Kim Malville

Kim Malville

Kim Malville

profile: Prof. J. McKim Malville was the first to predict, and then photograph major northern lunar standstill moonrise in the gap between the chimneys as seen from the Chimney Rock Greathouse in 1988.  In 1997 he was a member of the team that revealed the world’s oldest known megalithic astronomy at Nabta Playa near Abu Simbel in southern Egypt, earlier than Stonehenge by more than a millennium. In 2003 he was involved in the rediscovery of the sun temple of Llactapata, previously lost in a cloud forest near the site of Machu Piccu. In 2010 he received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the Conference for Archaeoastronomy in the American Southwest, (CAASW). Kim received his BS in physics from Caltech and his Ph.D in radio astronomy and solar physics from the University of Colorado. He has taught and engaged in research at the Universities of Michigan, Colorado, Oslo, and Sao Paulo.

He is presently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado, Adjunct Professor of Astronomy in the Center for Astronmoy of James Cook University, Queensland, Australia, and Tutor at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Sophia Center for the Study for Cosmology in Culture, Lampeter, UK.

First presentation: “Climate Change, Nomadic Pastoralism and Astronomy at Nabta Playa, Southern Egypt”

Second presentation: “Calendars and Pilgrimage Centers of the Inca”

First abstract: The Megalithic ceremonial center of Nabta Playa in the Sahara west of Abu Simbel was built sometime after 7500 BP following a short but deep period of aridity. The evolution of the complexity of the ceremonial center appears to have been driven by climate change as the nomads adjusted to increasingly arid conditions. Ritual activity appears first in the Valley of Sacrifices, which contains human and cattle burials and a stone circle, one of the earliest known, with alignments to north-south and the June solstice sunrise. These directions reveal two major elements in the life of the nomads: 1.) north was necessary for navigation across the desert, and 2.) June solstice was the time of the arrival of monsoon rains. Based on modern Saharan shamanic practices, it is possible that the circle may have been a focus for rainmaking ritual, in that the Valley of Sacrifices is formed by the wadi that brought water into Nabta Playa during the rainy season.

To the south of the Valley of Sacrifices there are 30 complex megalithic structures built in the Terminal Neolithic, starting about 6500 BP. The largest of these structures is the focal point for five megalithic rows of standing stones, each of which may have been aligned to the brightest stars of the local sky. Three alignments that are to the rising of the star, Arcturus, appear to have changed over time, appearing to display evidence of precession.  The megalithic rows have multiple meanings. The individual stones have humanoid shapes and may represent the spirits of nomads who died while in transit. Although the rows are aligned to the stars, the stones face north. Nabta Playa provides another example, like Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, of a complex center developed by nomads or hunter gatherers that skipped agriculture, permanent villages and other signs of sedentism, such as a religio-political hierarchy.

Second Abstract: Shamanic transcendence is a major theme of Andean Cosmology involving movement between the three worlds of the cosmos. And Huacas (shrines) and Ushnus (ceremonial platforms) were ever present elements of Andean Cosmology extending back to Chavin de Huantar, (ca. 1500BC – 300AD) and even earlier to Caral (2700 BC). All of known instances of Inca astronomy are associated with Huaca sanctuaries that appear to have been state supported pilgrimage centers. Except for Sondor, all these monuments mark June solstice sunrise or sunset. Sondor marks sunrise on the day of the Zenith Sun.

Machu Picchu is a prime example of a pilgrimage center. Its characteristic features are stone-lined channels and magnificent carved rocks, which appear to display belief in the transformative properties of the sun, water and corn beer. The so-called Sun Temple of Machu Picchu, or Torreon, was probably not a place for an observer to look outward, but a place for the sun to look inward and touch the carved Huaca in its center. Machu Picchu’s Temple of the Condor, is the place which marks sunrise on the day of the anti-zenith sun. The June solstice can be viewed from Machu Picchu’s ceremonial center in two ways: by direct observation of sunrise over Cerro San Gabriel, or by reflected light from the double-jamb doorway of Llactapacta’s sun temple, 5 km. to the southwest – which receives sunlight 36 minutes before the Torreon.

Since these pilgrimage centers were designed to demonstrate to assembled crowds the special connection between the Inca, and the Sun, they were not places for correcting the calendar. In Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, the Ceque system contained 328 Huacas, each corresponding to one day of the lunar sidereal year, consisting of 12 sidereal months, as elaborated by Zuidema. The Huacas of this walk-through calendar were honored on their own special days of this year, and were organized along 41 or 42 processional lines, called Ceques, radiating from the capital.

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