Evidence of Advanced Prehistoric Civilizations in the Valley of Mexico

In The Pyramid Network – Part I, The Valley of Mexico Marco Vigato identifies a collection of archaeological sites in and around Mexico City that appear to be aligned to one another. Although they are generally regarded to be of Aztec, or more broadly Nuaha origin, an examination of these sites in the context of our Before Atlantis hypothesis suggests that they could be much older.

Tenochtitlan

Beginning around 500 CE waves of Nahuatl-speaking people began to migrate into the Valley of Mexico from the north. The last wave who called themselves the Mexica arrived on a marshy island in Lake Texcoco known as Tenochtitlan at a spot that, according to legend, had been pre-ordained by Huitzilopochli, the Aztec god of the Sun and war. There they built a pyramid with twin temples on the top – one dedicated to the rain god Tlaloc and the other to Huitzilopochli.  

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).

By the time of the Spanish Conquest this structure, which is now known as Templo Mayor at the heart of modern-day Mexico City, had been expanded a number of times, each time preserving the original design with later pyramids built over and around the original pyramid in a manner not unlike that of a Russian nesting doll. Pyramids of similar design were built at Tenayuca, Acatitlan, Tlatelolco, and Texcoco.

The earliest surviving ( Phase II) structure is highlighted in this plan view of Templo Mayor.

An unsolved mystery of Templo Mayor and the surrounding area in Mexico City is why they are misaligned with respect to the cardinal directions – north, south, east, and west – by approximately 6.5° south of east. 

The orientation of Templo Mayor (center) and surrounding region in Mexico City is rotated approximately 6.5° south of east.

According to a Spanish friar who arrived in Mexico soon after the Conquest, the Aztec feast of Tlacaxipehualiztli “took place when the sun stood in the middle of [the Temple of] Huitzilopochtli, which was at the equinox, and because it was a little out of line, [King] Moctezuma wished to pull it down and set it right” (Aveni 2001). One explanation for why Templo Mayor is not aligned due east-west is that it had to be rotated to compensate for the elevation of the sun by the time it had risen high enough to be seen between the two temples at the top of the pyramid.

The solar path at Templo Mayor on the equinox. The sun rises due east at the horizon. For a structure viewed from the west at sunrise on the equinox, the sun rises above the structure south of east. To make the sun appear to rise directly between the two temples the structure must be rotated clockwise and viewed from a position slightly north of west. As the height of the structure increases the sun rise further to the south. Thus as Templo Mayor was expanded it should have been rotated clockwise by increasing amounts.

If this explanation were correct, as the structure was expanded, the rotation angle of the later phases should be greater than the rotation angle of earlier phases. The following measurements made by Sprajc (2000) give the orientations of the north-south, east, and west-facing sides of Templo Mayor.

Phase II:
East: 97°42'±30' 
West: 277°42' ± 30' 
North-South: 6°30' ± 1° 

Later phases:
East: 95"36' ± 30' 
West: 275°36' ± 30' 
North-South: 6°40' ± 30'

Notice the east orientation of the Phase II structure is greater (not less) than the east orientation of later phases. Although later phases of the pyramid may have been rotated under Moctezuma’s rule to make it line up, the Phase II temple could not have been aligned to the equinox. 

Various researchers have suggested other possible explanations for the orientation of Templo Mayor (and other pyramids) related to important Aztec calendar dates, agricultural cycles, and horizon features such as mountain peaks. Before considering another  explanation, let us examine several nearby sites.

Tenayuca and Acatitlan

Due to the similarity in design, it is generally assumed that Templo Mayor was modeled after the pyramid of Tenayuca to the north. The orientation of this pyramid is quite interesting. Like Templo Mayor it is rotated clockwise but by a different amount. The east-facing side of the pyramid points directly toward the peak of a currently extinct volcano known as Cerro Tlaloc, 31 miles to the east-southeast. The diagonals of the pyramid closely align with Teotihuacan to the northeast and Cerro de la Estrella to the southeast. It turns out that structures at all three of these sites are aligned in the same direction, approximately 15.5° east of north. Another pyramid at St. Cecilia Acatitlan that has undergone extensive reconstruction a short distance to the north of Tenayuca is also oriented in this direction and faces Cerro Tlaloc.

Alignments of the pyramid at Tenayuca. The top line is aligned approximately 15.5° east of north. The line along the northeast diagonal of the pyramid points to Teotihuacan. The line along the southeast diagonal points toward Cerro de la Estrella. The east side faces Cerro Tlaloc.
Alignments of the reconstructed pyramid at St. Cecilia Acatitlan. The top line is aligned approximately 15.5° east of north. The east side faces Cerro Tlaloc.

Tlatelolco

Twelve years after it was founded, a group of dissident Mexica left Tenochtitlan to settle on a marshy island to the north that had been previously occupied by earlier waves of Nahua who had migrated to the Valley of Mexico. Over time, this settlement came to be known as Tlatelolco, which means “a built-up mound of earth.” Interestingly the alignments of some structures at Tlatelolco are similar to those at Tenochtitlan. The Temple of the Calendar and the Temple Of Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl closely line up with the north-south alignment of 6.5° measured at Templo Mayor. On the other hand, the pyramid at Tlatelolco that is similar in design to Templo Mayor is rotated even further clockwise, 8 to 9°. Like Templo Mayor was this structure also rotated so that the sun would be seen to rise in between the twin temples at the top of the pyramid at the time of the equinox? If so the increased rotation angle of the structure implies that it was taller than Templo Mayor, which is unlikely (Marco Vigato, private communication).

The orientation of certain structures at Tlatelolco is in the same direction as the north-south orientation of Tenochtitlan.

Texcoco

A twin pyramid similar to those at Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Tenayuca, and Acatitlan once existed in the ancient city of Texcoco, which was east of Lake Texcoco. Among the above-ground ruins in modern-day Texcoco, those at Los Melones appear to be oriented in the same direction as Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco.

The orientation of a structure at Los Melones in Texcoco is in the same direction as the north-south orientation of Tenochtitlan.

A Far More Ancient Origin?

Unlike Tenayuca and Acatitlan, neither Templo Mayor nor Tlatelolco directly face in the direction of Cerro Tlaloc.

In Before Atlantis we propose that a series of crustal displacements shifted the North Pole four times over the past 125,000 years, first from the Bering Sea north of the Aleutian Islands to a location in the Norwegian Sea 125,000 years ago, then to northern Greenland 75,000 years ago, then to a location east of Hudson Bay in Canada 50,000 years ago, and to finally to its present location in the Arctic 12,000-18,000 years ago.

Notice in Sprajc’s measurements that the north-south alignment of both the Phase II and later phases of Templo Mayor is the same – approximately 6.5° east of north. As noted above Tlatelolco, Los Melones, and an early structure atop Cerro de la Estrella (discussed later) are also aligned in the same direction, a direction that faces a hypothesized prior location of the North Pole in Greenland. We propose that the original structures at these sites were built by a much earlier, prehistoric civilization that inhabited the Valley of Mexico when the North Pole was in Greenland, some 50,000 to 75,000 years ago.

These sites aligned to the Greenland pole could have been established 50,000 to 75,000 years ago.

The pyramids of Templo Mayor at Tenochitchan, Tlatelolco, Texcoco, Tenayuca, and Acatitlan were all of the same design. That the orientation of the pyramids at Tenochitchan, Tlatelolco, and Texcoco are different from those at Tenayuca and Acatitlan suggests there were different alignment schemes. Both of these schemes are evident in the two superimposed sets of orientations present in a structure atop Cerro de la Estrella. The alignment of the bottom (earlier) structure (in green) like Tenochitchan, Tlatelolco, and Texcoco is toward the Greenland pole. The structure above it (in magenta) is, like that of Tenayuca and Acatitlan, oriented toward the Hudson Bay pole.

The structure at the top of Cerro de la Estrella appears to be have been first aligned to the Greenland pole, and then realigned to the Hudson Bay pole.

A Prehistoric Timeline

If structures in Tenochitchan, Tlatelolco, Texcoco, and Cerro de la Estrella were first built when the North Pole was in Greenland, the latitude of the Valley of Mexico would have been about 10° further north than it is now with a climate similar to that in northern Mexico or the southwest US.

Several tens of thousands of years later, during the last glacial period in North America, the Valley of Mexico had a temperate climate and Lake Texcoco was much larger than it was at the time of the Spanish Conquest.  Teotihuacan, which translates as “birthplace of the gods” in the Nahuatl language was also known to the Mayans as the “place of reeds” and suggests that the site was once on or near the shoreline of Lake Texcoco. This is consistent with the climate-change consequences of a pole shift from Greenland to Hudson Bay that would have moved the Valley of Mexico 20° further north well into the temperate climate zone. With a climate similar to that in northern Canada, fed by snowmelt and rain runoff from the surrounding mountains, Lake Texcoco could have been much larger than it ever was during the historical period reaching as far north as Teotihuacan.

Site                              Elevation 
Cerro Tlaloc                      4124 
Cerro de la Estrella              2404 
Teotihuacan                       2280 
Texcoco                           2263  
Acatitlan                         2266 
Tenayuca                          2254 
Tlatelolco                        2233 
Tenochtitlan                      2232

After the Greenland to Hudson Bay pole shift, much of what is now Mexico City and what was then the first settlements at Tenochitchan, Tlatelolco, and Texcoco would have been flooded, submerged, and eventually forgotten.

Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Texcoco, and nearby areas were submerged when the North Pole shifted from Greenland to Hudson Bay.

At Teotihuacan, an enormous statue dedicated to the water goddess Chalchiuhtlicue was found within the Pyramid of the Moon. Chalchiuhtlicue was the fourth Sun in the Aztec myth of the Five Suns and is associated in with the time when the North Pole was in Hudson Bay. In an earlier post we showed that based on archaeoastronomy evidence, the Pyramid of the Moon might have been the first structure built at Teotihuacán approximately 35,000 years ago.

When Teotihuacan was built it could have been on or near the shoreline of a much larger Lake Texcoco.

The last violent eruption of Cerro Tlaloc is estimated to have occurred 21,000 to 25,000 years ago (Macías et al 2012). It is possible that by this time the water level of Lake Texcoco had fallen somewhat exposing more land in the Valley of Mexico. We propose that following the eruption of Cerro Tlaloc the first structures were built at Tenayuca and Acatitlan near the shoreline (Acatitlan is translated as “the place among the reeds”) and positioned to be in alignment both with the Hudson Bay pole to the north and Cerro Tlaloc to the east. Cerro de la Estrella also could have been modified at this time.

Tenayuca and Acatitlan were probably built later after the water level of Lake Texcoco fell.

The last crustal displacement shifted the North Pole from Hudson Bay to its current position in the Arctic and thrust the Valley of Mexico more than 40° south from a cool temperate climate to a dry arid one. The effect of such a large displacement in this part of the world probably devastated the civilization that had developed here when the North Pole was in Hudson Bay.

After the pole shift as the climate warmed the water level began to drop revealing ancient shoreline and islands that had been submerged for thousands of years. When the Nahua people entered the Valley of Mexico in historical times we propose that they found the remains of these two previous civilizations in the form of ancient architecture aligned in non-cardinal (and non-astronomical) directions. Teotihuacanos co-opt Teotihuacan, the Chichimec Tenayuca, and so on. The Mexica build Templo Mayor patterned after the design of Tenayuca over ruins oriented in the direction of the old Greenland pole, which was considered sacred by virtue of its alignment with Cerro Tlaloc.

The alignment of archaeological sites in modern-day Mexico City.

Conclusion

The Aztecs had set out to find a place marked by an eagle sitting on a cactus eating a serpent. We propose that they also found the ruins of pre-existing structures that had been built tens of thousands of years earlier by an unknown prehistoric civilization. Establishing a pattern that would be repeated many times, they built their first temple over the old.

Although the pre-existing ruins were aligned to the Greenland pole, which is associated with the Third Sun Tlaloc, the Mexica’s reverence for both Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli required a structure that would reference both deities. The original temple aligned to the Greenland pole was rebuilt and rotated slightly north to align to the equinox sun at the point where it would be seen between the two temples.

References and Sources

Anthony Aveni, Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico, Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1980), 236–238.

Manuel Aguilar-Moreno, Aztec Architecture – Part 1

Manuel Aguilar-Moreno, Aztec Architecture – Part 2

J. Alcocer and W.D. Williams, “Historical and recent changes in Lake Texcoco, a saline lake in Mexico,” International Journal of Salt Lake Research, March 1996.

J.L. Macías, J.L. Arce, F. García-Tenorio, P.W. Layer, H. Rueda, G. Reyes-Agustin, F. López-Pizaña, and D. Avellán, “Geology and geochronology of Tlaloc, Telapón, Iztaccíhuatl, and Popocatépetl volcanoes, Sierra Nevada, central Mexico,” The Geological Society of America Field Guide, 25, 2012

Ivan Šprajc, “Astronomical Alignments at the Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan, Mexico,” Journal for the History of Astronomy , January 2000.

A Commentary on Plato’s “Myth” of Atlantis

This article interprets sections of Plato’s two dialogs Timeus and Critias that discuss Atlantis in the context of Hapgood’s pole shift hypothesis.

The Goddess

Timeus was written by Plato 360 BCE. The dialog begins with a discourse by Critias who tells a story that was passed down from his grandfather, who heard it from his great-grandfather. His great-grandfather was a friend and relative of an Athenian statesman named Solon who visited Egypt sometime in the 7thcentury BCE.

“In the Egyptian Delta, at the head of which the river Nile divides, there is a certain district which is called the district of Sais, and the great city of the district is also called Sais, and is the city from which King Amasis came. The citizens have a deity for their foundress; she is called in the Egyptian tongue Neith, and is asserted by them to be the same whom the Hellenes call Athene; they are great lovers of the Athenians, and say that they are in some way related to them.”

Neith was a very important deity in the Early Dynastic Period and was often equated with Mehet-Weret, a primeval goddess whose name means the Great Flood. She was the mother of the creator sun god and so had claims to be considered the oldest of beings (Geraldine Pinch, Handbook of Egyptian Mythology). Athene or Athena was the goddess of Athens and is thought to have been a pre-Hellenic goddess who was later adopted by the Greeks.

In the Aztec creation myth of the Five Suns, the water goddess Chalchiuhtlicue presided over the Fourth Sun or the fourth creation of the world. It is believed that Chalchiuhtlicue retaliated against the ruler of the Third Sun, Tlaloc by destroying the world in a flood. Following the flood, the world that we now occupy (the Fifth Sun) was created.

The Fourth Sun is associated with the previous location of the North Pole as hypothesized in Before Atlantis. It has been suggested that a pole shift 12,000-18,000 years ago was responsible for the destruction of Atlantis. Could Chalchiuhtlicue have been an even earlier goddess who served as the inspiration for the Egyptian goddess Neith, and possibly even Athena? In other words, could Chalchiuhtlicue, Athene, and Neith all have represented the same deity in different places at different times?

A Species with Amnesia

Graham Hancock often refers to humans as a species with amnesia. Mankind in Amnesia is a psychological study published by Immanuel Velikovsky in 1982 that explains our inability to remember the distant past as a response to the trauma of certain past events. Perhaps the original reference to the idea that we have forgotten much about our past is in the next section of Timeus:

“To this city came Solon, and was received there with great honour; he asked the priests who were most skilful in such matters, about antiquity, and made the discovery that neither he nor any other Hellene knew anything worth mentioning about the times of old. On one occasion, wishing to draw them on to speak of antiquity, he began to tell about the most ancient things in our part of the world-about Phoroneus, who is called “the first man,” and about Niobe; and after the Deluge, of the survival of Deucalion and Pyrrha; and he traced the genealogy of their descendants, and reckoning up the dates, tried to compute how many years ago the events of which he was speaking happened. Thereupon one of the priests, who was of a very great age, said: O Solon, Solon, you Hellenes are never anything but children, and there is not an old man among you. Solon in return asked him what he meant. I mean to say, he replied, that in mind you are all young; there is no old opinion handed down among you by ancient tradition, nor any science which is hoary with age. And I will tell you why. There have been, and will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes; the greatest have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water, and other lesser ones by innumerable other causes.”

It is widely accepted that an enormous asteroid impact near the town of Chicxulub in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula approximately 66 million years ago caused a mass extinction in which 75% of plant and animal species on Earth became extinct. If an event of that magnitude had occurred within the past several hundred thousand years we probably wouldn’t have forgotten it, it probably would have destroyed us.

Periodic encounters with smaller objects such as those in the Taurid meteor stream might have been responsible for certain climate-changing events, the most recent being the Younger Dryas – a period of rapid cooling 12,800 to 11,500 calendar years ago that followed an abrupt period of warming that brought the last Ice Age to a close 17,500 years ago. Charles Hapgood proposed that rapid displacements of the earth’s crust would have had a similar effect. What is interesting about Hapgood’s pole shift hypothesis is that the effect of a rapid displacement of earth’s crust would likely have varied in degree and effect throughout the world. Tectonic subduction zones or reverse faults exist throughout Europe. A sudden shift of the crust would likely have triggered numerous earthquakes along fault lines. It would also displace a considerable amount of water likely inundating coastlines exposed to the open ocean. Egypt is a river valley far from a large body of water and located several hundred miles west of the Arabian plate. A crustal displacement in Egypt, similar in magnitude to that in Europe, would likely have had a lesser impact. Perhaps the Egyptians remembered the past because they were largely spared from the effects of the last crustal displacement and the resulting devastation that Europe had experienced by virtue of their more protected location.

Figure 1 The effects of a hypothesized pole shift from the Bering Sea to the Norwegian Sea in the Old World (top) and New World (bottom).

The Son of Helios

Figure 1 illustrates the effects of a crustal displacement. In some places a crustal displacement causes a shift in latitude while other places experience a rotation of the cardinal directions. For example the hypothesized pole shift from the Bering Sea to the Norwegian Sea would have shifted the latitude of Europe and Africa 50 degrees north and rotated the Americas counterclockwise such that a point on the horizon 50 degrees east of north would end up pointing due north.

This passage in the Timeus seems to describe a pole shift in mythological terms:

“There is a story, which even you have preserved, that once upon a time Paethon, the son of Helios, having yoked the steeds in his father’s chariot, because he was not able to drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt. Now this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a declination of the bodies moving in the heavens around the earth, and a great conflagration of things upon the earth, which recurs after long intervals at such times those who live upon the mountains and in dry and lofty places are more liable to destruction than those who dwell by rivers or on the seashore. And from this calamity the Nile, who is our never-failing saviour, delivers and preserves us. When, on the other hand, the gods purge the earth with a deluge of water, the survivors in your country are herdsmen and shepherds who dwell on the mountains, but those who, like you, live in cities are carried by the rivers into the sea. Whereas in this land, neither then nor at any other time, does the water come down from above on the fields, having always a tendency to come up from below; for which reason the traditions preserved here are the most ancient.”

For a fixed observer, a change in declination of celestial bodies relative to their normal motion would occur if there were a change in the reference frame of the observer. A crustal displacement would generally both rotate and shift the observer and so affect their perception of celestial motion. For example, if the observer were rotated 90 degrees clockwise as the result of a crustal shift the sun would appear to rise to the north and set to the south relative to the original reference frame.

The statement in the above passage that those who live in the mountains are more liable to destruction than those who live near rivers and seas does not at first seem to be in agreement with the pole shift hypothesis. However, the Egyptians did not consider the Mediterranean to be a sea but merely a harbor (as stated later in the dialog) and so could be implying that the effects of earthquakes experienced in Europe were more severe than that of flooding along the Mediterranean coastline.

An Earlier European Civilization

Critias’ story then alludes to the existence of a great European civilization before the last deluge:

“The fact is, that wherever the extremity of winter frost or of summer does not prevent, mankind exist, sometimes in greater, sometimes in lesser numbers. And whatever happened either in your country or in ours, or in any other region of which we are informed-if there were any actions noble or great or in any other way remarkable, they have all been written down by us of old, and are preserved in our temples. Whereas just when you and other nations are beginning to be provided with letters and the other requisites of civilized life, after the usual interval, the stream from heaven, like a pestilence, comes pouring down, and leaves only those of you who are destitute of letters and education; and so you have to begin all over again like children, and know nothing of what happened in ancient times, either among us or among yourselves. As for those genealogies of yours which you just now recounted to us, Solon, they are no better than the tales of children. In the first place you remember a single deluge only, but there were many previous ones; in the next place, you do not know that there formerly dwelt in your land the fairest and noblest race of men which ever lived, and that you and your whole city are descended from a small seed or remnant of them which survived. And this was unknown to you, because, for many generations, the survivors of that destruction died, leaving no written word. For there was a time, Solon, before the great deluge of all, when the city which now is Athens was first in war and in every way the best governed of all cities, is said to have performed the noblest deeds and to have had the fairest constitution of any of which tradition tells, under the face of heaven.”

In Before Atlantis we propose that a series of pole shifts over the past 125,000 years have demarcated four past ages that can be identified with what remains of ancient structures originally built in alignment to four previous locations of the North Pole. We speculate that former poles in the Bering Sea, Norway Sea, Greenland, and Hudson Bay were associated with what is commonly known in the Old World as the “Ages of Man” that begin with the Golden Age, and decline in the Silver Age and Bronze Age. The fourth age, which the Greeks called the Heroic Age, existed prior to the deluge and corresponds to the time mentioned in the above passage that refers to the people of Athens and their heroic deeds.

That a civilization existed in the Old World for a considerable period of time prior to the deluge provides a context for the tale of Atlantis, which is the next passage in Timeus.

Atlantis in the New World

The first part of Critias’ story about Atlantis in Timeus concludes as follows:

“Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valour. For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast power, gathered into one, endeavoured to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars. But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.”

Figure 2 Change in sea level in the Caribbean over the past 20,000 years.

The Caribbean is one of several proposed locations for Atlantis. It is interesting that the region of the Caribbean Sea between the Yucatan Peninsula and the Bahamas would have been much less navigable at this time according to sea level estimates (Figure 2)

Figure 3 The last pole shift from Hudson Bay to the current pole (left to right) rotated but did not significantly change the latitude of Europe or Africa (top) while shifting Mesoamerica south from mid-latitudes to the tropics (bottom).

Figure 3 shows the effect of the Hudson Bay pole shift in the Old and New Worlds. Its effect in Europe and Egypt was relatively benign to what was likely experienced in Mesoamerica. As shown in the figure the effect of the crustal displacement in the New World was a 40-degree shift south in latitude that moved North America from a polar to temperate climate and Mesoamerica from a temperate to a tropical climate. It is likely that the impact of the pole shift was much greater in this part of the world due to its exposure to tidal waves from the open ocean and a chain of volcanos along the spine of Mesoamerica that has been active over the past million years (Figure 4).

Figure 4 Geologically active areas during the past one million years.

Greece, Before

The story continues in Plato’s other related dialog Critias that describes first Athens and then Atlantis and the surrounding countryside.

“Many great deluges have taken place during the nine thousand years, for that is the number of years which have elapsed since the time of which I am speaking; and during all this time and through so many changes, there has never been any considerable accumulation of the soil coming down from the mountains, as in other places, but the earth has fallen away all round and sunk out of sight. The consequence is, that in comparison of what then was, there are remaining only the bones of the wasted body, as they may be called, as in the case of small islands, all the richer and softer parts of the soil having fallen away, and the mere skeleton of the land being left. But in the primitive state of the country, its mountains were high hills covered with soil, and the plains, as they are termed by us, of Phelleus were full of rich earth, and there was abundance of wood in the mountains. Of this last the traces still remain, for although some of the mountains now only afford sustenance to bees, not so very long ago there were still to be seen roofs of timber cut from trees growing there, which were of a size sufficient to cover the largest houses; and there were many other high trees, cultivated by man and bearing abundance of food for cattle. Moreover, the land reaped the benefit of the annual rainfall, not as now losing the water which flows off the bare earth into the sea, but, having an abundant supply in all places, and receiving it into herself and treasuring it up in the close clay soil, it let off into the hollows the streams which it absorbed from the heights, providing everywhere abundant fountains and rivers, of which there may still be observed sacred memorials in places where fountains once existed; and this proves the truth of what I am saying.”

Evidently, the climate changed in this part of Europe from a lusher “primitive state” in the distant past to a more arid condition during historical times.  According to our pole shift model, if the North Pole were in Greenland, the latitude of Greece would have been slightly higher than it is today and so might have had a more temperate climate. More rainfall would promote greater vegetation growth whose byproducts would accumulate over time to form the thick soils mentioned above.

The Acropolis

This is an excerpt from a latter part of Critias that discusses Athens proper:

“Such was the natural state of the country, which was cultivated, as we may well believe, by true husbandmen, who made husbandry their business, and were lovers of honour, and of a noble nature, and had a soil the best in the world, and abundance of water, and in the heaven above an excellently attempered climate. Now the city in those days was arranged on this wise. In the first place the Acropolis was not as now. For the fact is that a single night of excessive rain washed away the earth and laid bare the rock; at the same time there were earthquakes, and then occurred the extraordinary inundation, which was the third before the great destruction of Deucalion.”

One interpretation of the last line is that if the destruction of Deucalion was the fourth, which is associated with the pole shift from Hudson Bay to its current position, the third would have been the Greenland to Hudson Bay pole shift, the second the Norwegian Sea to Greenland pole shift, and the first the Bering Sea to Norwegian Sea pole shift. As illustrated in Before Atlantis the Parthenon and other structures on the Acropolis are oriented in the direction of the Greenland pole, which would have been the time frame of the above passage.

Atlantis

In contrast to the rather factual description of Athens and its people, the language becomes markedly mythological as Solon goes on to describe the origin of Atlantis.

“In this mountain there dwelt one of the earth born primeval men of that country, whose name was Evenor, and he had a wife named Leucippe, and they had an only daughter who was called Cleito. The maiden had already reached womanhood, when her father and mother died; Poseidon fell in love with her and had intercourse with her, and breaking the ground, inclosed the hill in which she dwelt all round, making alternate zones of sea and land larger and smaller, encircling one another; there were two of land and three of water, which he turned as with a lathe, each having its circumference equidistant every way from the centre, so that no man could get to the island, for ships and voyages were not as yet. He himself, being a god, found no difficulty in making special arrangements for the centre island, bringing up two springs of water from beneath the earth, one of warm water and the other of cold, and making every variety of food to spring up abundantly from the soil. He also begat and brought up five pairs of twin male children; and dividing the island of Atlantis into ten portions, he gave to the first-born of the eldest pair his mother’s dwelling and the surrounding allotment, which was the largest and best, and made him king over the rest; the others he made princes, and gave them rule over many men, and a large territory. And he named them all; the eldest, who was the first king, he named Atlas, and after him the whole island and the ocean were called Atlantic…”

The description of the city and surrounding countryside that follow seem less factual for the most part except for the following passage:

“The whole country was said by him to be very lofty and precipitous on the side of the sea, but the country immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain, itself surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea; it was smooth and even, and of an oblong shape, extending in one direction three thousand stadia, but across the centre inland it was two thousand stadia. This part of the island looked towards the south, and was sheltered from the north.”

It is interesting to note that 2000 x 3000 stadia = 229 x 344 miles is roughly the size of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Discussion

That certain statements in the above passages in Timeus and Critias appear to be consistent with Hapgood’s pole shift hypothesis and the application of his hypothesis that explains the alignment of ancient sites discussed in Before Atlantis suggest that at least part of the Solon’s story may have had a factual basis – that Plato’s Atlantis was a real place and existed within a worldwide civilization which shared common ideas and experiences. Perhaps the “Old World” and “New World” were simply two parts of the world that experienced the effects of pole shifts and climate change by different amounts, in different ways, and at different times.

The featured image at the top of the article is from the 1960 movie, Atlantis, The Lost Continent.

A New Interpretation of Teotihuacán

In the Aztec language, Nahuatl, Teotihuacán is translated as “the place where gods were born.” In this article we hypothesize:

1) Teotihuacán was originally aligned to a former North Pole that was located near Hudson Bay

2) The Pyramid of the Moon, the Pyramid of the Sun, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, and the Palace of the Jaguars are associated with the succession of Aztec sun gods Chalchiuhtlicue, Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl, and Tezcatlipoca, respectively.

3) Tezcatlipoca, who was the First Sun in the Aztec creation myth of the Five Suns, corresponds to the time when the North Pole was in the Bering Sea, Quetzalcoatl was the Second Sun that corresponds to the time when the North Pole was in the Norway Sea, Tlaloc was the Third Sun that corresponds to the time when the North Pole was in Greenland, and Chalchiuhtlicue was the Fourth Sun that corresponds to the time when the North Pole was in Hudson Bay

4) The distances between The Pyramid of the Moon, the Pyramid of the Sun, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, and the Palace of the Jaguars as measured along the Avenue of the Dead correspond to intervals between pole shifts

5)  Based on new archaeoastronomy evidence, the Pyramid of the Moon might have been the first structure built at Teotihuacán approximately 35,000 years ago

6) The other structures were probably added later just before the latest pole shift from Hudson Bay to the current North Pole, around 18,000 years ago.

Figure 1 Sites aligned to the Hudson Bay pole.

The Alignment of Teotihuacán

Various explanations have been proposed for why the city of Teotihuacán including the Avenue of the Dead, and numerous pyramids and temples are rotated 15-16° clockwise from the cardinal directions. Teotihuacán like other Mesoamerican sites is thought to have been aligned to be in harmony with the surrounding landscape. It has been suggested that Teotihuacán was originally aligned to face the direction of a nearby mountain peak, Cerro Gordo approximately 18 km to the east-southeast. Sprajc [1]  argues that this alignment also corresponds to the directions of sunrises and sunsets on two different sets of dates 260 days apart, which is the basis of Mesoamerican ritual calendars. Teotihuacán is one of the best-known examples of the group of orientations widely distributed in Mesoamerica ranging from about 15° to 18° clockwise from the cardinal directions that have become known as the 17° family of orientations [2]. 

In Before Atlantis we propose a different explanation to account for the variation in the alignment of these sites as a function of their location – that when the sites were first established the North Pole was in a different location, approximately 3400 km south of its current location in Hudson Bay. Our hypothesis is that these sites were originally aligned to face the former North Pole when they were built and are now misaligned due to a pole shift that occurred 12,000 to 18,000 years ago. This explanation not only accounts for the alignment of structures in Teotihuacán and other Mesoamerica sites but also that of structures in other parts of the world (Figure 1).

Figure 2 Locations of interest at Teotihuacán. From top to bottom: the Pyramid of the Moon, the Palace of the Jaguars, the Pyramid of the Sun, and the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl.

Pyramids of the Gods

According to the Aztec legend of the Five Suns, the past is divided into a succession of ages or “Suns” that are ruled by deities that create, sustain, and eventually destroy the world during the age in which they rule. Not surprising, the current age known as the Fifth Sun is ruled by Huitzilopochtli, a violent deity of war and human sacrifice.

At Teotihuacán, the Pyramid of the Moon, the Pyramid of the Sun, and the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl have been associated with three of the four previous Aztec gods Chalchiuhtlicue, Tlaloc, and Quetzalcoatl, respectively.

When Teotihuacán was first excavated by Leopoldo Batres in the late 1800s one of the artifacts found was a 20-ton statue buried in the Pyramid of the Moon representing Chalchiuitlicue, the goddess of the Fourth Sun. Artifacts later found inside the Pyramid of the Sun suggest that it was dedicated to Tlaloc, the god of the Third Sun. The Temple of the Feathered Serpent, which is named for the numerous feathered serpents heads carved into the facade and stairwell of the temple, was excavated from under the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, the god of the Second Sun. Although there is no indication that any of the other structures were associated with Tezcatlipoca, the god of the First Sun, it is conjectured that The Palace of the Jaguars’ might have served that purpose, as jaguars are sometimes associated with Tezcatlipoca.

Figure 3 Positions of locations along the Avenue of the Dead.

Avenue of the Dead

It has been suggested that the arrangement of the pyramids of the Sun, Moon, and Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacán are the Aztec equivalent of the three Egyptian pyramids that match the three stars in the belt of the constellation Orion. 

We propose another explanation based on Hapgood’s theory of pole shifts. In Before Atlantis we associate the Fourth Sun with the period of time when the North Pole was in Hudson Bay, the Third Sun with the period of time when the North Pole was in Greenland, the Second Sun with the period of time when the North Pole was in the Norway Sea, and the First Sun with the period of time when the North Pole was in the Bering Sea. The Pyramid of the Moon, which is associated with the Fourth Sun, is located at the northern end of the Avenue of the Dead. If these structures are associated with gods who ruled over a succession of past ages perhaps the arrangement of these structures might be related in some way to the Five Suns. 

According to Arizona State University archaeologist Saburo Sugiyama, who excavated the Temple of the Moon in 1999 “The pyramid of the Moon started out as a rather small temple beneath what is now the five-tiered platform in front of the pyramid. After two additional construction episodes, the builders embarked on the construction of the pyramid itself.” [3]

Using the Avenue of the Dead as a yardstick let the position of the small temple in front the Pyramid of the Moon, which is dedicated to Chalchiuitlicue (C) be at one end of the yardstick. The position of the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl (Q) along the avenue is 1900 meters from C. The position of the Palace of the Jaguars, which we conjecture was dedicated to Tezcatlipoca (T) is 1720 meters from Q. If one were to talk from C to Q to T the total distance would be 1900 + 1720 = 3620 meters. 

According to our adjusted pole shift timeline, the North Pole was in Hudson Bay, which corresponds to C, 12,000 to 18,000 years ago, the Norway Sea, which corresponds to Q, 75,000 years ago, and the Bering Sea, which corresponds to T, 125,000 years ago. Plotting these times along with their corresponding distances along the Avenue of the Dead reveals a linear relation. The equation of this line is 

Y = 33.33 x D + 15,000 years

where Y is the year before present and D is the total distance from C. Previously we have not been able to determine how long the pole was in the Norway Sea or in Greenland, but the total time was assumed to be the period of the Sangamon Interglacial of 50,000 years. Using the location of the Pyramid of the Sun, which corresponds to Tlaloc and the time of the Third Sun, along the Avenue of the Dead we estimate the Norway Sea to Greenland pole shift occurred about 48,000 years ago during the Wisconsin Glaciation (which, ironically was Hapgood’s original estimate.)

Figure 4 Modified Hapgood pole shift timeline crossreferenced to locations at Teotihuacán.

Geographic “Hall of Records”

If this interpretation is correct then the distances between these structures at Teotihuacán tell us the periods of the four previous Suns. The alignment of the site to the Hudson Bay pole tells us when this layout was established but does not tell us exactly when these structures were actually built. 

Figure 5 Pyramid of the Moon was aligned to the cardinal directions and the solstices when the North Pole was in Hudson Bay.

What is interesting is that neither the platform in front of nor the Pyramid of the Moon itself appears to reference the moon in any obvious way today. The Pyramid of the Moon has a more rectangular shape than the other pyramids in Teotihuacán. Although it is difficult to accurately estimate its aspect ratio due to various irregularities between platforms, the angular span between the summer and winter solstice sunrise/sunset directions when the North Pole was in Hudson Bay is not inconsistent with the diagonals of the structure. Over the 41,000-year obliquity cycle, the solstice angles change by several degrees. Approximately 35,000 years ago when the Temple of the Moon was aligned to north, its diagonals would have been aligned to the solstices. Thus we hypothesize that the Pyramid of the Moon might have been the first structure built at Teotihuacán around that time.

Figure 6 Observations of the sun and moon at the plaza below the Pyramid of the Moon.

At this point, one has to wonder why the Aztecs referred to this pyramid as the Pyramid of the Moon. Directly below the five-tiered platform south of the pyramid is a plaza surrounded by nine pyramidal platforms and the Palace of the Jaguars. Aligned to the Hudson Bay pole the layout of these structures around the plaza become evident. The summer solstice sun would have risen and set in between the two pairs of pyramids to the northeast and northwest, respectively. The angular separation between the two pyramids to the northeast and the two pyramids to the northwest bracket the range of maximum and minimum lunar moonrises and moonsets.

Based their arrangement along the Avenue of the Dead, it is likely the construction of the Pyramid of the Sun, Temple of the Feathered Serpent, and Palace of the Jaguars began just before the last pole shift from Hudson Bay.

Concerning the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, Marco Vigato states:

“The ruins that survive today make it abundantly clear, however, that in the long sequence of construction of the site, the earliest layers almost invariably show the greatest complexity and sophistication. It is therefore even more surprising to find evidence among the earliest layers of construction of an entirely different style of architecture employing enormous, finely cut and polished blocks of stone, which could very well be called megalithic.” [4]

He goes on to say:

“The unfinished state of the monolith of Coatlinchan and of the countless megalithic stone blocks that lie scattered around the site of Teotihuacán are suggestive of the sudden arrival and departure of a very technically advanced elite: Over the following centuries, construction resumed and continued at Teotihuacán, although in much cruder form, recycling many of the megalithic stones and structures left behind by the original builders.”

Based on Vigato’s findings it is possible that the Temple of the Feathered Serpent was never completed. If the Hudson Bay pole shift were sudden the effect would have been catastrophic in certain parts of the world especially northern Mexico. Teotihuacán would have suffered extensive damage but like other sites in the world discussed in Before Atlantis, it probably would have been rebuilt in a manner consistent with the original site plan.

The Goddess of Water

The location of Pyramid of the Moon at the top of the Avenue of the Dead suggests Teotihuacán was itself dedicated to Chalchiuitlicue the goddess of water. Water was the agent of the destruction of the world both in Plato’s tale of Atlantis and the Aztec’s legend of the Five Suns. It is also thought to have been abundant at one time in Teotihuacán.

When the North Pole was in Hudson Bay Teotihuacán was 3500 km north of its present location. Its climate was temperate, perhaps not unlike that of the northern United States. With ample rainfall aquifers that have long since dried up might have supplied Teotihuacán with great quantities of water.

In excavating the square surrounding Teotihuacán’s Pyramid of the Moon, Verónica Ortega found canals and pool-like cavities located beneath the square, alongside statues of water gods, from which she has concluded that the entire city was built as a sanctuary dedicated to the worship of water. “If there was a city in the ancient world where water was worshipped, it was Teotihuacan.” [5]. According to Ortega, a mural found inside the Palace of the Jaguars depicts streams of water flowing from a pyramid-like structure.

An extensive network of tunnels and caves under Teotihuacan are thought to have carried water throughout the city and are currently an active area of investigation.

References

[1] Ivan Šprajc, “Astronomical Alignments at Teotihuacan, Mexico,”  Latin American Antiquity, December 2000, https://doi.org/10.2307/972004.

[2] Anthony Aveni, Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico (Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1980).

[3] Angela M.H. Schuster, “New Tomb at Teotihuacan,” Archaeology Archive, 1998.

[4] Marco Vigato, “The Rome of America: What Lies Under Teotihuacan? – The Real City of the God,” Ancient Origins, Feb. 2017.

[5] https://www.history.com/news/scholar-claims-worship-of-water-explains-mexicos-ancient-city

 

An Analysis of Certain Alignments at Chimalacatlán

In this article, we examine the alignments of certain structures at Chimalacatlán that suggest it might be the oldest archaeological site in Mesoamerica.

Buried Cities, Forgotten Gods

William Niven was a geologist and mineralogist who lived and worked in Mexico for more than five decades beginning in the late 19th century. Niven is perhaps best known for the clay tablets that he discovered in the 1920s, which were later popularized by James Churchward in his theory of a lost continent in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Less known were Niven’s explorations three decades earlier in the Mexican state of Guerrero.

While on a trip prospecting for a particular garnet known to exist in this part of Mexico, Niven learned of a ruined city in the mountains that had been discovered by Don Lorenzo Castro a few years earlier. After an unsuccessful attempt to reach the area in 1891 Niven returned a year and a half later to find

“Broken walls, ruined buildings, huge in size beyond comprehension… marked the slopes as far as the eye could reach. Once this was a rolling plateau, dropping gently away from the mountain wall, but now it is cut into giant ridges by gorges from 200 to 1,000 feet deep – gorges whose sides are scarred with broken buildings, ridges covered with ruins of great houses…” [1]

Chimalacatlán

It is likely that some of the ruins Niven saw are those located near the town of Chimalacatlán. In “Lost Cities of the Mexican Highlands,” Marco Vigato compares the ruins in Chimalacatlán to those in South America

“Unlike the Andean region of South America, with its impressive megalithic architecture as in the region of Cuzco, capital of the Inca empire, and Tiwanaku, nothing on the scale of the impressive megalithic walls and constructions of Peru seems to have ever characterized Mesoamerican architecture. There is however one remarkable exception to this rule, which is as impressive in its monumentality and scale as it is also remarkably unknown to the public at large, including many of the very specialists in Mesoamerican archaeology and architecture. This is the case of the megalithic platforms and walls of Chimalacatlán, in the south of Morelos and near the border with the state of Guerrero.”

Vigato characterizes the archaeological site, which  is several kilometers southwest of the town of Chimalacatlán, as  “a set of dry stone platforms, placed at different levels, once connected through a system of monumental ramps and stairway” that form “a set of plazas at different levels, roughly following the profile of the natural elevation.”

Figure 1 Locations of three structures in the mountains southwest of Chimalacatlán that are discussed in this article. Chimalacatlán is the small town at the top of the image.

Three structures are visible in Google Earth imagery. C1 is a “megalithic acropolis” consisting of two stone platforms each about 30×30 meters in area whose “outer walls reach at least 7 to 8 meters high at the northwest corner and are entirely built of massive ashlars, some of which over 2.5 meters long. The construction is of remarkable quality and accuracy, consisting of several layers of carefully laid out and jointed megalithic stone blocks.” [2]

Figure 2 Southwestern side of structure C1.  Image courtesy Marco Vigato

C2 is at the summit of Cerro del Venado. Vigato describes the structure as being pyramid-like in appearance, “consisting of four super-imposed terraces, all sharing the same trapezoid shape with the exception of the top platform, which is a perfect square. Although some larger stones were employed in the construction of this pyramid, and a few well-cut stone blocks are visible on some of the terraces, the workmanship is generally poorer than the rest of the megalithic platforms, employing smaller and more irregular stones.” [2]

Figure 3 Northeastern side of structure C2. Image courtesy Marco Vigato.

C3 is on the Mesa del Venado near the entrance to the site. The walls of the structure are composed of mid-sized, roughly cut stones and are the least sophisticated in terms of the size and shape of the stones used suggesting the possibility that it was a later addition to the site.

Figure 4 One of the sides of structure C3. Image courtesy Marco Vigato.

Many have speculated that these ruins might be the remains of a mythical place called Tamoanchan, considered to be the cradle of all Mesoamerican civilizations. Is there a way to date Chimalacatlán based on the alignments of these structures?

Ancient Alignments

As discussed in Before Atlantis numerous sites in Mexico appear to have been aligned to ancient poles that are hypothesized to have once existed in Hudson Bay, Greenland, and the Norway Sea. For example, Teotihuacan is aligned to Hudson Bay, which based on current climate data could have been the location of the North Pole prior to the end of the last ice age, approximately 12,000 to 18,000 years ago. Tenochtitlan (today’s Mexico City) and Chichen Itza are aligned to locations in northern Greenland and the Norway Sea that could have been the locations of the North Pole at earlier climate epochs as far back as 75,000 years ago. By virtue of the alignments of these sites to older poles, we hypothesize that the sites are as old as poles.

Places in South America such as Cuzco and sites in Peru’s Sacred Valley and in other parts of the world appear to be aligned to an even older pole located north of the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea. Up to this point, no site in Mesoamerica had been found to be aligned in the direction of the Bering Sea pole, implying that Mesoamerica was not settled until after the Bering Sea to Norway Sea pole shift, which is estimated to have occurred about 125,000 years ago.

At Machu Picchu, the Temple of the Three Windows lines up with the Bering Sea pole. Similarly, at Ollantaytambo, the Wall of the Six Monoliths also faces that direction. Smaller less sophisticated structures at these sites are aligned in other directions. Figure 5 reveals that the megalithic acropolis at Chimalacatlán, the structure we call C1 is also aligned to the Bering Sea pole.

Figure 5 Alignment of structure C1 to the Bering Sea Pole.

C2, the pyramidal structure uphill from C1 also references the Bering Sea pole but in another way. Where C1 would have been oriented to the cardinal directions relative to the Bering Sea pole, i.e., to the sunrise on the equinox, C2 would have faced the most northern direction of moonrise and most southern direction of moonset  (Figure 6). The alignment of C3 is less clear but could have also been oriented to the moon at this time.

Figure 6 Structure C2 would have been aligned to major lunar standstills when the North Pole was in the Bering Sea.

Other Alignments

Using the Sacred Directions archaeoastronomy app it is possible to quickly assess other alignment possibilities. For example, moving the time slider forward in time to after the Bering Sea to Norway Sea pole shift, C2 became aligned both to the sun and the moon (Figure 7). This suggests the possibility that C2 could have been added later.

Figure 7 After the Bering Sea to Norway Sea pole shift C2 would have faced north with the diagonals of the top rectangular structure aligned to major lunar standstills.

Moving the time slider to the present time reveals a less ancient but equally plausible explanation in which all three structures line up to major lunar standstills. Perhaps like other sites such as Chan Chan in Peru that might have once faced an ancient north pole and were later repurposed as lunar sites after subsequent pole shifts, the same could be true for Chimalacatlán. If so,  evidence that the ancient people here worshipped the moon might be found in artifacts, iconography, or other sources of information. Otherwise, the possibility exists that the ruins at Chimalacatlán might be as old as those in Peru based on similarity in construction materials, technique, and alignment, and so could have been the first settlement in Mesoamerica.

In an article [3] published in 1896 by The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal, Niven reported that ruins could be found in every foot-hill and mountain ridge over an area in excess of 900 square miles in this part of Mexico. If Chimalacatlán were once a part of Tamoanchan perhaps other sites can be found and analyzed in this context.

References

[1] Robert S. Wicks and Roland H. Harrison, Buried Cities, Forgotten Gods: William Niven’s Life of Discovery and Revolution in Mexico and the American Southwest, Texas Tech University Press, 1999.

[2] Marco Vigato,  “Lost Cities of the Mexican Highlands,” Uncharted Ruins.

[3] “Remarkable Discovery of the Ruins of a Prehistoric City in Mexico,” The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal Vols. 18-19, 1896.

 

 

Lunar Temples

We return to earth after our brief visit to the moon in the past couple of articles and examine sites that are aligned to the moon. 

Most people are familiar with the seasonal path of the sun – that it rises in the east and sets in the west, more or less. The motion of the moon, however, is more complex and perhaps, as a result, is seen as being more mysterious. (Professor Judith Young provides a nice explanation in her article Moon Teachings for the Masses.)

In this article, with the help of a newly developed archaeoastronomy app, we review sites from around the world that are aligned to the moon.

Britain

We start in Britain the home of Stonehenge, one of the most famous and enigmatic of all ancient sites. Although it is generally known when it was built, around 3100 BCE, no one knows exactly why it was built or by whom.

Around 2600 BCE a large stone known as the Heel Stone was added outside of the inner circle of stones and positioned so as to line up with the summer solstice sunrise when it is viewed from the center of the site. At the same time, four other outlying stones called Station Stones were arranged to form a rectangle around the central monument. One of the Station Stones was positioned in the direction of maximum southern moonrise, also called a major lunar standstill. Today, these alignments are off by about a degree due to the change in earth’s obliquity since the time they were set into place more than 4000 years ago.

Figure 1 Alignments at Stonehenge. Solstices are depicted as solid lines and lunar standstills as dotted lines. Time slider shows the direction of the alignments around 2600 BCE.

There are other sites in Britain that also appear to reference the motion of the moon. The Calanais Stones are in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. The circle of stones, which is thought to have been set in place between 2600 and 2800 BCE has been interpreted by several researchers to have been used as a lunar observatory.

Figure 2 Alignments at Calanais around the same time as Stonehenge (2600 BCE).

Middle East

A little later in Mesopotamia King Ur-Nammu built a ziggurat dedicated to Nanna, the son of the two original Sumerian deities, Enlil and Ninlil. Nanna was the god of the moon and wisdom yet ironically the temple dedicated to him was called “Etemennigur,” which means “House whose foundation creates terror.” As shown in Figure 3 the Ziggurat of Ur is aligned in the direction of maximum northern major lunar moonrise and maximum southern major lunar moonset with best alignment achieved around the accepted time of construction, approximately 2100 BCE.

Figure 3 Alignment of the Ziggurat of Ur to major lunar standstills around 2100 BCE.

India

Few temples in India appear to be aligned to the moon. According to Sikh historical records, the land that became Amritsar was chosen by Guru Amar Das, the third Guru of the Sikh tradition. Arjan, the fifth Sikh guru, completed the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1604. The overall layout of the site including the reflecting pools is consistent with the direction of minor lunar standstills. (Recall major standstills are the most northern and southern moonrises and moonsets and so minor standstills are the least northern and southern moonrises and moonsets.) What is unusual about the site is that the best alignment is achieved when the earth was at minimum obliquity, approximately 14,000 years ago (Figure 4). If the Golden Temple is aligned to the moon perhaps Amritsar had been an even earlier site of religious significance.

Figure 4 Alignment of the Golden Temple in Amritsar to minor lunar standstills.

Southeast Asia

Continuing east, the Khmer empire constructed monumental cities and religious sites in Cambodia around a thousand years ago. Where most places including Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom are aligned to the cardinal direction, others such as Preah Khan and Koh Ker are not.

Preah Khan of Kompong Svay is approximately 100 km east of Angkor Wat. It consists of a series of four concentric rectangular enclosures that contain temples, buildings, and a central sanctuary. According to Giulio Magli the site is aligned to the moon, specifically to the northern major lunar standstill. Based on a single dated inscription, the site is thought to have been built around 1000 CE, which turns out to be consistent with the alignments in Figure 5.

Figure 5 Alignment of Preah Khan to major lunar standstills.

Koh Ker is 50 km north, northwest of Preah Khan. In the same paper referenced above, Magli argues that Koh Ker is aligned in the direction of sunrise on the day when the sun rises directly over the site (zenith passage). Figure 6 suggests another possibility – that the site was aligned to the northern minor lunar standstill approximately 15,000 years when the earth was near minimum obliquity.

Figure 6 Alignment of Koh Ker to minor lunar standstills.

Central America

As discussed in Before Atlantis, Chichen Itza and Tulum are two sites in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that might have been aligned to an earlier location of the North Pole in the Norway Sea. Many of the structures at Chichen Itza including the Caracol also appear aligned with major lunar standstills (Figure 7). The Caracol is believed to have been used as an observatory by the Maya who were familiar with the motions of the sun, moon, stars, and planets. The alignment of most structures at Tulum also appears to be aligned with major lunar standstills (Figure 8).

Figure 7 The Caracol at Chichen Itza is aligned to major lunar standstills.
Figure 8 Most structures at Tulum are aligned to major lunar standstills.

South America

Located in Peru, Chan Chan is believed to have been built around 850 CE by the Chimu culture. The etymology of the name is thought to be derived from the Quingnam “Jiang” or “Chang” which means Sun. The name could also be derived from the term: “Shian” where “Shi” translates as Moon and “An” as house, meaning House of the Moon.

As discussed in Before Atlantis, the orientation of Chan Chan correlates both the direction of the Norway pole and to major lunar standstills. One explanation that satisfies both the solar and lunar interpretations of its name is that the original site was constructed long ago when the North Pole was in the Norway Sea and so was originally aligned to the cardinal directions and to the sun. Later it was co-opted by the Chimu, who repurposed Chan Chan as a lunar site as a result of its serendipitous realignment to the moon.

Figure 9 Part of an extended area in Chan Chan aligned to major lunar standstills.

On a mountain top north of Machu Picchu lies a site called the Temple of the Moon that is built into an open-face, shallow cave. Like other places in Machu Picchu, the site is generally thought to have been arbitrarily named. Figure 10 shows the site in a Google Earth perspective view looking south.

Figure 10 View looking south from north of Huanya Picchu toward the Temple of the Moon.

Being in the tropics south of the equator the sun moves north after sunrise at certain times of the year and south at other times. The moon also travels north after moonrise at certain times of the year as well. The cave opening faces north and spans the maximum possible northern range of lunar motion (Figure 11). That the cave was oriented in this direction for the purpose of observing the moon would seem to be no accident.

Figure 11 The Temple of the Moon faces north, which is not visible in the view. The blue dotted lines depict the full range of lunar motion visible from the cave opening.

North America

We complete our journey around the world in North America and examine two Native American sites that appear to be aligned to the moon.

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park in Georgia contains the remains of major earthworks built before 1000 CE by the South Appalachian Mississippian culture that includes the Great Temple Mound and other ceremonial mounds, a burial mound, and defensive trenches. Evidence suggests the site has been continuously occupied for 17,000 years. As shown in Figure 12 The Great Temple Mound appears to be aligned to the southern minor lunar standstill. The nearby Lesser Temple Mound also appears to be similarly aligned. Lunar alignments are thought to exist at Cahokia another Mississippian site in Illinois as well.

Figure 12 Alignment of the Great Temple Mound at Ocmulgee to minor lunar standstills.

Pueblo del Arroyo is an archaeological site in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. The structure was a “great house” built in the latter part of the 11th Century by the Ancestral Puebloan or Anasazi people, who are thought to have built many structures in alignment with lunar and solar (seasonal) cycles. Given the flatness of the surrounding terrain, the location of the site would seem to take full advantage of its alignment to the southern maximum moonrise and northern maximum moonset (Figure 13).

Figure 13 Alignment of Pueblo del Arroyo in Chaco Canyon to major lunar standstills.

Summary

Numerous sites all over the world are aligned to the moon. Where the seasonal path of the sun is easily discernible, the complex motion of the moon, which repeats in 18.6-year cycles would have required dedicated observation over a much longer period of time. Although it is possible that the builders of these and other sites that are aligned to the moon did independently discern the complexity of lunar cycles it is also possible that this knowledge was inherited from an earlier people, perhaps from an unknown and highly advanced civilization that existed long ago. 

An Alternative SETI Strategy for the Moon

After decades of increasingly more detailed photoreconnaissance of the moon, we have yet to discover compelling evidence of alien objects or structures on the surface. Many features that at first attract our attention are at the limits of resolution or are viewed at unfamiliar sun angles or highly oblique look angles. Under different conditions or in higher resolution images, most turn out to be craters, rock outcrops, or other natural features. 

Carl Sagan was one of the first scientists to suggest the possibility of extraterrestrial activity on the moon. In the 1960s William Blair announced the discovery of “lunar spires” that turned out to be large boulders lit at a low sun angle casting long shadows that looked like towers. George Leonard and Fred Steckling believed they had found extensive evidence of alien activity on the moon, which they described in their books Somebody Else is on the Moon and We Discovered Alien Bases on the Moon. Richard Hoagland argued that there were enormous towers and glass structures visible in Lunar Orbiter and Apollo photography. Attempts to locate these features, in particular, one known as “the shard”, were not successful.

In a previous post, we searched for evidence of a “monolith” that the Soviet Union claimed their Lunokhod 2 rover had found, photographed, and analyzed in 1973. Other possible structures purported to have been found on the moon have been investigated and determined to be optical illusions. One was a tower on the edge of the crater Lobachevsky first spotted by Johannes Fiebag. Higher resolution imagery revealed that the impression of a tower was created by a pattern of dark crater ejecta material and a reflection off the rim of the crater. Another was what appeared to be a bridge at the edge of the Sea of Crisis that turned out to be an optical illusion caused by the interplay of shadows.

Lunar Archaeology

In 1990 a colleague of mine and I first proposed the idea of using anomaly detection algorithms to search for artificial objects on planetary surfaces. Alexey Arkhipov described several such algorithms and provided a listing of more than a hundred “finds” or anomalies detected on the moon in Clementine imagery. Arkhipov’s paper “Towards Lunar Archaeology” is a blueprint for lunar SETI:

“Our Moon is a potential indicator of a possible alien presence near the Earth at some time during the past 4 billion years. To ascertain the presence of alien artifacts, a survey for ruin- like formations on the Moon has been carried out as a precursor to lunar archaeology. Computer algorithms for semi-automatic, archaeological photo-reconnaissance are discussed. About 80,000 Clementine lunar orbital images have been processed, and a number of quasi-rectangular patterns found. Morphological analysis of these patterns leads to possible reconstructions of their evolution in terms of erosion. Two scenarios are considered: 1) the collapse of subsurface quasi-rectangular systems of caverns, and 2) the erosion of hills with quasi-rectangular lattices of lineaments. We also note the presence of embankment-like, quadrangular, hollow hills with rectangular depressions nearby. Tectonic (geologic) interpretations of these features are considered. The similarity of these patterns to terrestrial archaeological sites and proposed lunar base concepts suggest the need for further study and future in situ exploration.”

Some of the rectangular features Arkhipov discusses appear to be related to patterns on the lunar surface known as the lunar grid, which was explored by Fielder and others.

Lacking evidence of ET activity on the surface leads to the question of whether or not there might be activity underground. In 2017 Ananda Sirisena, Fran Ridge, and I showed that certain features first imaged by Apollo in the crater Paracelsus C on the far side of the moon are present in more recent Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) imagery and appear even more remarkable up close. 3-D analysis suggests that one of the features may be an opening leading underground.

Lava Tubes

The idea of underground lunar settlements or bases is gaining support after the discovery of lava tubes on the moon by the Japanese Kaguya spacecraft in 2008. It appears that many long sinuous features on the moon called rilles are collapsed lava tubes. The existence of a lava tube is sometimes revealed by the presence of a “skylight,” a place in which the roof of the tube has collapsed, leaving a circular hole.

LRO has found hundreds of skylights. The Chandrayaan-1 orbiter imaged a lunar rille with an uncollapsed segment suggesting the presence of a lava tube near the lunar equator. Gravitometric observations by the GRAIL spacecraft suggest the presence of lunar lava tubes with widths of over 1 km. 

Large underground spaces the size of cities are possible. Assuming a width-to-height ratio of 3:1, a structure can remain stable with a ceiling that is 2 m thick. Lava tubes at least 500 m underground can theoretically remain stable with widths of up to 5 km.

Transient Lunar Phenomena

For hundreds of years, astronomers have noticed strange features on the lunar surface. The first recorded sighting was a star-like point of light on the dark side in 1540. Other features that have been reported include small whitish clouds by Cassini in 1671, ‘lightning’ by Louville and Halley in 1715, ‘vapors’ by Schroter and Olber in 1797, brilliant flashing spots on the dark side by Gruithuisen in 1821, dots and streaks of light by Slack and Ingall in 1869, a glow of light in the crater Plato by Fauth in 1907, a moving luminous speck near Gassendi by Haas in 1941, a pulsating spot on dark side by Emanuel and others in 1965, and hundreds more. In 1968, NASA published a compendium of these so-called lunar transient phenomena (LTP) sightings in a report entitled, Chronological Catalog of Reported Lunar Events.

A majority of TLP events occur near the maria, which is where many lava tubes are located. Could there be a spatial correlation between TLP events and skylights? 

Correlation of TLP events (green dots) with locations of skylights. 

If there were underground bases on the moon that were accessed through skylights one possible alternative SETI strategy might be to image skylights continuously, or at least as frequently as possible, to attempt to detect such activities.

Thermal Anomaly Detection

One of the instruments aboard LRO is the Diviner Lunar Radiometer that has mapped the global thermal state of the Moon and its diurnal and seasonal variability. If there is an active presence below the surface of the moon it is likely generating heat. Another alternative SETI strategy finds underground activity on the moon using thermal imagery. By correlating optical and thermal imagery it is possible to detect thermal anomalies – areas in an image that are different from the natural background that could be indicative of underground heat sources.

Summary

NASA’s recent technosignatures report proposes a new approach to SETI based on advanced technologies, future sensor capabilities, and crowdsourcing. Unfortunately, the report reads much the same way as previous SETI strategies that can be characterized as a search for ETs either a long time ago, or in a galaxy far, far away.

That reports of TLP and related events have persisted for hundreds of years suggests a more exciting and potentially more relevant strategy to look for signs of an extant intelligence underground. The benefit of this strategy is that even if we don’t find alien bases we might, in the process, find some good places to build our own.

Feature image courtesy V101 Science.

In Search of the Lunokhod “Monolith”

In this article, we digress from our investigation of ancient mysteries on Earth to examine an unresolved mystery on the moon. 

Half a century ago Apollo landed the first men on the moon. A few years later the Soviet Union continued their unmanned exploration program with the landing of the Luna 21/Lunokhod 2 spacecraft in the crater Le Monnier. A month later, on Thursday, February 15, 1973, the Soviet news agency Tass reported that the Lunokhod 2 was investigating “an unusual piece of lunar material.” The report stated that a “one-meter long plate, resembling a modern house panel, has proven to be a strong monolith” and goes on to describe the plate as having “a smooth surface.”  An article in the January-February 1973 issue of the  ARPO Bulletin contained excerpts from a story in the February 19 issue of Soviet Aerospace:

“The article [in Soviet Aerospace] stated that the ‘stone plate which has so puzzled scientists’ has a smooth surface which is unlike the large stones in the area and that it withstood ‘the buggy’s pressure of a hundred atmospheres’ (1,407 lb. per square inch) which left only slight traces on the thin layer of dust which covered the plate. Also, the article said, scientists have determined that the plate ‘seems much younger’ than other stone material in the area.”

“Because of the monolith’s uniqueness, scientists decided to continue to investigate it to determine its chemical composition and magnetic properties, as well as transmit TV photos. The object was found on February 13 and plans were made to continue the investigation through the 16th. The bedrock in the immediate area was described as being different from the material observed and tested earlier and because the monolith is also so different from the surrounding bedrock the scientists were wondering if such a combination is accidental.”

News of this discovery was also reported by NASA:

“A monolith one meter (three feet) long of unusual lunar material was discovered Feb. 13. The plate had a strong, smooth surface unlike surrounding pockmarked stones and appeared to be much younger.”

Figure 1 Western section of Lunokhod 2 route. From Stooke (2009). Click on image for full resolution view.

Figure 1 summarizes the first three months of the probe’s operation on the moon. According to Phillip Stooke in the International Atlas of Lunar Exploration

“From 12 to 16 February the rover parked near a large fresh boulder as the high Sun made visibility difficult. The rover then drove rapidly south to the nearby hills where it took new panoramic images and performed experiments.”

This is when, according to both the Tass and Soviet Aerospace stories, the rover was analyzing and taking photos of the monolith. The location of the rover over this period of time is marked in the figure with the label “12-2-73 to 16-2-73 X, P” where “X” and “P” indicate that x-ray fluorescence spectrometer measurements and panoramic photographs were taken, presumably after the rover had left the shade of the boulder and traveled south.

The Laboratory for Comparative Planetology website lists 92 pan photos captured in 44 sessions. The map in Figure 1 plus three other maps depicting the later movement of the rover show 26 locations where photos were taken. Stooke states that the map does not list all of the panoramas. It is also not clear if the website includes all of the photos that were taken.

Most of the panoramas show rolling, relatively featureless terrain. Figure 2 shows one of the photos taken during the second month (lunation) of lunar operations. Notice the angular rock in the center of the photo. The length of its shadow indicates the picture was taken late in the day, not around noon, when the rover was said to have been parked next to the large boulder. Other than Figure 2, none of the photos shows anything resembling a slab, let alone a monolith.

Figure 2 Lunokhod 2. Lunation 2. Session 14. Panorama 34. From Laboratory for Comparative Planetology. Click on image to enlarge.

If this rock encountered by the Lunokhod rover was so extraordinary why is there no photo of it? Was the announcement by Tass simply propaganda – an attempt to match the accomplishments of the US Apollo program? Or did the Soviets discover something remarkable on the moon, so remarkable that the photos and scientific data were withheld from their own scientists and the international community?

Where on the Moon?

After exhausting the available historical data we have reached a dead end. Still, it might be possible to use this information in conjunction with current imagery to search for the monolith using future probes.  The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has imaged numerous manned and unmanned spacecraft on the lunar surface including the Luna 21 lander (Figure 3).

Figure 3 Landing site is the bright area near the top of the image. Note track leading south (top to bottom). Click for full resolution view. NASA/ASU

The tracks left by the rover are also visible over much of the terrain, which can be viewed using ASU’s Quickmap viewer.  By correlating Figure 1 with LRO imagery we can determine the general area where the rover was parked from February 12-16. An area around 25.87°N 30.45° E is shown in Figure 4. This location, somewhat less than three miles from the landing site, is near several unusual rectangular craters but appears otherwise unremarkable.

Figure 4 Search area for the monolith. The Lunokhod 2 track runs top to bottom in the middle of the image. Click on image for full resolution view. NASA/ASU

Although it is not possible to image an object only a meter long from lunar orbit, it may be possible one day to revisit this area on the moon, now that we know where it is, and rediscover what Lunokhod might have found almost a half-century ago.

The author would like to thank Rick Sterling, Fran Ridge, and Ananda Sirisena for their contributions.

Top image from the move 2001: A Space Odyssey.