Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Archaeological Evidence Illuminates Inca Sun-Worship Ritual

Date:
September 30, 1998
Source:
University Of Illinois At Chicago
Summary:
University of Illinois at Chicago archaeologist Brian Bauer and colleagues have unearthed artifacts from sites in South America that shed light on how the Inca organized their sun-worship rituals and how they physically kept track of the sun's movements.

University of Illinois at Chicago archaeologist Brian Bauer and colleagues have unearthed artifacts from sites in South America that shed light on how the Inca organized their sun-worship rituals and how they physically kept track of the sun's movements.

Related Articles


According to Bauer, "many scholars of Latin American antiquity believe that the Inca built large stone pillars to record the sun's horizon location at the June and December solstices, but archaeologists had not found physical evidence of the pillars and there had been no detailed investigation into the organization of the solstice rituals" -- until now.

During a survey of pre-Hispanic sites on the Island of the Sun, in Lake Titicaca, Bauer and colleagues David Dearborn of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and graduate student Matthew Seddon of the University of Chicago discovered the remains of two stone pillars. They also found a large platform area just outside the walls of a sanctuary on the island.

Archaeological and astronomical research, which the team presents in the Sept. 24 issue of Latin American Antiquity, suggests the Inca used the site to support the elites' claim to power through elaborate solar rituals, perhaps using two-tiered worship.

In the early 15th century the Inca empire -- the largest state to develop in the Americas -- expanded into the Lake Titicaca region in modern-day Peru and Bolivia and usurped the Island of the Sun from local control. The island and a sacred rock, which locals believed was the birthplace of the sun, had been the focus of worship for centuries, said Bauer. Under the Inca it became one of the most important pilgrimage centers in South America.

"The Inca nobility, as well as members of the general populace, journeyed to the island to worship and make offerings in a sanctuary plaza next to the sacred rock," said Bauer.

The team's research indicates that, on the June solstice, the Inca king and high priests of the empire assembled in a small plaza beside the sacred rock to witness the dramatic setting of the sun between the stone pillars. Their findings also indicate that, as the elites paid homage to the sun from within the sanctuary, lower-class pilgrims observed the event from a second platform outside the sanctuary wall. From the perspective of the lower-class pilgrims, the sun set between the stone pillars and directly over the ruling elite, who called themselves the children of the sun.

"We're proposing that the platform outside the sanctuary walls represents a segregation of the elite and non-elite classes of sun worship," said Bauer. "This adds a new dimension to the practice of the solar cult that was not distinctly recorded in accounts of similar state rituals in the imperial capital, Cusco.

"While both groups participated in solar worship, the non-elites simultaneously offered respect to the sun and the children of that deity. This physical segregation emphasized that the Inca alone had direct access to the powers of the sun," he said.

The researchers illustrate the layout of the Inca structures in a map. The two stone pillars were erected on a natural ridge 600 meters to the northwest of the sacred rock. The plaza adjacent to the sacred rock was rectangular in shape, roughly 80 meters long and 35 meters wide, with the long axis pointing in the direction of the June solstice sunset. A sanctuary wall to the south and east blocked access to the site, which could only be reached through a gate. The secondary plaza, accessible to all pilgrims, was just outside the sanctuary wall and about 250 meters southeast of the sacred rock plaza.

Bauer said the remnants of stone pillars are similar to pillars around Cusco, which were described by several Spanish chroniclers of the 16th century. Those pillars were large enough to be seen against the setting sun at a distance of 15 kilometers. One such set of pillars marked where the sun sets at the June solstice, which is the northernmost point at which the sun crosses the! horizon. Unfortunately, said Bauer, a combination of post-conquest looting and recent urban growth in the Cusco valley has destroyed the area where the Cusco pillars once stood.

Bauer and Dearborn's research on the Island of the Sun is a continuation of their long-standing joint research on Inca astronomy. They are the authors of Astronomy and Empire in the Ancient Andes (University of Texas Press), which examines the origins and organization of Inca astronomy in Cusco.

"The findings from the Island of the Sun is the first discovery and documentation of similar pillars outside the imperial capital of the Inca," said Bauer.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Illinois At Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Illinois At Chicago. "New Archaeological Evidence Illuminates Inca Sun-Worship Ritual." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 September 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/09/980930081949.htm>.
University Of Illinois At Chicago. (1998, September 30). New Archaeological Evidence Illuminates Inca Sun-Worship Ritual. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/09/980930081949.htm
University Of Illinois At Chicago. "New Archaeological Evidence Illuminates Inca Sun-Worship Ritual." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/09/980930081949.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fossil Treasures at Risk in Morocco Desert Town

Fossil Treasures at Risk in Morocco Desert Town

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) Hundreds of archeological jewels in and around the town of 30,000 people prompt geologists and archeologists to call the Erfoud area "the largest open air fossil museum in the world". Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) A 45,000-year-old thighbone is showing when humans and neanderthals may have first interbred and revealing details about our origins. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) You've probably seen some weird-looking dinosaurs, but have you ever seen one this weird? It's worth a look. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins