The sacred buildings of the ancient world point to the highly developed intelligence of the civilizations that constructed them. Awe-inspiring structures such as Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt were created without draft animals, shaped by stone tools, and utilized advanced concepts of design, architecture, and engineering. Even today archaeologists and researchers are unclear on how ancient people could have been capable of building such magnificent structures.
Melissa Hiebert of World Mysteries states: “From Egypt to Mexico, there is no doubt that past civilizations were involved in incredibly complex space calculations, mathematics and architectural endeavors … The precise and sometimes puzzling orientation of the ancient structures can be explained by understanding that their primary function was to serve as observation platforms for priests working with the calendar. The stone structures were perfectly constructed for predicting and sighting a wide variety of astronomical alignments including the solstices and procession of the equinoxes.”
Venerated by those who built them, many of these sacred sites are filled with the energies of the people’s religious and spiritual traditions, as well as the spirits of their gods and ancestors. Anthropologist Martin Gray writes: “Certain sites have the miraculous ability to heal the body, enlighten the mind, increase creativity, develop psychic abilities and awaken the soul to a knowing of its true purpose in life.”
Mr. Gray has noted twelve characteristics of sacred ancient sites that contribute to a feeling of great power or energy for people who visit there. Some of these characteristics include: Geophysical characteristics of the land; visual beauty of the location; visual beauty of the structures; sacred geometry used in the structures; the intent of the builders of ceremonial structures; and the presence of accumulated energy from centuries of ceremonial activity at the location.
Read on to learn more details about some of the most beloved ancient sacred sites.
Machu Picchu, Peru
This ancient wonder is believed to have been used by the Incas as a secret ceremonial city. Set on a mountain top in the Andes at 7,942 feet elevation, it is invisible from below and completely self-contained. The Incas surrounded the city with agricultural terraces sufficient for feeding the population. Palaces, baths, temples, storage rooms, and houses were carved from the mountain top. According to Martin Gray, “Many of the building blocks weigh 50 tons or more yet are so precisely sculpted and fitted together with such exactitude that the mortarless joints will not permit the insertion of even a thin knife blade.”
The Inihuatana Stone, or “Hitching Post of the Sun,” aligns with the sun on the equinoxes. At midday on the spring equinox and autumn equinox, the sun stands almost directly above the stone, and thus creates no shadow around the stone. Inca shaman legends state that when a sensitive person touches their forehead to the Intihuatana stone, it opens their vision to the spirit world.
The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt
This structure was specifically constructed to align with the sun, moon, and stars. Its four faces are aligned with the cardinal directions, so that the Eastern and Western-facing sides pinpoint the rising and setting sun on the equinoxes. In addition, the three pyramids at Giza match the spacing and alignment of the stars in Orion’s belt with great precision.
The Great Pyramid has a central descending passageway that aligned exactly with the North Star at the time of ancient Egypt, Alpha Draconis/Thuban, at midnight on the autumn equinox in the years 3350 B.C. and 2170 B.C. More recently, on the autumn equinox in the year 2004 A.D., our current North Star, Polaris, aligned with the central passageway so precisely that its light shone all the way down to the subterranean pit at the bottom of the passageway.
It is a complete mystery how the 2,300,000 limestone and granite blocks that comprise the Great Pyramid were cut and put into place. The copper and bronze tools available at that time were not hard enough to cut through the stones used in the pyramid. It is not known how the blocks were transported to up to 500-foot heights, completely by hand, using only the strength of humans, and without damaging the corners or edges of the stone blocks.
Stonehenge is located on the Salisbury Plain in Southern England. It includes an outer circle of thirty upright stones, each weighing 26 tons, with thirty stones of 6 tons perched on top of each one. There is also an inner circle made of similarly-sized stones. It was erected many miles from the quarry from which the stones were taken. The construction date is estimated to be between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago, and it was probably completed in phases during this span of time. It is still unknown who built Stonehenge or exactly how the stones were moved and set into place.
Each year on the summer solstice, the sun aligns exactly with the gigantic heel stone of Stonehenge. In this way, Stonehenge probably served as a calendar for the ancient peoples of Southern England, marking the summer solstice as the first day of their year, and indicating the seasons, equinoxes and winter solstice by the positioning of the sun against the stones throughout the year.
Chichen Itza, Mexico
The pyramid El Castillo, at the sacred site of Chichen Itza in Mexico, was constructed in dedication to the feathered serpent Kulkulcan. It has ninety-one steps on each of its four sides. There are ninety-one days between each solstice and equinox in the year. So each side represents the number of days in one season, and they sum to 364 steps on all four sides. Counting the top platform as an additional step results in a total of 365 steps, equal to the number of days in the year.
During the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun casts undulating shadows alongside the steps. Along the staircase that faces north, this creates seven triangles of light that line up with a serpent head at the base. As the sun sets on the equinoxes, the triangles move slowly up or down the pyramid, creating the effect of the serpent ascending (spring) or descending (autumn) the pyramid.
Kailasa or Kailasanatha Temple, India
Ellora is an archaeological site in Maharashtra, India that is well-known for representing the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. Its structures were carved out of the mountainsides between the 5th century and 10th century B.C. Ellora includes thirty-four cave structures, carved from the vertical face of the Charanandri Hills, that were a mixture of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain temples and monasteries. The fact that these caves representing the different religions we all built in close proximity to one another demonstrates the religious harmony present at this point in Indian history.
The Kailasa Temple is the unrivaled centerpiece of Ellora. It is a Hindu temple chiseled from the top-down from a single solid rock. It contains the largest cantilevered rock ceiling in the world, and it still stands intact. Its construction is estimated to have required the removal of 200,000 tons of rock, and most likely took 7,000 laborers 150 years to complete. It has a huge courtyard that is open to the sky, and features many elaborate and detailed sculptures and carvings.
Looking to the Ancients for Guidance in the Modern World
When we consider the advanced nature of these ancient buildings and structures, it is clear that the people who lived long ago possessed great power and intelligence. Their lives were closely aligned with celestial and seasonal events.
Today more than ever before, we need to consider the wisdom of indigenous and ancient people, who maintain a harmony with the land and with nature that modern society would do well to emulate.
Join with the Pachamama Alliance and support our work with the indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest. We are working to empower the people of the Amazon to preserve and protect their sacred home, a vast rainforest that is truly the lungs of the planet. Pachamama Alliance looks to the wisdom of indigenous people all around the Earth for guidance in bringing forth the more environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just world that our hearts know is possible.
Featured image by Walterssk