Ancient observatories - from space
May 8, 2006 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Ancient observatories from space Satellite images of Angkor Wat, Chichen Itza, Chaco Canyon, Stonehenge, Teotihuacan, and others. The observers, observed. High res images available.
posted by carter (22 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hey! I can see my house from here!
posted by devbrain at 10:45 AM on May 8, 2006

That is pretty neat. It offers another perspective on these places which adds to how amazing they are. It is inconceivable to me that these ancient building projects of such scale and geometry were thought of and implemented.
posted by dios at 10:45 AM on May 8, 2006

I'm with these guys ^

It's a cool idea, but could have been executed better. I've looked at a few so far, and just can't figure out what the hell I'm looking at
posted by poppo at 10:52 AM on May 8, 2006

b1tr0t - there's 3000x3000 images available for download.
posted by carter at 10:56 AM on May 8, 2006

Wow. This must be what these places look like to the "people" who built them.

posted by brundlefly at 11:14 AM on May 8, 2006

This is cool. I was surprised that the Jaipur Observatory wasn't mentioned, but maybe that's not ancient enough. Or not big enough. I'll see if I can find it on Google Earth.
posted by nylon at 11:23 AM on May 8, 2006

Looks great at 1024x768.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 11:26 AM on May 8, 2006

This would have been cool a year ago...

"Your favorite space photo sucks!"

Thanks for posting this, carter—it's really nice to see these views.
posted by languagehat at 11:36 AM on May 8, 2006

The decriptive texts are really interesting. I like the pyramid that has a shadow of a snake slither down it two times per year.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:43 AM on May 8, 2006

I've been to five of them (Angkor Wat, Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Dzibilchaltun, Teotihuacan). It's really cool to see them from this perspective. For a real perspective of how big the Angkor complex is, pan around in the larger area. That's a three mile square walled city just north of it, and a huge man-made lake (perfectly rectangular) to the west of it.
posted by Xoc at 12:13 PM on May 8, 2006

No doubt many of these sites have some astronomical alignment but to be calling them "observatories" stretches the meaning of that word beyond recognition. "Archaeoastronomers" have repeatedly taken simple, empirically-easy to calculate alignments in such sites and retrodicted a lot of modernist baggage onto them. The relationship these have to calendrical systems, for example, is usually that they track events figured out by other means, not that they were used in any meaningful way to predict events or to make observations. It is a very slippery slope between these kinds of statements and von Daniken-style quasi-racist nuttiness.
posted by Rumple at 2:10 PM on May 8, 2006

Building J on Monte Albán? I guess the jury is still out on that one. Pretty cool though.
posted by lazymonster at 2:20 PM on May 8, 2006

I had no idea Stonehenge is that close to a highway (at least it looks pretty close). I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
posted by Pacheco at 2:27 PM on May 8, 2006

For a major archaeological site, Stonehenge is a surprisingly tacky place to visit. There were plans for years to put the road through a tunnel for a mile or so, but I think they got shelved because of cost.
posted by carter at 2:37 PM on May 8, 2006

The Stonehenge tunnel was very controversial because it was going to be a "cut and cover" construction and would have obliterated a swath of the archaeological landscape around the main monument. A bored tunnel was extremely expensive.

Even the tunnel was controversial as many archaeologists (and some neo-pagan types) said that just knowing there was a tunnel under your feet would ruin the stonehenge ambience or sense of being that surrounds the place.

And yes, the road is a national disgrace.

Good summary here.
posted by Rumple at 2:52 PM on May 8, 2006

Off-topic, but related: Aerial-Imaging Becoming Indispensable Tool.
posted by ericb at 2:55 PM on May 8, 2006

Stonehenge gets all the press but Ireland's Newgrange (part of the Brú na Bóinne complex) and Scotland's Stones of Stenness are older and, IMHO, cooler. Stonehenge's trilithon arrangement is basically a romantic Victorian anachronism.

It's humbling to think that hundreds of years before Egypt's pyramids and a thousand years before the classic Stonehenge, people in the snowy wastes of northern Europe were assembling these huge megaliths. Given the scarce population, limited agricultural technology, and the frigid post-Holocene Climate Optimum conditions, it's amazing that they both cared so much to invest such resources in their creation and were able to accomplish so much. And we have no really good idea who they were or what they thought. Other than it was critically important to find some way to mark the seasons and to protect that investment. Then again, around 3800 BCE people were building pre-fabricated roads, so there was obviously quite an advanced economy, so I am not surprised that what probably started out as simple wooden devices were elaborated into vast, defensible megaliths.
posted by meehawl at 7:02 PM on May 8, 2006

Sorry, for Stenness include Maeshowe. They were obviously all part of the same vast observational complex and power base.
posted by meehawl at 7:06 PM on May 8, 2006

Thanks carter, that was cool.
posted by peacay at 9:06 PM on May 8, 2006

I've been to five of them

Let's see... Abu Simbel, Angkor Wat, Chichen Itza, Stonehenge, Teotihuacan, Uxmal. Six here! :)

Gotta be snarky & point out that Abu Simbel is a bit of a falsification, considering that it was moved when the Egyptians flooded its original location under the waters of the Aswan Dam.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:23 AM on May 9, 2006

Despite the image quality and/or the interface, this is quite interesting for the list alone. Also the descriptions. Nice post.

Hovenweep, which looks like nothing from the air, is one of my favorite places in the U.S. A great setting — even after they paved the road in — and still inexpensive to visit.

Sorry, for Stenness include Maeshowe.

Maeshowe is just the burial mound. The Ring of Brodgar would be considered the 'observatory.' It's also a henge. (Having seen Stennis and Stonehenge as well, I found Brodgar the most interesting of the three, and in the best setting.)

Fans of Stonehenge might not realize there once was a Woodhenge (also a Seahenge), which of course rotted away over the centuries. (Note to those of you planning to build your own giant 'observatory' — use something durable.)
posted by LeLiLo at 7:58 AM on May 9, 2006

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