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Watching the sun for 2,300 years

The remains of what may have been the oldest astronomy observation site in the Southern Hemisphere have been discovered on the Pacific coast, in a valley near the city of Chincha Altana, about 200 kilometers from Lima, Peru. The site was found by researchers from the University of California and the French Institute for Andean Studies, based in Peru. Built 2,300 years ago by the Paracas people, predecessors of the culture that produced the famous lines of Nazca, the architectural-astronomical complex occupied an area of 40 square kilometers. It included 71 linear geoglyphs (drawings excavated into the soil), man-made ceremonial mounds, and dwellings (PNAS, May 20, 2014). The buildings were used in rituals and served as reference points for trade routes and for celestial observation, given their orientation towards the sunrise during the winter solstice.