Feb
08
2009

What is the serpent shadow at El Castillo pyramid every equinox?

Equinox at Chichen Itza - courtesy sputnikrent - CC-BY

Equinox at Chichen Itza - courtesy sputnikrent - CC-BY

Here we have another of those mysteries associated with El Castillo, the largest pyramid at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan in Mexico.

In another article, we have already covered the fact that the pyramid chirps like a bird.

On the spring and fall equinox of every year, the sun’s shadow moves down the pyramid’s stairway to form the shape of a giant snake. The Maya believed that this represented Kukulkán (the Plumed Serpent) descending from heaven with a message that the planting or harvesting season has arrived.

Each year thousands gather to watch this event.  In the photo at the beginning of this article, the serpent is on the shaded side of the pyramid and the humps on Kukulkan’s back are just beginning to form.  At its peak, the shadow forms a series of serpentine humps and ends at the large stone serpent head found at the bottom of the steps.

If you click on the photo at the top of this article and go to the original, move your mouse over the shaded side of the pyramid where you will find an interactive box providing a bit of explanation.

Photos, computer models and animations (currently not working) of the serpent shadow at its peak can be found on this website.

For more information about Maya civilization (please note, “Maya” is the name of the civilization, “Mayan” is correctly used only as the name of their language.)

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  Need research? Quezi's researchers can answer your questions at uclue.com

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