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Chankillo, Peru — An Ancient Solar Observatory

In the desert along the coast of Peru sits an incredible ancient stone complex called Chankillo.

Chankillo is comprised of a massive stone temple and several other stone buildings, with one of its most intriguing features being thirteen large stone towers that have been discovered to mark out the path of the sun throughout the year.

The Thirteen Towers of Chankillo that mark out the path of the sun. By Juancito28Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Its possible astronomical significance was originally mentioned in the 1940s by Thor Heyerdahl in his book The Kon-Tiki Expedition, and in 2007 Archaeologist Ivan Ghezzi and Archaeoastronomer Clive Ruggles brought this discovery to life through their research.

They found that on the winter solstice, (being in the southern hemisphere the winter solstice is June 21) the sun travels between each of the towers as it moves along its annual path, climbing up the towers and ending outside of the last tower on the summer solstice on December 21.

After the summer solstice, the sun heads back down through the towers and ends again at the winter solstice.

The towers follow the horizon running along a north-south line and were built to have a slight bend at the southernmost point. Each tower had stairs on either side, making it possible to walk up and down through each one along the line of towers. Ghezzi observed that many of the steps may have been too steep to climb, and suggested they were for “ritual, rather than practical importance.”1

Remarkably, the thirteen stone towers still align to the path of the sun (within a couple of days) even today.

In this episode of the BBC program Wonders of the Universe with Brian Cox, there are some stunning shots of the sun coming up between the towers:

Interestingly, nearby the towers is another stone building named by archaeologists as the Western Observation Point. Along the side of this building runs a 40 meter long corridor that leads to an opening which Ghezzi believes was designed intentionally to have no door, since it lacks “barholds – niches where a stone pin could be tied firmly into the masonry, presumably for attaching supports for a door.”2

At the end of the corridor there is a perfect and unobstructed view of the thirteen towers, making it an incredible spot to watch the sunrise during the solstices.

Ghezzi writes, “excavations around the opening have revealed a concentration of offerings of ritually smashed pottery, shell, and lithics scattered at floor level, confirming that significant elements of ritual were involved in the process of passing through the corridor and standing at its end to observe the towers.”3

Several other structures could view the sun’s journey along the towers from different vantage points, which according to Ghezzi, were built taking into account the solar alignments of the towers and the path of the sun during the solstices.

An aerial shot of Chankillo – creator: NASA — Image copyright www.geoeye.com/ GeoEye /SIME.

The building to the east of the towers, (called the storage complex/administrative building) for example, has only one entrance. Ghezzi and Ruggles discovered that the southernmost tower, “tower thirteen,” aligns to the setting sun on the winter solstice on June 21st when viewed from that entrance.4

Similarly, they found that the sun could be seen descending over and setting just to the left of the temple from the viewpoint of the observation buildings below. They also found that the main axis of the temple was built in alignment with the summer solstice.

Here is a video about Chankillo featuring Ivan Ghezzi:

Sadly, like many communities who were practicing the religion of the sun, it seems as if the people who built Chankillo disappeared abruptly. Ghezzi suggests there is even evidence that this was due to some violent conflict from an outside power and that there is archaeological evidence to suggest that Chankillo was purposefully buried and damaged.

He says, “excavations have clearly revealed the intentional destruction of the inner temple and its religious images, followed by its entombment beneath a thick layer of rock and debris.”5


  1. Chankillo, Ivan Ghezzi and Clive L. N. Ruggles, p. 811  

  2. Ibid.  

  3. Chankillo, Ivan Ghezzi and Clive L. N. Ruggles, p. 818  

  4. Chankillo, Ivan Ghezzi and Clive L. N. Ruggles, p. 815  

  5. Ghezzi I (2006) Religious warfare at Chankillo. In: Isbell W, Silverman H (eds) Andean archae-ology III. Springer, New York, pp 67–84  

About the author

Vida Norris

Vida Norris is a writer and researcher who contributes to the SpiritualSun.com. With a background in permaculture design and landscaping, Vida has a deep interest in the ancient civilizations who practiced the Religion of the Sun and how they lived sustainably and with seemingly higher consciousness and interest in spirituality. She explores ancient sacred sites and pores over ancient texts, with the hope of bringing back the relevance of the Religion of the Sun to those interested in spirituality today.

16 Comments

  • That was a very inspiring and interesting video, you can feel what it would be like to be there ,a very sacred and special place , Thank you for sharing this information.
    Carmel

  • What a find Vida. Thanks for sharing. It feels like a very peaceful place to be at, and as the BBC presenter Brian Cox pointed out, you could almost feel the presence of the past, as though witnessing the event with thousands of citizens who have also come down to see the magnificent and moving alignments. The site seems simple, but also very intricate once you really take in the entire observatory.

  • Wow, I was wondering while watching the video how it had come to be buried — whether it was just a natural process of weathering after it had been abandoned or it was deliberate. Thankfully there is something left of the towers and the complex despite the apparent effort to blot it out.

    The alignments are really beautiful, something about all the towers lining up in such an expanded way across the horizon is intriguing. It strikes me as the kind of site that would be especially nice to explore in person given that it’s lesser known and quiet. Seems like you could really contemplate the movement of the sun there.

  • That site is pretty amazing – I haven’t seen anything like it before. I wonder what the significance of the pottery at the viewing point is.

  • It’s wonderful that, like the videos say, someone today can still behold a fairly similar sight as the ancient people of Chankillo did at sunrise. That the site still functions basically. I’m quite impressed that many ancient sites stand the test of time pretty well.

    Again it makes me want to have a time machine. 🙂 Because many of the remnants of these structures are inspiring, but to have been there in the times those cultures were thriving, during a solstice sunrise ceremony for example would have been quite another thing. It seems amazing and I can imagine why something of this energy can still be felt in many ancient sites around the world.

    It’s quite an opportunity presented through the Path of the Spiritual Sun book by Belsebuub, to be able to experience the solstices and equinoxes again in their deeper meaning.

    Good to hear that this site was put on the list and made into a project to conserve and study it btw.

  • What an interesting site. Reminds me a bit of Kokino in Macedonia in function.

    I really liked seeing the sun through the “towers” in the first video, especially in such a serene environment. It felt “special” even just watching it in the video, so can imagine how great it would be to be there in person at dawn.

    I wonder why they call them “towers” though? Are they shafts that go down somewhere? They seem more like small “mounds” to me 🙂

  • Another sacred site that aligns to the sun!

    I found it very interesting that Mr Cox’s comments that the sun was “almost certainly a deity, almost certainly their god” (2:57), and yet ironically his voice is clearly showing reverence and awe in response the phenomenon of sunrise.

    • Yes, it’s inspiring footage isn’t it, and it was nice to see the genuine awe he felt when watching the sunrise at this sacred site.

      I wonder if there is some other symbolic significance to the 13 towers.

      Thanks for sharing this beautiful site with us Vida; I’ve not seen one like this before, it’s design seems really unique.

      • I could also perceive the genuine admiration the presenter showed for this site, it was a pleasant surprise, especially for mainstream media. It made me wonder if such research is on the rise…

  • This is incredible and very inspiring information.

    I really hope that Solstices and Equinoxes ceremonies can one day soon flourish all over our planet. Spiritual Sun wisdom is deeply needed in my life and I think that all of humanity should have the opportunity to make the same choice that I’ve chosen.

    Thanks Vida, great find.

  • That is such an interesting discovery!

    I really enjoyed the videos and i felt heartened by what Ivan says in the second about the fact that this is more than a simple relic; it is a living, breathi9mg monument that still prr6forms the task it set out to do from thousands of years ago.

    Despite its simple appearance it feels profound.

    Thank you for sharing!!

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