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A day with no shadow? Explore the Zenith Passage of the Sun

24 May, 2023

The study of archeoastronomy unveils the intimate relationship between ancient civilizations and the celestial realm. Through careful observation and interpretation of celestial events, early cultures developed a profound understanding of the cosmos and its influence on their lives. One such captivating phenomenon is the zenith passage of the sun, which has fascinated researchers, historians, and astronomers alike. In this article, we delve into the enigmatic realm of archeoastronomy, focusing on the zenith passage of the sun and its profound cultural significance across different civilizations.

Archeoastronomical Phenomena: Zenith Passage of the Sun

The zenith passage of the sun refers to the moment when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky directly above an observer. This celestial event occurs twice a year in specific regions, corresponding to the summer and winter solstices, leaving us with no shadows for a couple of minutes. The zenith, which is the point directly overhead, holds immense cultural and spiritual importance in various ancient societies. People often call these the "days without shadows".

This phenomenon can be observed in the vertical structures of the archaeological sites during the last days of the month. When the Sun is at its zenith and for a few minutes, no person, or object will cast a shadow!

Here's a time-lapse video showing how shadows disappear from columns in Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, México during the zenith passage of the Sun.

The Zenith Passage of the Sun in Ancient Civilizations

  1. Ancient Egypt: Unveiling the Mysteries of the Pyramids

    • The Great Pyramid of Giza: A Marvel of Solar Alignment
    • Ritual Significance: The Sun God Ra and the Zenith Passage
    • Cultural Significance: Aligning with Cosmic Forces
  2. Maya Civilization: The Cosmological Splendor of Chichén Itzá

    • El Castillo: The Pyramid of Kukulcan
    • Equinox and Solstice Alignments: Shadow Serpent and Feathered Serpent
    • Spiritual Beliefs and Ritualistic Celebrations
  3. Stonehenge: A Megalithic Wonder of Celestial Alignment

    • Celestial Geometry: Solar Alignments at Stonehenge
    • Worshiping the Sun: Midsummer Sunrise and the Zenith Passage
    • Stonehenge's Astronomical Calendar

Unraveling the Secrets: The Cultural Significance

  1. Calendar Systems and Agricultural Practices

    • Tracking Seasons: Solar Alignments as Agricultural Timelines
    • Harvest Celebrations: Commemorating the Sun's Bounty
    • Cultural Practices: Rituals and Festivals
  2. Spiritual and Cosmological Beliefs

    • Divine Connections: Gods and Goddesses of the Sun
    • Rebirth and Renewal: Symbolism of the Zenith Passage
    • Spiritual Guidance: Aligning with the Cosmos
  3. Architectural Marvels and Urban Planning

    • Temples, Palaces, and Sacred Spaces
    • Urban Layouts: Tracing Sun's Pathways
    • Monuments and Symbolism

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is archeoastronomy?

    • Archeoastronomy is the interdisciplinary study of how ancient cultures observed and interpreted celestial events.
  2. How did ancient civilizations track the zenith passage of the sun?

    • Ancient civilizations used various architectural and astronomical techniques to observe and align with the zenith passage of the sun.
  3. Were all ancient civilizations aware of the zenith passage phenomenon?

    • While not all ancient civilizations were aware of the specific term "zenith passage," many cultures developed astronomical knowledge that included observations of the sun's movements.
  4. What is the significance of the zenith passage of the sun in agricultural practices?

    • The zenith passage helped ancient societies determine the timing of important agricultural activities, such as planting and harvesting.
  5. Did different cultures interpret the zenith passage of the sun in different ways?

    • Yes, different cultures attributed diverse spiritual, cosmological, and ritualistic meanings to the zenith passage of the sun.
  6. How does archeoastronomy contribute to our understanding of ancient civilizations?

    • Archeoastronomy provides valuable insights into the scientific and cultural achievements of ancient civilizations, shedding light on their belief systems, social structures, and technological advancements.


The archaeoastronomical phenomenon of the zenith passage of the sun offers a captivating glimpse into the cultural and scientific achievements of ancient civilizations. Through their meticulous observations and architectural marvels, these societies aligned themselves with cosmic forces, marking important moments in time and celebrating the cyclical nature of life. The study of archeoastronomy allows us to appreciate the profound connection between humanity and the celestial realm, inspiring awe and wonder as we explore the mysteries of the past.

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