If the Cehtzuc structure was indeed built to mark the southernmost Venus rise, the reason for the small offset between the actual rise point and where the planet crosses the sightline, I must postulate, could be the weather. My predawn observations were always impacted by haze and radiation fog, the latter formed by a combination of high humidity and a calm, clear sky. At about 4 AM under those conditions, the temperature plunges through the dewpoint, producing obscuration ranging from a light haze to a dense fog on the horizon. Regardless of its severity, the reality is that most rising objects--even those as brilliant as Venus--don't become visible until they exit the layer. This occurs once the object reaches at least two degrees of altitude and very often higher.
One of the major lessons learned has to center on having determined that early morning atmospheric extinction needs to be considered in interpreting building orientations relative to sighting
Accounts also indicate the Yucatán climate hasn't changed significantly in the last 1,000 years or so, and this is particularly true in sites as far away from urban areas as Uxmal. Chances are the ancient Maya might have been subject to the same problem I'd experienced.
But was it really a problem? The mist-enshrouded early-morning horizon seen from a promontory like the Palace of the Governor appears as the shoreline of an endless ocean. This view is very similar to a Mayan cosmological construct where the edge of the world meets an infinite sea, which in turn, constitutes the surface of Xibalbá, the Underworld. Like other rising celestial objects, Venus emerges from this mysterious realm to sail across the sky. Could it be that my perspective of this brilliant traveler surging free from shadowy darkness was the very one sought and shared by priest-astronomers more than a millennium before?
Apart from interpretation, observation, and calculation, a philosophical and--upon reflection--most rewarding reality remains: my perspective was also solitary. The January 1997 occurrence of the southernmost Venus rise was no secret among Maya scholars and countless others. But in the end, the computation, the planning, the journeying, and finally witnessing the unfolding of this event turned out to belong to me and me alone. And this highlights the delightful fact that highly personal, deeply tangible contact with a culture perhaps long-vanished, but whose knowledge survives, still remains eminently available.
Consider that, of billions of people on this planet, one and only one found himself sufficiently compelled to actually be there and record this event. I sincerely hope my ancient predecessors appreciate my efforts as much as I appreciate theirs. Now that this expedition is complete and I've had time to analyze the data, view the photographs, and share their accomplishments with the world, I think they do.
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Of course no truly serious Mayanist would dare operate a computer without replacing its cursor arrow with this one.
This .cur file is made from a photo I shot of a soffit stone I encountered in the jungle near Chichén Itzá. It appeared to have precisely the right shape. To get and use it, simply click on the image and download the tiny Zip file to your machine. This file (it's less than 3 kbytes) unzips with the name "mayan.cur." Move it into your Cursors folder (in your C:\Windows folder) then, in your machine's Control Panel folder, select the "Mouse" file. Choose the "Pointers" tab, then click on the "Browse" button. Locate the mayan.cur arrow and select it, then click the "Apply" button and you're done.
Web page: www.ridgenet.net/~n6tst
E-mail: n6tst--then the "at" symbol--ridgenet.net. (Note: As a result of the unavoidable nuisance now posed by spammers and their automated Web page-scanning, e-mail address-collecting software, I can no longer use the conventional email@example.com address format [humorously, that aforementioned e-mail address-collecting software will likely find my "firstname.lastname@example.org" address example, harvest it, and try to send spam to it. Ha!]).
Web page: www.ridgenet.net/~n6tst