The Atacama Elders' Vision of the Cosmos

13 March 2013

While the construction of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) on the Chajnantor Plateau was in progress another remarkable project was developing in the San Pedro de Atacama area in the Chilean Andes. This was an ethnological research project aiming to reconstruct the traditional vision of the Universe of the inhabitants of the local communities.

On the occasion of the observatory’s inauguration today, Wednesday 13 March 2013, a booklet will be presented unveiling some of the results of this project through the voices of the key protagonists. This document describes the origin, evolution and some of the highlights of this important project for ALMA and the Atacameño community that hosts it.

This work was carried out in collaboration with the R. P. Gustavo Le Paige, S. J. Museum of the Universidad Católica del Norte and a group of local researchers. Its aim was to facilitate access to, and bring, the Universe of the elders closer to the Atacameño community, and show astronomers and the younger generation how the local indigenous people observed and lived with the skies before this state-of-the-art observatory arrived. Their work has yielded a fascinating audiovisual record, with a total of 45 in-depth interviews and more than 6000 photographs, in addition to detailed field notes.

In the preface the ALMA Director, Thijs de Graauw, expressed his gratitude for the hospitality of the local communities, “We present this book to them as a sign of respect and gratitude to those who have welcomed us and allow us to observe the skies from a privileged and exceptional place.

According to project coordinators Cristina Garrido and Flora Vilches, “The book that will result from this research is an invitation to discover and observe the Atacama sky and hopefully protect it from our increasing tendency to stay in our homes, in cyberspace or under artificial lighting, a tendency that has gradually eroded our interest in the night sky and its manifestations.”



Lars Lindberg Christensen
ESO education and Public Outreach Department
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
Cell: +49 173 3872 621

About the Announcement



Cover of booklet describing Atacama elders' vision of the cosmos
Cover of booklet describing Atacama elders' vision of the cosmos