Weather Fundamentals

Early Weather History

Did the ancient Mayans study the weather

Many people are familiar with the Mayans’ interest in calendars and astronomy, but they were also fascinated by the weather. Sometime between 1200 and 1400 C.E. they constructed a lighthouse in what is now Cozumel, Mexico, called the “Tumba del Caracol.” The Mayans put candles in the lighthouse, which served the traditional function of warning ships that they were close to land. In addition, at the top of this lighthouse, the clever Mayans strategically placed a variety of seashells. Depending on wind speed and direction, the shells would whistle at different pitches. Depending on which shells were whistling and at what pitch—and their knowledge of what conditions produced storms—the Mayans are said to have been able to predict storms approaching from the Caribbean.


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