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.)

Summary

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.

References

Carlotto, Mark (2019) “New Models to Explain the Alignments of Greek Temples,” https://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3501950

Carlotto, Mark (2020) “Toward a New Understanding of the Alignment of Ancient Egyptian Sites,” https://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3526820

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.

On the Sequence and Timing of Pole Shifts

In 1958 Charles Hapgood proposed that three displacements of the North Pole had occurred over the past 75,000 years. Last spring at a data fusion conference I presented a paper showing that over fifty ancient sites throughout the world appear to be aligned to previous locations of the pole. Since then more than one hundred additional sites have been found.

Although Hapgood’s theory is not generally accepted in the scientific community, that so many ancient sites seem to be aligned to previous poles raises the obvious question: if Hapgood’s theory is wrong why are so many sites aligned to them?

This article presents a revised sequence and timing of geographic pole shifts over the past 130,000 years based on new climate evidence.

Meridians of sites aligned to previous locations of the North Pole in the Bering Sea (red), northern Greenland (green), the Norwegian Sea (yellow), and Hudson Bay (magenta).

Mollusks and Mammals

In examining the ‘extralimital anomaly’ of mollusk shells in the Americas, independent researcher Mark Gaffney has found new evidence supporting Hapgood’s theory of crustal displacement. Gaffney’s analysis posted last summer at Graham Hancock’s website shows that the locations of today’s faunal beds are displaced by more than a thousand miles from where they were at the end of the late Pleistocene. He determined from this displacement that before its present location in the Arctic, the previous location of the North Pole was on Baffin Island in northern Canada. This location is about 470 miles north of Hapgood’s Hudson Bay pole, and about 530 miles northeast of the location I had determined from site alignments.

Gaffney’s latest soon-to-be-published research reveals new climate evidence that supports Hapgood’s theory specifically in regard to the order and timing of pole shifts. My analysis of site alignment data using data fusion techniques revealed that Hapgood’s Greenland/Norway pole was really two separate poles, one in northern Greenland, and the other in the Norwegian Sea. Although I was able to resolve their locations, without additional data I was unable to determine which came first, i.e., did the pole shift from the Bering Sea, to the Norwegian Sea, to Greenland, and then to Hudson Bay, or was the sequence Bering Sea, Greenland, Norwegian Sea, and Hudson Bay?

Order of poles: Bering Sea (BS), Greenland (Gr), Norwegian Sea (NS), Hudson Bay (HB), and the Arctic (Ar).

By analyzing mammalian fossils in Late Pleistocene deposits in Britain Gaffney determined the sequence was likely the former with a pole shift from the Bering Sea to Greenland causing the climate in Europe to change from sub-tropical to temperate between 123,000 and 96,000 years ago, followed by a pole shift from Greenland to the Norwegian Sea that caused it to become much colder around 85,000 years ago. According to the fossil record, the climate then warmed up around 38,000 to 50,000 years ago, which is consistent with the pole moving to northern Canada and finally to its present location around 20,000 years ago.

Sea Level Change

Generally speaking, during glacial periods when there is more ice at the poles, sea levels are lower than during interglacial periods when there is less ice. The amount of ice depends on temperate, which in turn depends on how much solar radiation is absorbed at the surface or reflected by clouds and ice. Hapgood hypothesized pole shifts were caused by a build-up of ice in the polar regions that eventually create an imbalance large enough to cause the crust to slip over the mantle and shift the added mass toward the equator. When the mass of ice at the pole shifts to a lower latitude some of it melts leading to a rise in sea level. Then as ice begins to accumulate at the new pole, sea levels slowly decrease, and the cycle repeats. Using this basic pattern we can estimate the timing of pole shifts from sea-level changes.

Sequence and timing of geographic pole shifts based on new climate evidence. (Base graphic courtesy University of Toledo)

Over 130,000 years ago at the time of the penultimate glacial maximum, sea levels were about 120 meters below current levels suggesting an ice cap comparable in size to the one at the last glacial maximum (LGM) at the end of the Wisconsinan glaciation. Hapgood estimated that during the Illinoian glaciation the North Pole was near the Yukon region in Canada, a location we have subsequently refined using site alignment data to a point in the Bering Sea north of the Aleutian Islands. When the pole shifted from the Bering Sea more than 2500 miles to northern Greenland much of this ice melted causing the sea level to rise 130 meters by around 120,000 years ago. As ice then began to accumulate at the new North Pole in northern Greenland sea levels began to decrease in stages. About 85,000 years ago the build-up of ice at the Greenland pole caused the North Pole to shift again but by a smaller distance, about 1250 miles, to the Norwegian Sea. The mass of ice in the polar region grew significantly over the next 20,000 years as Europe experienced a much colder climate. The continued imbalance in Earth’s moment of inertia created by a build-up of polar ice caused the pole to then shift to northern Canada about 65,000 years ago. Reaching its greatest extent at the time of the last glacial maximum, the pole moved to its present location in the Arctic about 20,000 years ago.

Dating Ancient Sites

Based on our revised sequence and timing of pole shifts we propose that places in Mexico such as Teotihuacan and Uxmal that are aligned to the Hudson Bay pole are 20,000 to 60,000 years old. Chichen Itza and sites that are aligned to the Norwegian Sea pole are 60,000 to 80,000 years old. Based on their alignment to the Greenland pole, we hypothesize that the original (pre-Aztec) settlement at Tenochtitlan in the heart of modern-day Mexico City and other sites in the Valley of Mexico are among the oldest archaeological sites in Mexico. Sites aligned in this direction could have been first established 80,000 to 130,000 years ago.

Sites in Peru’s Sacred Valley that are aligned to the Bering Sea pole including Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo are more than 130,000 years old. If it is indeed artificial, by virtue of its alignment to the Bering Sea pole, the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun could be the oldest structure in Europe.

Since they are aligned to the same pole, we hypothesize that the Acropolis in Athens and Tenochtitlan date to the same period. According to Plato’s dialog Critias:

“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.”

If the Bering Sea to Greenland pole shift corresponded to the first destruction, the Greenland to Norway Sea to the second, the Norway Sea to Hudson Bay to the third, and the Hudson Bay to the present pole to the fourth, the original structures at the Acropolis were destroyed about 60,000 years ago.

The Greenland to Norwegian Sea pole shift moved Europe much closer to the pole than it is today. As a result of its colder subpolar climate, there are relatively few sites in western Europe aligned to the Norwegian Sea pole. After the pole shifted to Hudson Bay the climate in Europe warmed and many more sites were built there including the oracle of Apollo at Delphi and the Lion Gate at Mycenae, both of which were established before the last flood approximately 20,000 years ago.

Evidence of an Advanced Civilization in the South Pacific During the Last Ice Age

An analysis of the orientation of ancient structures on four islands in the South Pacific suggests the possibility that a previously unknown civilization could have existed in this part of the world during the last Ice Age.

Nan Madol

Nan Madol is a megalithic complex on the island of Pohnpei consisting of about a hundred rectangular islets. Most of the islets are surrounded by retaining walls constructed of long slabs of prismatic basalt laid on top of foundations of immense basalt boulders. Archaeologists believe that the earliest structures were built around 900 CE. It is thought that the enormous basaltic slabs were floated by some means from quarries on the other side of the island to their present location. 

Nan Madol is divided into two areas. One to the southwest known as Madol Pah is where royal dwellings and ceremonial areas were located. The other area to the northeast known as Madol Powe is where the priests dwelled and most of the tombs are located.  

Esteban (2014) measured the alignments of numerous structures at Nan Madol. He determined that the long southeast-facing retaining wall of Madol Pah is oriented at an azimuth angle of 56° and could have been aligned with the rising of the “Southern Cross” at the time the site is thought to have been built. This angle is confirmed in measurements made using a recent LIDAR image (Comer et al 2019).

An analysis of the alignments of Nan Madol and other sites discussed in this article is sometimes difficult since many structures are not perfectly rectangular and not always oriented in exactly the same direction. The azimuth angle of the west-southwest retaining wall of Madol Pah measured in the same LIDAR image mentioned above is approximately 137°, which is not at a right angle to the southeast wall. Together these two walls thus defined a general range of directions to the southeast between 137° and 146°.

Hudson Bay pole alignments at Nan Madol measured in a  LIDAR image overlay created in Google Earth. A is the Hudson Bay pole meridian, B is the solstice alignment of Nan Dowas and other structures in the funerary area in Madol Powe, C is the solstice alignment of the area of royal dwellings and ceremonial areas in Madol Pah. (Google Earth/Comer et al)

Like other megalithic sites throughout the world, the lack of a compelling explanation for how such large structures could have been constructed using primitive technology suggests the possibility that the sites were first established by a previous technological civilization and then co-opted by later more primitive (indigenous) people.

Assuming a date of construction to satisfy a stellar alignment becomes somewhat of a circular argument since such alignments shift due to precession. A search for a more stable solar or lunar explanation that does not assume a date of construction leads to a consideration of alternative pole locations. If we assume the North Pole was in Hudson Bay at the time the site was first established, it would have been located at around 10° S latitude (it is currently at 6.84° N latitude). The southernmost (summer solstice) sunrise angle would range from 137.7° to 139.9°. It is thus possible that Madol Pah could have been aligned to the summer solstice sunrise at this time.

The largest structure at Nan Madol is Nan Dowas, which is constructed of stones weighing up to 50 tons. The alignments of this and other structures in the funerary area in Madol Powe are different from those in Madol Pah. According to Esteban (2003) Nan Dowas and a tomb at Sapwtakai, another megalithic site on Pohnpei, are both aligned in the same general direction, approximately 3° south of east. This angle is very close to the range of northernmost sunrise angles on the solstices (90.4° to 92.26°) relative to an assumed North Pole location in Hudson Bay suggesting that Nan Dowas could have also been aligned to the winter solstice sunrise at this time.

What is particularly intriguing about this ancient dating around the time of last glacial maximum when sea levels were more than 120 meters lower than their present levels is that Nan Madol and other reported ruins off of its eastern coast would have been well above sea level and the island itself would have been larger.

The ancient city of Leluh is constructed from the same kind of prismatic basalt found at Nan Modal and is aligned in the same general direction. (Photo courtesy Maloff1)

Leluh

The ancient city of Leluh was built up as a man-made extension on a small island in a lagoon on the eastern side of Kosrae, an island 540 km east-southeast of Pohnpei. The same kind of prismatic basalt found at Nan Modal was used in Leluh to construct numerous walls and tombs. According to Morgan (1988) the stone was quarried from a site in Utwe (about 15 km from Leluh) and transported using rafts. Although the basalt itself cannot be dated, Uranium/Thorium (U/Th) dates from corals collected from structural materials suggest the tombs were built about 700 years ago (Richards et al 2015).

Even more intriguing than the materials used in construction is the similarity in the alignments at Leluh and Nan Madol. Esteban (2002) reports the orientations of the northeastern sides of five tombs range in azimuth from 47° to 59°. Their southeastern facing sides are thus aligned in the range 137° to 149°. Being at a similar latitude the solstice sunrise directions are similar to those at Nan Madol relative to the Hudson Bay pole. By registering Hambruch’s original 1910 map to create an image overlay in Google Earth we are able to verify that the ancient city itself is aligned in the same general direction of the solstices.

The range of sunrise directions assuming the North Pole was in Hudson Bay may also explain why Leluh was originally built off of the east coast of Kosrae. Extending sightlines in the solstice directions reveal that the southern sunrise and sunset directions relative to the Hudson Bay pole bracket the mountainous landscape of Kosrae to the southwest. On the summer solstice, the sun would have risen to the southeast over the ocean and set west between two mountains on Kosrae.

One of three stone-paved trapezoidal areas called marae on the island of Taputapuatea in French Polynesiamarea. (By Michel-Georges Bernard – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2966431)

Taputapuatea

Taputapuatea is on the island of Raiatea in French Polynesia. Near the eastern tip of the island, there are three stone-paved trapezoidal areas called marae. Marae were meeting places in Polynesia where the world of the living could interact with the realm of the ancestors and the gods.

Alignments of three marae at Taputapuatea – from left to right in the direction of the Hudson Bay pole, the Greenland pole, and to solstices relative to the Hudson Bay pole. (Google Earth)

The long axes of two of the marae appear to be oriented toward former poles – one toward the Hudson Bay pole and another toward an earlier pole in Greenland. The minor axis of a third marae is aligned in a solstice direction relative to the Hudson Bay pole. Salvat et al (2019) have U/Th dated limestone slabs at the site to be 3000 to 5000 years old. Alignments to former poles suggest the original site could be even older.

Haʻamonga ʻa Maui Trilithon. (Photo courtesy Tauʻolunga)

Tonga

The Haʻamonga ʻa Maui Trilithon is a unique megalithic structure on the northern coast of the island of Tongatapu. It is constructed from three enormous blocks of coral limestone, the largest is 5 meters in height and weighs about 50 tons.

This photo taken by Esteban along the lintel of the Haʻamonga ʻa Maui Trilithon indicates the structure is not precisely aligned to the solstices. (Photo courtesy César Esteban)

Although it is widely thought to have been aligned to the summer solstice sunrise/winter solstice sunset, an interesting photo taken along the lintel by Esteban reveals that it is misaligned by several degrees. It turns out to be very closely aligned perpendicular in the direction of the Hudson Bay pole and so would have been once oriented east-west. It is interesting to note that this direction is similar to that of land-use patterns in many parts of the island. Aveni (1980) notes that in Mexico alignments of churches built over earlier structures and planted fields often follow patterns that had been established in pre-Columbian times. Perhaps this pattern on the Tongan landscape was first established tens of thousands of years ago when the North Pole was in Hudson Bay.

Maori Flood Myth

According to Bůčková (2004) “Deluge is one of the most widespread mythical motifs throughout the world…” She explains how in the Maori mythology of the aboriginal people of New Zealand, their hero Tawhaki

“took his warriors and built a protected village upon the top of a mountain. It was here that Tawhaki called to the gods for revenge and the flood they let down was so disastrous that the whole earth was covered by water and all human beings perished. This episode may, however, be characterized as a cataclysmic deluge.”

Could the origin of this myth have been a catastrophe caused by a pole shift/crustal displacement that flooded all but the tallest peaks of the mountains in the South Pacific?

Sea levels have changed dramatically over the past 20,000 years after the last glacial maximum (LGM).

In Hapgood’s chronology, at the time of the last glacial maximum when sea levels were at their lowest, the North Pole was in Hudson Bay. Much more of the Tonga archipelago would have been above sea level at this time. In fact, most islands in the Pacific would have been much larger. According to Hapgood’s theory, when the pole shifted from Hudson Bay to its present location the ice on the old pole melted releasing an enormous quantity of water that caused sea levels to rise over 120 meters in 20,000 years. Over time the rise in sea level could have forced the original builders of Nan Madol and other enigmatic places in the South Pacific to flee these islands.

Tonga bathymetry. Much of this area would have been above sea level at the time of the last glacial maximum.

Perhaps Churchward’s Mu did exist after all, not as a supercontinent in the middle of the Pacific Ocean but as a vast archipelago, much larger than it is today, supporting an advanced civilization that had the capability to quarry, transport, erect, and align these and other (yet to be discovered?) enigmatic structures that are testament to its existence.

References

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

Bůčková, Martina (2004) “Deluge in Polynesian Mythology,” Asian and African Studies, Vol. 13, No. 2, 191-197.

Carlotto, Mark (2020a) “Toward a New Understanding of the Alignment of Ancient Egyptian Sites, https://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3526820.

Carlotto, Mark (2020b) “An Analysis of the Alignment of Archaeological Sites,” Journal of Scientific Exploration, Spring (in press).

Carlotto, Mark (2020c) “A New Model to Explain the Alignment of Certain Ancient Sites,” Journal of Scientific Exploration, Summer (in press).

Comer, Douglas C., Comer, Jacob A., Dumitru, Ioana A., Ayres, William S., Levin, Maureece J., Seikel, Katherine A., White, Devin A. and Harrower, Michael J., (2019) “Airborne LiDAR Reveals a Vast Archaeological Landscape at the Nan Madol World Heritage Site,” Remote Sensing, 11, 2152; doi:10.3390/rs11182152

Esteban, César (2014) “Orientations and Astronomy in Prehistoric Monumental Tombs of Nan Madol (Pohnpei, Micronesia),” Monuments and People in the Pacific.

Esteban, César (2002) “Some Notes on Orientations of Prehistoric Stone Monuments in Western Polynesia and Micronesia,” Archaeoastronomy. The Journal of Astronomy in Culture.

Morgan, W. N. (1988) Prehistoric Architecture in Micronesia(University of Texas Press, Austin.

Richards, Zoe T., Shen, Chuan-Chou, Hobbs, Jean-Paul A., Wu, Chung-Che, Jiang, Xiuyang, and Beardsley, Felicia (2015) “New precise dates for the ancient and sacred coral pyramidal tombs of Leluh (Kosrae, Micronesia),” Science Advances, Vol. 1, no. 2, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400060

Salvat, Bernard, Maric, Tamara, Goepfert, Tyler and Eisenhauer, Anton (2019) “The marae of Taputapuātea (Ra’iatea, Society Islands) in 2016: nature, age and origin of coral erected stones,” Dans Journal de la Société des Océanistes(no. 149).

Feature image: Nan Madol ruins in Pohnpei.
Photo by CT Snow, CC BY 2.0 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3838239

Before Zep Tepi

“…in the time before these men they said that gods were the rulers in Egypt, not mingling with men, and that of these always one had power at a time; and the last of them who was king over Egypt was Oros the son of Osiris, whom the Hellenes call Apollo…” – Herodotus, II, 144.

“They said also that the first man who became king of Egypt was Min [Menes]…” – Herodotus II, 4.

Thirty years ago Robert Bauval proposed that the three great pyramids in Giza were the terrestrial representation of the three stars in Orion’s Belt, This idea led to an even more revolutionary proposal a few years later with Graham Hancock that the pyramids together with Sphinx formed a pattern on the ground that matched that of the heavens circa 10,500 BCE, a time known as Zep Tepi thought to be the true beginning of the Egyptian civilization.

In the last post, we discussed the possibility that certain ancient sites in Greece were not built by the Greeks but by a previous civilization long since forgotten. This article presents new evidence suggesting the Egyptian civilization began tens of thousands of years before Zep Tepi.

The Alignment of Ancient Egyptian Sites

Understanding the alignment of ancient Egyptian pyramids, temples, and other structures is a subject of great interest. Where most (but not all) pyramids are aligned to the cardinal directions – north, south, east, and west, sometimes with uncanny precision as those on the Giza plateau, the orientation of Egyptian temples has remained somewhat of a mystery. In his highly controversial book, The Dawn of Astronomy, Norman Lockyer was the first to propose that the ancient Egyptians aligned their temples to the sun and stars. Using knowledge of precessional motion he estimated that the Temple at Edfu and several other temples were built in alignment with Ursa Major around 6400 BCE. Taking into account changes in Earth’s axial tilt or obliquity he estimated that the Temple of Karnak at Luxor, which is aligned in the direction of the winter solstice sunrise, was established in 3700 BCE.

In their paper “Astronomy, Landscape, and Symbolism: A Study of the Orientation of Ancient Egyptian Temples” Belmonte, Shaltout, and Fekri propose that astronomy and geography were important factors in the alignment of ancient sites and that the “terrestrial landscape, dominated by the Nile, and the celestial landscape, dominated by the sun and the stars, combine in order to permit the establishment of Ma’at, the Cosmic Order, on Earth.”

Even after taking other contextual factors into account such as landscape, many unanswered questions remain regarding the alignment of many Egyptian archaeological sites. For example, why is the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, east of the Nile River, astronomically aligned, while “Temples of the Millions of Years” across the Nile in West Luxor dedicated to Amenhotep III, Seti I, Thutmosis III, and Ramesses II are not? The Osireion is perhaps one of the most enigmatic megalithic structures in all of Egypt. Why is the temple of Seti I in Abydos aligned in the same direction as the Osireion, a direction that is neither astronomical nor geographical?

Alternative Frames of Reference

In his 1958 book, The Earth’s Shifting Crust Charles Hapgood proposes that displacements of Earth’s crust over the mantle and resulting shifts of the geographic pole could explain ice ages and other patterns of climate change. Before Atlantis explores the idea of using pole shifts as a method for dating ancient sites aligned to former poles. According to Hapgood’s pole shift timeline, sites aligned to the Hudson Bay pole are at least 12,000 to 18,000 years old. Those that face Greenland could be 50,000 years old. Sites aligned to even earlier poles could be 75,000 to 125,000 years old or more.

The effect of a pole shift is to shift and rotate the reference frame of the observer. Sites once aligned to the sun or moon are no longer oriented in those directions after a pole shift.

A new paper “Toward a New Understanding of the Alignment of Ancient Egyptian Sites” considers the possibility that when the Osireion, the “Temples of the Millions of Years” and other enigmatic places in Egypt were first established they were aligned relative to earlier poles. The paper lists 60 sites that could have been astronomically aligned to former poles: 19 to the Hudson Bay pole, 35 to the Greenland pole, and 8 each to the Norwegian Sea and Bering Sea poles. As a result of subsequent pole shifts, these sites are not today aligned in any meaningful way and so have been difficult to understand using conventional models/reference frames.

If Hapgood’s theory is correct, based on their alignment with former poles, these sites could have been first established tens of thousands of years ago. Over time as sites fell into ruin, some structures were rebuilt and others added over and around the original foundations sometimes preserving original alignments to the older poles. What exists today is a mixture of site alignments that reference both current and past pole locations.

The Turin King List

The Temple of Hathor at Dendera is one of the sites that are aligned in the direction of a former pole. According to John Anthony West in The Traveler’s Guide to Ancient Egypt

“Like virtually all Egyptian temples, Dendera is built upon the site of a succession of earlier temples. An inscription over one of its subterranean crypts (this one not open to the public) declares the temple had been built ‘according to a plan written in ancient writing upon a goatskin scroll from the time of the ‘Companions of Horus.’ Thus, Ptolemaic architects from the first century B.C. were claiming that the architectural plan for the temple dated to the legendary prehistoric era when the ‘Companions of Horus’ ruled Egypt.”

Data that conflict with established timelines that begin with the rule of Menes, the first king of a unified Egypt circa 3000 BCE, are anathema to Egyptology. In particular, rulers before Menes listed in an important scroll known as the Turin King List are often ignored as having no historical basis. According to R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz in his book Sacred Science, the Companions of Horus or “Shemsu Hor” ruled Egypt from 16,820 BCE up to the dynastic period.  Earlier rulers known as the “Venerables of the North” and the “Venerables of Memphis” ruled Egypt after 40,020 BCE, up to the time the Shemsu Hor.

Refined Hapgood pole shift timeline with Egyptian dynastic (D), Shemsu Hor (SH), and pre-SH reigns indicated.

Correlating the Turin King List with our hypothesized pole shift timeline above shows that the earliest reigns correspond to the time when the North Pole was in Hudson Bay. The reign of the Shemsu Hor began after the Hudson Bay pole shift and continued up to the dynastic period.

Evidence of an Ancient Flood

Could “the great destruction of Deucalion” mentioned in Plato’s dialog Critias have been the result of the Hudson Bay pole shift? Rejected by most scientists as myth new data suggests that certain passages in another of Plato’s dialogs Timeus, widely thought to be little more than a story, might have a factual basis after all.

The following excerpt  is well known:

“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. 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…”

This passage could very well be describing a crustal displacement. A rapid shift of the poles would change the apparent motions of celestial objects. Continuing, the dialog goes on to describe the aftermath of a crustal shift

“…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.”

The last part of this passage suggests that the impact of the last flood varied geographically. Those who survived in Greece (and Europe) lived in the mountains while others were swept into the sea. Although there is no mention of those who lived closer to the sea in Egypt (i.e., Lower Egypt), the implication of the last sentence is that those who lived in Upper Egypt survived the flood to tell about it.

Histogram of site alignments vs. latitude. There are more sites aligned to the current pole in Lower Egypt, but more sites aligned to previous poles in Upper Egypt.

A geographic analysis of the alignment statistics seems to support this idea. (see paper for details). Sites currently aligned to solstices and lunar standstills are distributed more or less uniformly from Upper to Lower Egypt. Overall most of the sites that are aligned to the current pole are in Lower Egypt. On the other hand, there are more sites in Upper Egypt aligned to older poles than there are in Lower Egypt. One possible explanation is that a flood following the last pole shift destroyed about 80% of the sites close to the Mediterranean Sea.

Based on these new findings perhaps the Zep Tepi of 10,500 BCE was not the “First Time” but only the beginning of the latest chapter in the long history of the Egyptian civilization.

The Mystery of Greek Temple Alignments

The alignments of Greek temples have puzzled archaeologists for over a century. Originally it was thought that the Greeks aligned their temples to the sun and stars on the feast day of the deity to which they were dedicated. Subsequent research revealed the nature of the alignments to be more complex with no simple or obvious explanation.

A New Study of Greek Temple Sites

A recent study of 59 temples, oracles, and other important archaeological sites in Greece, Sicily, western Turkey, and northern Africa found only about a third of the sites to be aligned astronomically. (Click here to read the full paper.) The inability of archaeoastronomy to explain the alignment of most ancient sites in Greece as well as in other parts of the world has led archaeologists to consider the influence of other factors besides astronomy such as local culture, agricultural practices, and landscape. That so few sites can be explained by alignments to the sun, moon, and stars suggest the possibility that the ancients could have used other points of reference or even different frames of reference not previously considered by archaeologists.

Katherine Carlotto, Hyperborea (2019) Acrylic on canvas

Geomagnetic Pole Alignments

Charvátová et al (2011) argue that numerous earthen mounds in China could have been aligned using a magnetic compass toward the north geomagnetic pole at the time of construction. Ioannis Liritzis and Helen Vassiliou (2006) suggest that certain Greek temples were aligned to observe the aurora borealis – a geomagnetic phenomenon commonly known as the “northern lights.” Could the Greeks, who were familiar with the magnetic properties of certain materials, have used some primitive form of a magnetic compass to align temples in the direction of the geomagnetic pole, which is generally displaced from the geographic pole much like many Greek temples are from the cardinal directions?

Although it is not known if the  Greeks had actually developed some form of magnetic compass and used it to align sites as the ancient Chinese are thought to have done, using archaeomagnetic data to compute the location of the north geomagnetic pole over the past 4000 years, 6 of the 59 sites are aligned in the direction of the geomagnetic pole at their estimated time of construction.

Temple of Poseidon at Paestum (400 BCE) could have been aligned to the north geomagnetic pole at around the time of construction. (Sacred Directions/Apple Maps)

Alignments to Oracles and Other Places of Importance

The Greek writer Vitruvius, in his work De Architectura, states that sunrise was not always the principal direction for aligning temples and that there was sometimes a preference for facing nearby cities or directions of approach along rivers or roads. Jean Richer (1994) proposed that the locations of certain sacred places in ancient Greece provided a geographical reference frame for a zodiacal interpretation of the alignments of ancient sites to places such as the Amun Temple in the Siwa Oasis near Libya in northwestern Egypt, Mt. Ida on the island of Crete, and oracles at Dodoni and Delphi in Greece.

Sequence showing the alignments of sites to the Amun Temple in the Siwa Oasis near Libya in northwestern Egypt, Mt. Ida and the Cave of Zeus on the island of Crete, the oracles at Dodoni and Delphi, and Mycenae. (Google Earth)

By examining the orientations of rectangular structures and rectilinear features such as walls, 25 of the 59 sites were found to be aligned in the directions of six “centers”- the Amun Temple in northwestern Egypt, Mt. Ida and the Cave of Zeus on the island of Crete, the oracles at Dodoni and Delphi, and the fortress of Mycenae.

Amphitheater at Dodoni faces toward the Amun Temple in Siwa.
Amun Temple, Siwa, in turn, faces in the direction of Dodoni.

A particularly interesting discovery is that the Amun Temple in Siwa and certain structures at the Greek oracle center of Dodoni face each other implying that they might have been built at the same time. This idea is consistent with the following passage from Herodotus (Book 2, Chapter 55):

“That, then, I heard from the Theban priests; and what follows, is told by the prophetesses of Dodoni: to wit, that two black doves had come flying from Thebes in Egypt, one to Libya and one to Dodoni; this last settled on an oak tree, and uttered there human speech, declaring that there must be there a place of divination from Zeus; the people of Dodoni understood that the message was divine, and therefore they established the oracular shrine. The dove which came to Libya bade the Libyans (so they say) to make an oracle of Ammon; this also is sacred to Zeus…”

How did the Greek build two sites almost 800 miles apart aligned to face one another? Perhaps they did not.

Alignments to Old Poles

Two papers to be published next year based on an analysis of over two hundred ancient sites across the world find that more than half of the sites cannot be explained in terms of alignments to celestial or other known points of reference but can be explained in terms of alignments to previous locations of the North Pole. Remarkably, an even smaller fraction of the sites considered in this study have a conventional explanation but almost all of them appear to reference previous locations of the pole.

Color-coded alignments of sites to the current pole (white), Hudson Bay pole (magenta), Greenland pole (green), Norwegian Sea pole (yellow), and Bering Sea pole (red). (Google Earth)

By referencing Greek sites to previous pole locations, site alignments can be interpreted in a new way. Two locations on the island of Crete, Mt. Ida and the Cave of Zeus, appear to be extensions of meridians through Mycenae and Delphi relative to the Hudson Bay pole as shown in the figure below. Were Mycenae and Delphi aligned to Mt. Ida and the Cave of Zeus or were these two locations on Crete established based on the locations of Mycenae and Delphi?

Alignments between Mycenae, Delphi, and Crete. Magenta lines are meridians relative to the Hudson Bay pole. Orange lines between sites are aligned to within 1° of the corresponding meridians..

Implications

The existence of sites aligned to previous locations of the North Pole suggests that the area of what is now Greece has been inhabited for a considerable period of time. If our hypothesized pole shift chronology is correct, to up to about 125,000 years ago, when the North Pole was in the Bering Sea, Greece was located near the equator. A crustal displacement and pole shift to the Norwegian Sea thrusted Greece into the far northern temperate climate zone with cataclymic consequences. The next crustal displacement moved the pole to Greenland shifting Greece south to where it existed for several tens of thousands of years. This may have been the period that Critias tells us about in Plato’s dialog:

“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.”

The Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens is one of many structures in Greece that is aligned to the Greenland pole. According to Critias’ count of destructions/inundations, the Bering Sea to Norwegian Sea pole shift would have been the first, the Norwegian Sea to Greenland pole shift would have been the second, and the Greenland to Hudson Bay pole shift would have been the third. The destruction of Deucalion caused by the last pole shift from Hudson Bay was the fourth.

Shifts in the location of Greece relative to the geographic pole over the past 125,000 years. (Google Earth)

We propose that the Greek temple sites referencing previous geographic pole locations were established by earlier civilizations and later co-opted by the Greeks. Our hypothesis is that, over time, as certain sites were destroyed or fell into ruin, they were rebuilt and expanded, and new structures were added above and/or around consistent with the original site plan. What exists today is an indication of the original alignment of the site. For sites that contain structures aligned to current and past poles there may not be obvious differences between the two if the older pole structures were rebuilt or built over at the same time current pole structures were added.

References

Charvátová, Ivanka , Klokočník , Jaroslav, Kolmaš, Josef, and Kostelecký, Jan (2011) “Chinese tombs oriented by a compass: Evidence from paleomagnetic changes versus the age of tombs,” Studia Geophysica et Geodaetica, Vol. 55, pp 159–174.

Liritzis, Ioannis, and Vassiliou, Helen (2006) “Were Greek temples oriented towards aurorae?” Astronomy & Geophysics, Vol. 47, Issue. 2.

Richer, Jean (1994) Sacred Geography of the Ancient Greeks, State University of New York Press, Albany.

The Echo of an Earlier Civilization in Northern Europe

The 5th Century BCE Greek poet Pindar wrote of a mythical place called Hyperborea – a place “that lay behind cold Boreas of bleak and frozen breath.” – a place that was unreachable:

“Of the fairest glories that mortals may attain, to him is given to sail to the furthest bound. Yet neither ship nor marching feet may find the wondrous way to the gatherings of the Hyperborean people.”

According to the 2nd Century CE Greek poet Aelian the Hyperboreans were giants in stature:

“The race of the Hyperboreans and the honors there paid to Apollo are sung of by poets and are celebrated by historians…This god [Apollo] has as priests the sons of Boreas (the North Wind) and Khione (snow), three in number, brothers by birth, and six cubits [9 feet] in height.”

The 1st Century CE Roman scholar Pliny the Elder believed that Hyperborea was a real place north of the Ripaean Mountains, known today at the Carpathians, which extend across Central Europe. 

Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Placemark denotes the location of the polygonal wall aligned to the Hudson bay pole (magenta) and Crete (orange).

Greek Temples

Two sites in Greece may provide clues as to the location of Hyperborea. Jean Richer (2007) argued that the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, which is oriented in a northwest direction, references two important directions – one southeast toward the island of Crete, which is the birthplace of Zeus and the origin of all of the Greek gods, and the other northwest in the direction of Hyperborea. The Temple of Hera at Samothrace is similarly aligned in a northwest direction with “symbolic north” directed toward Mt.Haemus (Balkan Mountains), beyond which the Greeks believed was the realm of Hyperborea.

The supporting polygonal wall of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi.

The original temple dedicated to Apollo at Delphi is thought to have been built in the 7th century BCE. Today’s temple is roughly in alignment with the summer solstice sunrise. A careful examination of the site reveals other geometrical alignments. The polygonal wall below the temple and behind the Stoa (Portico) of the Athenians, which is made of polygonal stones similar to “cyclopean” walls found both in Europe and other parts of the world, is at a right angle to the direction of the Hudson Bay pole. So too is the orientation of the amphitheater. The opposing direction points directly toward the Cave of Zeus on Crete.

Geometry of the Hudson Bay Pole Shift

If references to Hyperborea are in the direction of the former North Pole in Hudson Bay, then from the point of view of the Greeks, when the pole shifted from Hudson Bay to its current location, certain parts of Europe, most notably those in northeast Europe which were at a lower latitude and more temperate in climate would have been shifted northward into the Arctic Circle. These places could thus be interpreted as now being “beyond north” and unreachable in the sense that they had existed at a different time in a previous age but are now gone as a result of the resulting cataclysm.

Kuyva geoglyph similar to the Atacoma giant in Chile is located on the Kola Peninsula in northwestern Russia.

An Anomaly in Northern France

Could the last pole shift have destroyed a civilization that had existed northward from the Carpathian Mountains to Scandinavia and west to the British Isles and east to Siberia, and if so is there any evidence of its existence? A search for archaeological ruins in this area aligned to the former pole revealed little evidence other than a few curious features on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea, and a geoglyph facing north-northwest on the side of a mountain in the middle of the Kola Peninsula.

Thousands of menhirs at Carnac appear to be aligned in the direction of Paris.

Moving on to megalithic sites in Scandinavia and continuing west to the British Isles, and then south to mainland Europe more than a dozen sites were found that appeared to be aligned to a geo-location in or near modern-day Paris. The oldest sites (late Neolithic) were not oriented in directions that coincide with celestial directions such as solstice sunrise/sunset and lunar standstill moonrise/moonset. However, later sites (Bronze Age onward) were oriented both in celestial directions and toward Paris. (Click here to read the paper.)

Paris alignments include 5 late Neolithic and 10 Bronze age sites that appear to reference a geolocation in or near modern-day Paris.

Before the advent of radiocarbon dating, archaeologists believed that the megalithic tradition in Europe had spread westward from the Near East. Based on a statistical analysis of thousands of radiocarbon-dated samples from megalithic sites across Europe Schulz Paulsson (2019) concluded that the megalithic phenomenon in Europe originated independently in northwest France during the fifth millennium BCE.

The concept of the “omphalos” or center is referenced by ancient civilizations and religious/spiritual traditions in the context of sacred stones that are kept in places of importance. Examples include the Omphalos of Delphi, the Black Stone in the Kaaba at Mecca, and others. Richer (2007) believed that Greek oracles including the Temple of Apollo at Delphi were aligned to specific locations, one being Mt. Ida on the island of Crete, which was thought to have been the birthplace of Zeus. The city of Cuzco, which translates as “navel” in Quechua, is the point of origin of radial lines called “ceques” that emanate from the city in all directions (Farrington 2018).

That sites up to 1000 km distant point toward a location in a region that was also an independent place of origin of the megalithic tradition in Europe is an interesting coincidence. 

From Myth to Prehistory

Certain passages in Plato’s two dialogs that discuss Atlantis are often overlooked because they discuss Athens in the context of its war with Atlantis. What is significant in these passages is that that they refer to the existence of an earlier civilization, perhaps referencing the “Heroic Age” of Greece. From Timeus:

“…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.”

We learn a little more from Critias

“For when there were any survivors, as I have already said, they were men who dwelt in the mountains; and they were ignorant of the art of writing, and had heard only the names of the chiefs of the land, but very little about their actions.”

Although there do not appear to be any archaeological ruins (i.e., megalithic sites) in northern Europe that are in alignment with the Hudson Bay pole it is possible that what had existed in this part of the world was destroyed by the ensuing cataclysm. A plausible explanation for the emergence of the megalithic phenomena is northern Europe and the alignment of ancient sites to a place that is now Paris is that the memory of a previous (prehistoric) civilization persisted for some time after its destruction. It is hypothesized that this civilization could have been the Hyperboreans of Greek myth and the ancient Athenians mentioned in Plato’s two dialogs.

A 4th Century CE mosaic of Polyphemus from the Villa del Casale, Piazza Armerina, Sicily. It has been suggested that the Cyclops were not one-eyed monsters but enlightened spiritual beings with a highly developed third eye, which is thought to be the seat of the soul in some spiritual traditions.

These myths may provide a prehistoric context not only for Hyperboreans but for other mythical creatures such as the Cyclops. Richard Cassaro suggests that the Cyclops,  who are were also thought to have been giants, might have been the builders of numerous megalithic structures in Europe whose origins are unknown or uncertain.

References

Farrington, Ian (2018). The Oxford Handbook of the Incas, (Sonia Alconini and R. Alan Covey, eds.) Oxford University Press.

Richer, Jean (1994) Sacred Geography of the Ancient Greeks, State University of New York Press, Albany.

Schulz Paulsson, B. (2019) “Radiocarbon dates and Bayesian modeling support maritime diffusion model for megaliths in Europe,” Proceedings National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 116, No. 9. (http:// www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1813268116).

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.