History

Aztec Astronomy

Aztec Astronomy


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The Aztec civilization emerged from the 10th century. Its maximum splendor was obtained between the 14th and 16th centuries, in which I occupy from the current central region of Mexico to part of Guatemala.

The Aztecs not only developed astronomy and the calendar, but also studied and developed meteorology, as a logical consequence of the application of their knowledge to facilitate their agricultural work.

Astronomy exerted such an influence on Aztec culture that most of its traditions were based on the behavior of stars and planets.

The representation of heaven (male) and Earth (female) were determined by Ometecuhtli and Omecíhuatl, respectively. The ages in Aztec cosmology are defined by suns, whose end was marked by cataclysms.

The first Sun, Nahui-Oceloti (Jaguar) was a world populated by giants, which was destroyed by jaguars. The second Sun, Nahui-Ehécati (Wind) was destroyed by a hurricane. The third sun, Nahuiquiahuitl, by a rain of fire. The fourth Sun, Nahui-Ati (water) was destroyed by a flood. And the fifth, Nahui-Ollin (movement) is destined to disappear by Earth movements.

The Aztec calendar, or Piedra del Sol, is the oldest monolith that is preserved from pre-Hispanic culture. It is believed that it was sculpted around the year 1479. It is a circular monolith with four concentric circles. In the center the face of Tonatiuh (Sun God) is distinguished, adorned with Jade and holding a knife in the mouth.

The four suns or earlier ages are represented by square-shaped figures that flank the fifth sun, in the center. The outer circle consists of 20 areas that represent the days of each of the 18 months of the Aztec calendar.

As the sum of 360 days, to complete the 365 days of the solar year the Aztecs incorporated 5 unfortunate days, called Nemontemi or "days of sacrifice."

For the Aztecs, the succession of day and night was explained by the constant struggles between the main stars. Since during the day it is very difficult to observe the Moon and impossible to the stars, the Aztecs interpreted that the rising sun (Huitzilopochtli) killed the Moon (Coyolxauhqui) and the stars.

For the Aztecs, astronomy was very important, since it was part of religion. They built observatories that allowed them to make very precise observations, to the point that they accurately measured the synodic revolutions of the Sun, the Moon and the planets Venus and Mars.

Another great astronomical advance of the Aztec civilization was the prediction of solar and lunar eclipses, as well as the passage of comets and shooting stars.

The nobles and priests performed the tasks of celestial observation according to nocturnal rituals that allowed them to define their calendars. The temples were high places to follow the departure and setting of the stars.

Like almost all ancient peoples, the Aztecs grouped the bright stars into apparent associations (constellations). The comets were called "the smoking stars."

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