Every Aztec peasant was a bit of an astronomer

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have proposed a new hypothesis about how the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan and the surrounding settlements kept an agricultural calendar that accurately tracked the change of seasons and even took into account leap years.

The capital of the Aztec Empire, Tenochtitlan, was founded in the first half of the 14th century and grew very rapidly.

The Spaniards, who conquered and largely destroyed the city in 1521, noted that a million people lived there – and we are talking only about the urban population.

That is, by the time the conquistadors arrived, Tenochtitlan was the largest city on Earth (at least in the Western Hemisphere).

For comparison: in the largest city of Spain – Seville – at that time there were less than 50 thousand people.

In general, according to modern estimates, up to three million people lived in the Mexico Valley by the beginning of the 16th century.

Every Aztec peasant was a bit of an astronomer 2
On February 24, the sun rises over Tlaloc exactly in the alignment of the ancient stone road

The Valley of Mexico is a basin in the Mexican Highlands, surrounded on all sides by mountains. There is not the most favorable climate for agriculture.

But, as is often the case, you can get used to the climatic features of the region, especially if you know when the rains will start and stop.

In order to feed millions of people in a region with a dry spring and summer monsoons, it is necessary to understand when exactly this or that season will come.

Landing too early or too late could lead to disaster. Failure to account for leap year fluctuations also threatened crop failure.

The Spanish chroniclers noted that the Aztecs had a calendar with which they coordinated agricultural work, but the conquerors did not report the form of such a calendar.

A paper was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , the authors of which offered their explanation.

According to scientists, the Aztecs used the mountains surrounding the Valley of Mexico as a solar observatory.

They had to stand in the same place every day at the moment of sunrise and mark the point where it appeared from behind the peaks of the Sierra Nevada.

You can stand anywhere. It’s more important to know where to look.

To determine this, the researchers studied ancient Aztec texts. Some mentioned Mount Tlaloc, which is located in the eastern part of the mountains surrounding the valley.

This is an extinct volcano with a height of just over four thousand meters above sea level. Today, Tlaloc is a sacred place.

Moreover, its sacredness is connected precisely with the sun: it is believed that in order to fulfill a desire, one must first observe the sunset on Tlaloc, and then the sunrise of the luminary.

Every Aztec peasant was a bit of an astronomer 3
You can watch Tlaloc or another landmark from anywhere. The main thing is that it should be permanent

Using astronomical computer models, scientists have determined that the orientation of the ancient stone road leading to the now-destroyed temple on top of the sacred mountain coincides with sunrise on February 24, the first day of the new year for the Aztecs of the valley.

The sun, when viewed from a fixed point on Earth, does not follow the same trajectory every day. In winter, it moves south of the celestial equator and rises to the southeast.

As summer approaches, due to the tilt of the Earth, the sunrise moves to the northeast, a phenomenon called solar declination.

And it was precisely the observation of the sunrise, according to the authors of the work, that helped the Aztec peasants to compile a very accurate calendar of seasonal changes, and on its basis – an agricultural one.

The results of their study show that through carefully designed alignment with the rugged eastern horizon, the inhabitants of the valley were able to adjust their calendar to synchronize with the solar year and successfully plan corn harvests.

Scholars believe that the ritual calendar was also associated with astronomical observations.

Perhaps one of the readers will remember the Stone of the Sun – a basalt disk that represents the cosmogony of the Aztecs.

Scientists once suggested that this is the unknown calendar of Tenochtitlan. The fallacy of this point of view has been proven for a long time.

The authors of the new work also note that the Stone of the Sun was most likely used exclusively for ritual and ceremonial purposes.


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