this Flickr page. Please take note of the geoglyph at the bottom left of the photo that is in all probability total solar eclipse inspired solar cross symbol. . . Google SightSeeing has a useful page dedicated to the Incan Geoglyphs of Chile but, strictly speaking, most of these Atacama geoglyphs predate the rise of the Inca empire by several centuries. One sub-page zeroes in on the Pintados Geoglyphs while another one locates the Tiliviche geoglyphs and yet another subpage zeroes in on the Chiza geoglyphs.

The Google Earth Community has an interesting page dedicated to the Pintados geoglyphs which depicts an owl-like geoglyph that is closely associated with the kind of rayed sun symbol is typically inspired by observations of the sun's corona during total solar eclipses. The "owl" is in all probability a kind of winged sun symbol inspired by the bird-like form of the corona that is displayed during some total solar eclipses. Other Atacama geoglyphs depict more geometric versions of the winged sun symbol.

This "owl" geoglyph, which is very closely associated
with a rayed sun geoglyph, is most probably inspired by
the bird-like form of the sun's corona that is displayed
during some total solar eclipses. A more geometric form of 
winged sun symbol is found amongst the Pintados geoglyphs
at Lat.: 20.6198° S Long.: 69.6755° W as shown below -

Dare to compare this Atacama geoglyph to astronomer
Ettiene Leopold Trouvelot's scientific drawing of the 1878
total solar eclipse which he observed at Creston Wyoming.

This blog post is a work in progress. I have decided to publish it somewhat prematurely due to the temporal proximity of the July 11 2010 total solar eclipse which will be visible over Easter Island and southern Chile next Sunday.