Archaeoastronomy

William Gadoury used the position of a constellation to identify the location of a possible Maya city where an anomaly, shown above in a satellite image, was observed. Further study on the ground is required to determine the nature of this feature. IMAGE COURTESY OF ARMAND LAROCQUE via NATGEO

We have shared stories about Mayans, and especially the archaeological questions surrounding them, before; and also discussed the modern region that was once the civilization’s stronghold more recently. And although we missed the original news covering this interesting hypothetical discovery by a Canadian teenager, his recent interview with NatGeo brought the aspiring “archaeoastronomer’s” ideas to light, and we certainly hope Mr. Gadoury is right about the undiscovered settlement. Below, the first reporting by National Geographic, on May 11 of this year:

For gee-whiz value, the announcement has been hard to beat: A Canadian teenager discovers a lost Maya city without even stepping foot in the Central American jungle.

Unfortunately, this “discovery” appears to be the well-intentioned, albeit faulty, result of modern Western education colliding with an ancient civilization that saw the world in a very different way.

According to the original news report, 15-year-old William Gadoury correlated more than 20 Maya constellations against a map of known Maya cities. The cities lined up perfectly with the star map, with the exception of a “missing” settlement in a constellation that includes the sites of Calakmul and El Mirador.

Gadoury pinpointed the location of the potential site in Campeche, Mexico by using its corresponding star. An analysis of satellite imagery from the location, performed by Armand LaRocque, an honorary research associate at the University of New Brunswick, allegedly revealed a pyramid and dozens of buildings.

While LaRocque identified anomalies in the satellite imagery, he says he did not conclusively interpret them as man-made features and adds that additional study is required.

The “discovery” of the site, which Gadoury has named K’aak Chi, or “Mouth of Fire,” has been subsequentlydismissed by several scholars.

Gadoury has not responded to interview requests. [Click here for the new interview]

Imposing Western Maps on Maya Landscapes

To Anthony Aveni, an astronomer and anthropologist who is widely considered the “father of archaeoastronomy,” trying to impose a one-to-one correspondence between a modern star map and a large number of ancient man-made features—whether it’s Maya cities or the Nazca Lines— is simply an act of creative imagination.

“The idea of a map as we know it, as a scaled representation of geographic reality, is a modern Western concept,” says Aveni, who adds that the cosmos is “certainly involved” in patterning how we build things on earth, but not to the degree of precision claimed by Gadoury.

In addition, while we know that the Maya recognized 13 zodiacal constellations, there are several different theories on what they represent and even how they’re arranged, he adds.

“It’s an interesting Western fantasy… we tend to look at these modern star maps and see things in the way we might see patterns in clouds,” says Aveni, who cautions that he can’t “close the door” on Gadoury’s hypothesis until he sees the complete data.

Read the rest of the original article here.

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