Chankillo, Peru


An ancient astronomical observatory

Expedition Overview
In 2010 CyArk partnered with Christofori und Partner to assist World Monuments Fund and the Institute for Regional Archaeological Research (IDARQ)'s conservation efforts on site. World Monuments Fund added Chankillo to the World Monuments Watch list in 2010 to raise awareness around the site and begin conservation efforts on its monumental architectural features. The site has been slowly eroding due to strong winds, humidity, temperature fluctuations and earthquakes. During the field expedition, CyArk was able to document most of the site, including the Fortress, the Thirteen Towers, the Western Observing Point, the Eastern Observing Point, the Administrative Complex, and the Geoglyphs.  The team utilized a Leica C10 and a Leica HDS 6000 to complete the documentation.
Introducing Chankillo
Chankillo was built as a fortified temple complex over 2,300 years ago in the coastal desert of Peru, near the Casma-Sechín river basin. Since the 19th Century Chankillo was thought to have been a defensive site, perplexing archaeologists and historians. Its coastal desert setting and architectural plan did not correlate with other sites known in the region. More recent work on the site has revealed that Chankillo was in fact an ancient observatory and temple and may actually be the earliest known astronomical observatory in the Americas. Archaeologists know little about the culture that constructed the site that covers an impressively large area. The site is split into three sectors. Sector 1 is marked by the Fortified Temple an oval-shaped building which is oriented to the winter solstice sunrise. Sector 2 is made up of a ceremonial area with Thirteen Towers or elevated buildings, spaced every 5m. Finally Sector 3 was a public area composed of a plaza surrounded by buildings. 
The Thirteen Towers
The Thirteen Towers are a series of thirteen elevated buildings, spaced every 5m, that are accessible by a staircases on the north and south sides. The towers along the horizon corresponds very closely to the range of movement of the rising and setting positions of the Sun over the year. Simulations conducted by researchers have shown that when looking from the observation deck within the fort on June 21 the sun would have risen on the same alignment with the northernmost tower while on December 21 the sun would have risen on the same alignment with the southernmost tower.  Further, through the different seasons the shadows of the fort would have pointed to the south or north according to the different seasons. All of this evidence suggest that the towers were used for solar observation, and would have been extremely important in the scheduling of various agricultural activities. 

Summary of Data Captured

This project resulted in the following data.

Areas with LiDAR documentation are indicated in grey.

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Credits: Story

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This project was made possible through the following partners:

El Instituto de Investigaciones Arqueológicas Regionales

Ingenieurbüro Christofori & Partner

World Monuments Fund

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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