Friday, 27 January 2017

1,000-year-old Native American structure was designed using sophisticated math

Sherry Towers

A millennium ago, the Pueblo peoples were constructing incredible monuments and cities throughout the US Southwest. Among the most impressive structures they left behind is called the Sun Temple, in what is now Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park. Probably the location for meetings and ceremonies, the Sun Temple is an enormous D-shaped building with walls that were once 11-15 feet high. Now, an applied mathematician has discovered something intriguing about the proportions used to lay out the temple and its internal structures.

Physicist Sherry Towers is part of the Mathematical, Computational, and Modeling Sciences Group at Arizona State University, and she occasionally takes time away from physics to focus on the way mathematical patterns shape the social world. She got interested in the Sun Temple site because many archaeologists believe its structure might reveal whether the Pueblo peoples were using it for astronomy. But as Towers pored over satellite images of the area from Google Maps, the Sun Temple's general shape kept drawing her attention. "I noticed in my site survey that the same measurements kept popping up over and over again," she said in a release. "When I saw that the layout of the site's key features also involved many geometrical shapes, I decided to take a closer look."

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