The oldest solar observatory in America has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status and dubbed “a masterpiece of human creative genius.”
The 2,300-year-old archaeological ruin of Chankillo, located in a desert valley in northern Peru, was one of 13 new global sites added to the list of cultural monuments.
Thirteen towers that line a ridge are the best-known feature of the ancient site dating between 250 and 200 BC. C. The towers functioned as a calendar using the arcs of sunrise and sunset to mark not only the equinoxes and solstices, but even to define the precise time of the year in one or two days. The site also includes an imposing triple-walled hilltop complex known as the Fortified Temple nestled in the arid landscape of the Casma River Valley.
Ivan Ghezzi, the director of the Chankillo program, told The Guardian that while he was “really overwhelmed” by the recognition, he was not surprised that the UN agency found Chankillo worthy of being included on the list.
“It is the only observatory in the ancient world that we know of that is a complete annual solar calendar,” said Ghezzi, an archaeologist who has studied and worked at the site for two decades.
“The  the towers are positioned in such a way that they precisely coincide with the movement of the sun throughout the seasonal year from two very well defined vantage points, ”he said. “This is unparalleled anywhere in the Americas or the world.”
“The ancient civilizations of Peru practiced the most sophisticated astronomy of the time,” he added.
The World Monuments Fund has been working with the Peruvian government and other organizations to protect the site for more than a decade.
“Its importance was relatively unknown, its deterioration was not addressed and protections were almost non-existent,” said Bénédicte de Montlaur, president and CEO of the fund.
“[This] The announcement marks the progress of so many who worked tirelessly to safeguard this extraordinary heritage as the heritage of all humanity. “
Archaeologists believe that the site was probably abandoned in the early 1st century AD and was largely forgotten until the 19th century.th century. No human remains have been found in the ruins and little is known about the culture.
“We know that it was built in a time of great conflict, great social struggle,” said Ghezzi, explaining that he believed that the Chankillo society was the product of a process of “balkanization” after the collapse of the even older Chavín culture.
Chankillo is the third Peruvian site to be added to the Unesco world heritage list this century. The status was granted to Qhapaq Ñan, a vast Inca road system in 2014, and to Caral, the oldest city in America, in 2009.