Kukulcan, The Snake that appears at the Equinox
It's now March. And we start on a very special day, at a very special place, this is the great Pyramid in Chichen Itza an ancient Mayan city in Mexico. Built 1500 years ago, the city is one of the world's great archaeological sites. And it contains a remarkable insight into our journey through space.
The ancient Maya have developed a deep understanding of the Earth's movement around the sun, and they built it into the very fabric of this city. But it's something that can only be seen at two very precise and magical times of the year.
One of those days is today, March the 20th. As afternoon approaches, the city fills of followers of Mayan beliefs, and those curious to see a millennia-old wonder. There is a unique and particular feature of our planet as it orbits the sun and its encoded in the way that light and stone interactive at the great Pyramid.
This is the moment that all these thousands of people have been waiting for, they've all stood up and there are hands raised to welcome in the sun, and it's now aligned perfectly on the edge of the steps here, creating this very specific pattern of light and shade which resembles the body of a snake.
Kukulcan - Mayan Snake
And that's no coincidence because it joins up with a carved snake's head at the bottom of the pyramid. The Maya believe that the snake known as Kukulcan, was a messenger between gods and man. This is a remarkable display of Mayan architectural design. The appearance of this snake isn't an accident, they absolutely planned it and it happens on the same day every year. This is the spring equinox.
So, more than 1000 years ago the Maya recognise equinox as a pivotal moment in the year and they were able to align this pyramid with the sun's annual progress, causing the snake to appear each equinox.