Ancient Aztec Map of Universe Found on Mexican Volcano

Thursday, 04 January 2018 - 11:17AM
Space Imagery
Science News
Thursday, 04 January 2018 - 11:17AM
Ancient Aztec Map of Universe Found on Mexican Volcano
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Image credit: Pixabay
While our modern ability to shoot rockets into space and beam photos of distant planets back to Earth might make us feel like we have a pretty good understanding of the universe, it's worth remembering that humanity has been studying the stars, and contemplating their origins, for thousands of years.

An archeological dig site inside a volcano in Mexico is a testament to this—a team of excavators believes they've uncovered an ancient map of the universe, as it was understood by its Aztec creators.

While the "tetzacualco" stone sanctuary hasn't been uncovered in its entirety, from the description that's been provided by archeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), this probably looked utterly breathtaking in its heyday.

Apparently, the stones that make up the various navigational points within the universe in this map have been placed in a small, secluded pool of still water, which reflects up the image of the sky above, making it appear that the stones are all floating in nothingness. This, apparently, is important to the Aztec creation myth, and their idea of the early universe being made up of small pockets of land that float independently in the great waters of the universe.

According to archeologist Iris del Rocio Hernandez Bautista:

Opening quote
"These visual effects, in addition to the characteristics of the elements that make up the site and the relationship they have with each other, make us suppose that Nahualac could represent a microcosm that evokes the primitive waters and the beginning of the mythical time-space."
Closing quote

It's very easy to scoff at the beliefs of people from a less scientifically enlightened age of humanity, ruling out their understanding of the universe as relying too heavily on guesswork and speculation.

That said, it's important for us all to remember that our own knowledge of space and time is very limited—there seems to be a constant influx of data about the universe in which we live which contradicts everything we currently understand, and the more we learn, the more we realize that we know almost nothing about the great, big, expanse of stars and planets that exists beyond the boundaries of our own planet.

Indeed, when considered in the right way, the view of the universe as proposed by this Aztec shrine isn't all that different from our understanding of space.

If we take each stone to represent a star, or even a galaxy, floating endlessly in a sea of inky blackness, it's worth giving the sanctuary's creators the benefit of the doubt.

The vernacular we use to describe the universe may change with our growing understanding and research, but ultimately, the ancient Aztec belief that worlds are created floating in empty nothingness is a good way to describe the way that stars are born, form planets, and swirl in orbit around each other.

Perhaps in millennia to come, when our own civilization has faded into history, some future race will come across our crude sketches of the universe as we understand it, and they'll similarly smile at our quaint, limited idea of what constitutes the magnitude of creation.

The tetzacualco sanctuary is a good reminder that across the entire history of our species, we've always been trying to find our place, and to come to terms with what surrounds us.

Maybe we're getting closer to fully understanding the universe, but we've still got a long way to go.
Space Imagery
Science News