Mar 052015

Earth-Moon declinationsIn any given month, the rising moon swings between two extremes on the eastern horizon, similar to the oscillation of the rising sun during the year.  When the moon reaches its maximum northern or southern declination, it has a “standstill” similar to the sun at summer and winter solstices.  The standstills could be said to be the moon’s equivalence to the Solar Solstices.  [for details on lunar standstills, refer to Native American Skies: Lunar Standstills]

Jul 042013

This week’s article can be viewed as a video [click here]

Casa Rinconada

Casa Rinconada

The mystery to me is, “Why here?”  Casa Rinconado is the largest and most elaborate great kiva built by the Chacoan Culture.  The other great kivas comparable to Casa Rinconada are in Great House plazas, but not this one.  This Great Kiva was constructed across Chaco Wash; across the canyon valley from the major great houses amongst smaller, poorly constructed villages probably occupied by plebeian workers and farmers.  And yet its size, beauty and accommodations were fit for royalty.

It was constructed atop a natural hillside and the imposing architecture of this great kiva dominated the view from the smaller villages and the valley.  A segment of Chacoan road connected Casa Rinconada to Pueblo Bonito.  So, was it built for the poor villagers or did the ellite cross regally on the grand road across the creek to attend glorious ceremonies?

Jun 272013
Chetro Ketl original colonnades are filled in

Chetro Ketl
original colonnades are filled in

Mayans in New Mexico? In the Chaco Culture National Historical Park there is a Great House built by the ancestral Puebloan culture that is a glaring example of the influence of the Mayan culture. If you look closely at the front wall facing the plaza at Chetro Ketl, you can see that it “was originally built as a row of masonry columns which once held horizontal timbers to support a roof over an open cloister-like porch.” This quote is from the guide book provided by the NHP. It goes on to say, “Sometime later the spaces between the columns were filled with masonry to completely close the passageway.” And later the area was divided further into smaller rooms.

Nov 152012
First of all, what is archaeoastronomy?  It is the study of how the ancients studied or used astronomy.   The position of the stars in the night sky; the movement of the sun across the horizon throughout the year; the movement of the Moon across the horizon on its eighteen-nineteen year cycle; were all studied and recorded and used by the ancients as their celestial calendar.   Knowledge of these cycles helped the ancients to know when to plant their crops, or migrate, celebrate their religious holidays, and many other important events during the year.
In the heart of New Mexico there is an arid canyon called Chaco Canyon that was once the center of the Anasazi culture.  In this canyon stands an ominous butte called Fajada (fa-ha-da) Butte.  Atop this huge 450 ft-high formation are three large sandstone slabs that lean up against the southern wall.  On the wall behind these huge stones, the Anasazi astronomers chiseled two large spirals.   At noon every day the sun shines between the stones and casts shaft(s) of light across the spirals.  Popularly called “daggers of light”, the dagger materialize before noon in the upper left of the spiral and then spread across the spiral to project a “dagger” covering the spiral and then clears off the spiral top to bottom.   It is an amazing, almost magical occurrence.
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