Linking Cave, Mountain, and Sky: A Subterranean Observation Point for the Sunrise on the Day of Solar Zenith Transit in Yucatan, Mexico

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Latin American Antiquity


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In the Maya region scholars have long noted the connection between solar alignments and radial pyramids at sites such as Chickén Itzá, Dzibilchaltún, and Uaxactún. Just. 26.5 km west-southwest of Chichén Itzá, the site of Ikil also contains a massive radial pyramid, known as Structure 1. In May 2011 investigations at Ikil revealed that this pyramid also figures in a solar hierophany-the sunrise over the pyramid's summit on the days of the solar zenith transit. What is unique, however, is that the observation point for this event is situated inside of a cave to the west of the pyramid. In this paper, evidence is presented that suggests the location of Structure 1 was dictated by the orientation of the cave, and that the physical and ceremonial linkage of these two landscape features created the cosmic hub of Ikil. Furthermore, it is argued that ceremonies marking the solar zenith-a day largely ignored in Euro-Christian calendars-would have been enacted by the ruling class as a way to formalize and sanctify the annual rebirth of the agricultural cycle, while publicly displaying their connection to the divine and thus legitimizing their position of high religious and social status.

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