Children watch as a rider drives a camera-equipped tricycle around a temple at the Chichen Itza archaeological site in the Mexico's Yucatan state. Imagery from the tricycle trip has been incorporated into Google Street View.
Google is expanding its Street View offerings to include dozens of 360-degree photo tours of ancient Mexican monuments such as Teotihuacan, Chichen Itza and Palenque.
The additions are aimed at helping Mexico "open a window to the world, to encourage physical visits to the pre-Hispanic sites and thus in turn benefit cultural tourism," Miguel Angel Alva, director of marketing for Google Mexico, said this week in an announcement from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, or INAH.
Google collected the all-around views by having riders pedal camera-equipped tricycles around the Mexican sites, with INAH's cooperation. INAH said the photo project started two years ago. Thirty sites have been added to Google Street View so far, with the aim of having more than 80 sites online by the end of the year. Eventually, all 189 of the archaeological sites under INAH's custody will be cataloged, the institute said.
The virtual tours highlight some of Mexico's best-known monuments:
- Chichen Itza's El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulkan, a Maya pyramid built more than a millennium ago. Some researchers say the temple's staircase was designed to create a "feathered serpent" shadow during the spring and autumn equinoxes, and can also produce quetzal-bird echoes when you clap your hands at just the right spot.
- Teotihuacan, the monumental city that was founded by a mysterious pre-Aztec culture and reached its height somewhere between 100 B.C. and the year 750.
- Tulum, a Maya walled city on the Yucatan Peninsula's Caribbean coast that dates back to the 13th century and was still occupied when the Spanish arrived in the early 16th century. Today the well-preserved ruins are the middle of a modern-day resort area.
- Palenque, an important Maya site in the Mexican state of Chiapas that reached its peak in the 7th century. Last year, the remote-controlled exploration of a 1,500-year-old tomb at the Palenque site made headlines.
- Uxmal, a city that flourished during the Classic Maya period and is now a popular tourist attraction. Among its best-known ruins are the Pyramid of the Magician and the Governor's Palace.
Update for 4:45 p.m. ET Aug. 18: Keir Clarke has put together this longer list of links to Google Street View panoramas of Mexican archaeological sites over at Google Maps Mania. If you've found more, please pass them along in your comments on Keir's blog (and right here as well, OK?).
More from Google Street View:
- Google tours NASA's Kennedy Space Center
- Take a Death Valley drive with the click of a mouse
- Google Street View goes undersea
- Google view of Amazon (the real Amazon) now live
Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.