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Proceedings Paper

Xochicalco: Tlayohualchieliztli or camera obscura
Author(s): A. Cornejo-Rodríguez; S. Vázquez-Montiel; F. Granados-Agustín; D. Gale; R. Diamant; R. Espinasa-Perena; J. L. Cruz; M. Fernández-Guasti
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Paper Abstract

Xochicalco is an archaeological site located in the state of Morelos in central Mexico. It flourished from 600 to 900 a.d. with numerous multicultural elements. There are several underground rooms carved into the hillside In particular, a room with a shaft that has a hole in the roof whose orientation towards the zenith supports its astronomical purpose. Our hypothesis is that the place was used as a tlayohualchieliztli or camera obscura for astronomical observations. This would be the first evidence of a pre-columbian image forming device. To explore the feasibility of this assertion, the conditions required to produce an image were studied. The aperture diameter in the top of the shaft is far too large to be used as a "pinhole" but it may have been covered with a screen containing a smaller bore-hole. We work out the optimum aperture size. The portion of the sky that could be observed due to the orientation of the shaft was also undertaken. The two most intense celestial objects should produce bright enough images thus suggesting that observation of the sun took place during day-time and observation of the moon during night-time. Amate paper or cloth could have been used to directly draw the position of celestial objects.

Paper Details

Date Published: 3 November 2011
PDF: 13 pages
Proc. SPIE 8011, 22nd Congress of the International Commission for Optics: Light for the Development of the World, 80119O (3 November 2011); doi: 10.1117/12.903281
Show Author Affiliations
A. Cornejo-Rodríguez, Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (Mexico)
S. Vázquez-Montiel, Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (Mexico)
F. Granados-Agustín, Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (Mexico)
D. Gale, Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (Mexico)
R. Diamant, Univ. Autónoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa (Mexico)
R. Espinasa-Perena, Univ. Nacional Autónoma de México (Mexico)
J. L. Cruz, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (Mexico)
M. Fernández-Guasti, Univ. Autónoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa (Mexico)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8011:
22nd Congress of the International Commission for Optics: Light for the Development of the World

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