Christopher Powell: “Sundials and Stage Lighting: Archaeoastronomical Observations at Palenque”

Please join us at the SCAS General Meeting on Thursday, April 16 for a talk by Christopher Powell titled “Sundials and Stage Lighting: Archaeoastronomical Observations at Palenque.” The meeting will be held at 7:30 pm at the Sesnon House at Cabrillo College.

This presentation highlights the results of archaeoastronomical observations and research at Palenque, a Classic Period Maya ceremonial center in Chiapas, Mexico, carried out by a small group of researchers including Powell between the years 1998 and 2012. Preliminary results of this study were published in the Archaeoastronomy Journal in 2007 and in the book, Archaeoastronomy in the New World: American Primitive Astronomy in 2009. Because the temples and pyramids at Palenque are some of the best preserved—with roofs, doorways, windows and original stucco still intact—they were able document some sophisticated and intricate interactions of sunlight, shadow, and these structures at the precise moments of sunrises and sets on the principal solar stations of the year. We observed and documented what are apparently two distinct types of these phenomena: discreet sundial-like effects in relatively private spaces; and effects that were designed to stage-light actors and architectural settings during public ceremonies

Trained as an archaeologist and anthropologist, Christopher Powell directed excavations and restoration efforts at Classic Period Maya ceremonial centers in Mexico and Honduras.  He also conducted ethnographic investigations among the Maya in remote communities, documenting ceremonies and the use of measuring cords by Maya shamans to incorporate a ritualized system of geometry into the designs of their houses and works of art.  In his PhD dissertation, he demonstrated that these same formulae were used by the Classic Period Maya to design their magnificent temples and the transcendent works of art that adorned them.  Over these last several years his research and teaching interests developed to include multicultural investigations of the history of mathematics, geometry (with an emphasis on their expressions in the arts), cosmology, material symbol systems, and archaeoastronomy.

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