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Kukulcan movie - short version, wmv3 codec

Animated movie of the shadows on Kukulcan's Pyramid.

If you can't see the movie, check the following:
  • Do you have a recent player? Though I hate to advertise, Microsoft's Windows Media Player is probably the best player for this movie. It can be downloaded from the internet for free, try Microsoft's homepage.
  • There's a good chance that you don't have the proper codec. You need the wmv3 (windows media video 9) codec for this movie, download it here (free).
  • Try seeing the movie compressed with the mpg4 codec (520 kB).

  • Go to my "3D Stuff and Animations" site for an email address, and other movies.
  • This same Kukulcan movie, but compressed with the mpg4, version 1 codec (520 kB).
  • Full length version, wmv3 codec (590 kB) of my Kukulcan movie, with more camera movement, and a bit of an overview of the area.
  • The full length version, with the mpg4 codec (2.6 MB).

  • Background on this movie:

    Eric and I visited Mexico in the fall of 2004, and one of the ruined Mayan cities we visited was Chichen Itza, in the Yucatan. Chichen Itza is largely known for its large pyramid, named El Castillo (the castle), or Kukulcan's Pyramid, after the god it was (probably) built to honor. Kukulcan is also known as the Feathered Serpent, or man-bird-snake, or Quetzalcoatl (in the Aztec language), I believe; the man had a huge impact.

    Kukulcan's Pyramid is well-known for the shadow effects along the sides of its northern staircase. These effects are only visible on certain days of the year, close to the spring and fall equinoxes, and attract crowds of visitors. For example, on September 6th (just before the fall equinox), between 5 and 5:30 PM, the setting sun projects a row of triangles of light on the northern staircase. Archeologists believe that Kukulcan's Pyramid was built to predict the solstices and equinoxes, to signal the planting and harvesting seasons.

    If you're interested, the field that deals with archeological buildings that were built with astronomical meaning is referred to as archaeoastronomy. A few examples of sites with more information on the archaeoastronomy of Chichen Itza are:
  • El Castillo site, with lots of information on the shadows, temple dimensions and technical info, and a basic animation.
  • Mesoamerican Archaeoastronomy: A Review of Contemporary Understandings of Prehispanic Astronomic Knowledge
  • Chichen Itza: A Guide to Finding Resources (lots of links)
  • The Carnegie Map (highly detailed maps of Chichen Itza)
  • Chichen Itza page
  • Mayaweb (information on the Maya)
  • Erik Dierkx' 3D animation of Kukulcan
  • Photographs of the shadow phenomenon, stuck together to form a stop motion movie

    Please note that my animation is just that: an animated movie. I drew it. I can make the shadows go wherever I want them to. However, I have tried my best to approximate the true situation as well as I could. The pyramid has the correct orientation w.r.t. due north, and I used a "sunlight system" (that's a tool used in my 3D program to simulate the position of the sun in the sky) based at the correct longitude and latitude of Chichen Itza. I set the sun at 4:30 pm (at the start of the movie) on the 21st of march, 2004. The shadows are ray-traced. The movie took 5 days to render, using a 3-PC render farm.

    The animated movie should give a pretty good impression of the real thing. If you don't believe me, check out this site, where other Chichen Itza visitors show a movie made by pasting together a series of photographs.