Chankillo is inscribed on the World Heritage List
The prehistoric solar observatory and ceremonial centre at Chankillo in Peru, including its famous thirteen towers, has been inscribed on the World Heritage List at the 44th (2021) session of the World Heritage Committee, held in Fuzhou, China, and on-line.
What has been hailed as the oldest solar observatory in the Americas is the second case study on this portal to have been inscribed on the World Heritage List in the last three years, following the successful inscrption of Risco Caído and the sacred mountains of Gran Canaria (Spain) in 2019. While that cultural landscape contained two important archaeoastronomical sites, Chankillo is the first property on the List to have been inscribed specifically as an “archaeoastronomical complex”.
According to UNESCO’s brief synthesis:
“The Chankillo solar observatory and ceremonial centre is a prehistoric site located on the north-central coast of Peru, in the Casma Valley, comprising a set of constructions in a desert landscape that, together with natural features, functioned as a calendrical instrument, using the sun to define dates throughout the seasonal year.
“The property includes a triple-walled hilltop complex, known as the Fortified Temple, two building complexes called Observatory and Administrative Centre, a line of thirteen cuboidal towers stretching along the ridge of s hill, and the Cerro Mucho Malo that complements the Thirteen Towers as a natural marker.”
Chankillo has been inscribed under criteria (i) and (iv), as follows:
Criterion (i): “Chankillo archaeoastronomical complex is an outstanding example of ancient landscape timekeeping, a practice of ancient civilizations worldwide, which used visible natural or cultural features. Incorporated in the Thirteen Towers, it permitted the time of year to be accurately determined not just on one date but throughout the seasonal year. Unlike architectural alignments upon a single astronomical target found at many ancient sites around the world, the line of towers spans the entire annual solar rising and setting arcs as viewed, respectively, from two distinct observing points, one of which is still clearly visible above ground. The astronomical facilities at Chankillo represent a masterpiece of human creative genius.”
Criterion (iv): “Chankillo was in use for a relatively brief period of time between 250 and 200 BC, during a late phase of the Early Horizon Period (500–200 BC) of Peruvian prehistory, after which it was destroyed and abandoned. The Chankillo Compex is a very particular type of building representing an early stage in the development of native astronomy in the Americas. It shows great innovation by using the solar cycle and an artificial horizon to mark the solstices, the equinoxes, and every other date within the year with a precision of 1–2 days. The solar observatory at Chankillo is thus a testimony of the culmination of a long historical evolution of astronomical practices in the Casma Valley.”