Can an Aztec Legend and an Unproven Scientific Theory Explain the Alignment of Certain Mesoamerican Archaeological Sites?

“The Spanish chroniclers do not give one reliable word about the manners and customs of the builders of the grand antique edifices, that were objects of admiration to them as they are to modern travelers. The only answer of the natives to the inquiries of the Spaniards as to who the builders were, invariably was, “we do not know.” – from Queen Moo and the Egyptian Sphinx, Augustus Le Plongeon, 1900.

There are thousands of ancient structures in Mexico and Central America. Based on measurements from hundreds of locations it evident that their alignment is clearly non-uniform, exhibiting concentrations in certain directions. A paper by González-García and Šprajc (2016) analyzed the orientations of 271 structures at 87 sites in the Mayan lowlands and found that the distribution of orientations was largely in the east-west direction referring to the Sun and to the major extremes of Venus and the Moon. However, it is apparent from their data that alignments in the cardinal directions, solstices, and lunar standstills are much less frequent than those in other directions. What is particularly interesting is the large concentration of unexplained orientations displaced 10° to 20° south of east. Astronomically this range of directions lies between the equinox and lunar and solar extremes.

Histogram of site azimuth angles with key directions indicated: equinox (E), solstice (S), major (M) and minor (m) lunar standstills. Adapted from González-García and Šprajc (2016).

Instead of assuming that Mesoamerican sites were aligned to solar events related to calendrical dates, a recent paper, considered a different possibility – that these sites were first established by a previous (unknown) civilization who used other points of reference to align their sites. In a series of articles we have shown that numerous sites across the world appear to face toward four locations within about 20° of the North Pole that could have been previous  locations of the geographic pole over the past 100,00 years or so. In two regional studies (Carlotto 2019, 2020) almost one hundred sites in Greece, eastern Turkey, southern Italy, and Egypt were found that reference these four previous pole locations. Continuing our search in Mesoamarica we have found another 64 sites aligned to these same four locations. (Click here to read the paper.)

Our Hypothesis

One measure of the power of a scientific theory is its ability to explain the data in a simple way. Our hypothesis is that these and other sites throughout the world were originally aligned in the direction of the North Pole at the time of constuction and are now misaligned due to subsequent pole shifts. Although Charles Hapgood’s theory that suddent large scale crustal displacements and pole shifts remains unproven, the fact that so many sites seem to point to these same four locations is strong circumstantial evidence supporting his theory.

What is particularly interesting is that our hypothesis explains González-García and Šprajc’s data quite well. Together with equinox, solstice and lunar standstill alignments relative to the current pole (the dotted lines in the figure) almost all of the peaks in the data are in the directions of past poles.

Counts of sites “◊” aligned in previous pole directions superimposed over the site orientation data collected by González-García and Šprajc (2016). From left to right: 2 sites aligned to the Bering Sea, 9 to Greenland, 31 to Hudson Bay, and 9 to the Norwegian Sea.

Sites aligned to ancient poles would have to be as old as the poles themselves, from 18,000 to as much as 130,000 years old. Predating human history by tens of thousands of years we find ourselves in the relam of myth.

The Legend of the Five Suns

According to a mid 16th-century account by Hernando Cortes’ chronicler Francisco López de Gómara (von Humboldt 1810):

“The peoples of Culhua or Mexico believe, according to their hieroglyphic paintings, that before the sun that now shines upon them, four suns had already existed and had been extinguished, one after the other. These five suns constitute the ages in which humankind was wiped out by floods, earthquakes, an all-consuming blaze, and the effect of fierce storms.”

Aztec Sun Stone showing the five Suns or gods of Aztec mythology. Counter-clockwise from the top right are glyphs representing Tezcatlipoca, Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc, and Chalchiuhtlicue. The current Sun Huitzilopochtli is in the center.

Our hypothesis is that the current and four previous world ages described in the legend of the Five Suns corresponds to the current and past four locations of the geographic pole, and the disasters that ended each age were the result of sudden displacements of the Earth’s crust. Our recently updated chronology of past poles and their relation to Mesoamerican Suns is summarized below.

Mesoamerican world ages associated with previous locations of the North Pole.

The Fifth Sun

Aztec traditions tell us that we live in the world of the Fifth Sun, which is associated with the current North Pole. Surprisingly only 18 of the 160 sites examined reference the current pole. The North Acropolis at Ek Balam (see below) is one example.

64 sites/structures reference four past locations of the North Pole and so could have been first established many tens of thousands of years ago during previous world ages or Suns.

The Fourth Sun

According to a chronology of pole shifts described in the previous article, we hypothesize that sites aligned to the Hudson Bay pole were built more than 16,000 years ago. This corresponds to the period of the fourth Sun called Atonatiuh that ended in a great flood. This age was presided over by the Aztec goddess of water, Chalchiuhtlicue. The statue of Chalchiuhtlicue displayed at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City was found within the Temple of the Moon at Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan is one of 31 Mesoamerican sites that are aligned to the Hudson Bay pole.

View looking south from the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan.

The Third Sun

We believe that sites in Mesoamerica aligned to the Norwegian Sea pole were built 16,000 to 63,000 years ago in the time of third Sun called Ehecatonatiuh. The third Sun is the age of the wind or air and is often associated with Quetzalcoatl. The Pyramid of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza is one of 9 sites aligned to the Norwegian Sea pole. 

Aerial view of Chichen Itza.

The Second Sun

The second Sun called Tletonatiuh was the age of fire and corresponds to the time 83,000 to 130,000 years ago when the geographic pole was in Greenland. The Aztec god of fire Xiuhteuctli is associated with Tlaloc the rain god at Tenochtitlan. One of the twin temples atop Templo Mayor was dedicated to Tlaloc. Templo Mayor and the surrounding area in Mexico City is  aligned in the direction of the Greenland pole. In total, we found 9 sites aligned to this pole.

The original design of Templo Mayor is evident in the excavated remains of the second pyramid (Phase II) that lies under a protected roof at the site. The two structures at the top were the temples dedicated to Tlaloc (left) and Huitzilopochli (right).

The First Sun

The first age of Sun was called Tlaltonatiuh, the epoch of the earth or the “age of the giants” Von Humboldt (1810) associates this age with the earliest mythological periods in the world. Only two sites have been discovered that have structures aligned to the oldest pole in the Bering Sea, one example being the megalithic structures at Chimalacatlán discovered by Marco Vigato.

(Click here to read the full paper, which contains a listing of all of the sites discovered.)


Charles-Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, Augustus Le Plongeon, and other respected 18th-century scientists and explorers lost their credibility when they proposed that the ruins discovered by the Spanish in Mexico were not built by the native people but dated back to a far more ancient age. Time will tell, but perhaps they were right after all.


Carlotto, Mark (2019) “New Models to Explain the Alignments of Greek Temples,”

Carlotto, Mark (2020) “Toward a New Understanding of the Alignment of Ancient Egyptian Sites,”

César González-García, A. and Šprajc, Ivan (2016) “Astronomical significance of architectural orientations in the Maya Lowlands: A statistical approach,” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Vol 9, pp 191–202.

Von Humboldt, Alexander (1810) Views of the Cordilleras and Monuments of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas: A Critical Edition.

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