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Post by Paulie pchris00 on Feb 2, 2012 13:37:05 GMT -6
Modern astronomical history tells us that Jeremiah Horrocks in England was the first person to observe a Venus transit in 1639. Upon learning the significance of Venus to the Maya at last weekend's workshop, I couldn't help but wonder if they had ever observed a transit. The Mayan records that survived Spanish conquest are four codices (one of which may be fraudulent). These few surviving texts do not indicate that a Venus transit was ever observed by the Maya, but I found this article that suggests maybe Aztec ruler Montezuma did.
Montezuma, the leader of the Aztec people in pre-Columbus Mexico, was a careful observer of the sun, which he used in his divination practices. Venus was a very important celestial body in Aztec mythology as well as Mayan. The Transit of May 25, 1518 AD would have been visible to him at sunset. It is said that a jade figure at the British Museum of the god Quetzalcoatl, an aspect of Venus, wearing the Sun as his neck ornament, is a memorial of this rare event. Since Montezuma and the Aztec civilization were conquered by Cortez in 1520, this would certainly have been an ill-omen of impending doom!
It's not hard evidence, but we tend to view astronomical history from a European point of view. It's really too bad that European conquerors and colonizers destroyed so much of the history of early American peoples. I'd really like to know if in fact Horrocks was the first to observe a Venus transit.