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2,300 Year Old Solar Observatory

Updated: Oct 2, 2021

The oldest solar observatory in the Americas has been awarded UNESCO world heritage status and dubbed “a masterpiece of human creative genius”.

The 2,300-year-old archaeological ruin Chankillo which lies in a desert valley in northern Peru was just added to the global list of cultural monuments.

Thirteen towers that align on a ridge are the best-known feature of the ancient site which dates between 250 and 200 BCE. The towers functioned as a calendar using the rising and setting arcs of the sun to mark not only equinoxes and solstices but even to define the precise time of year to within one or two days. The site also includes an imposing triple-walled hilltop complex, known as the Fortified Temple set in the barren landscape of the Casma river valley.

“The [13] towers are positioned in such a way that they match precisely the movement of the sun throughout the seasonal year from two very well-defined viewing points,” Iván Ghezzi, the Chankillo programme director, told the Guardian. “This has no parallels anywhere in the Americas or the world.”

“The ancient civilizations of Peru were practising the most sophisticated astronomy of the time,” he added.

Chankillo is the third Peruvian site to be added to the UNESCO world heritage list this century. The status was awarded to Qhapaq Ñan, a vast Inca road system in 2014, and to Caral, the oldest city in the Americas, in 2009.

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