A couple of weeks ago, we observed a “Lunar Eclipse”. Because this year is when the moon is in its minor “Lunar Standstill” (refer to article on Lunar Standstill at Chimney Rock), it was the shortest Lunar Eclipse for many years. Because of the nature of the Moon’s and the Earth’s planes of orbit, an eclipse is an irregular event, that is, it appears to happen randomly.
The civilization that inhabited the canyon in central New Mexico known as “Chaco Canyon” was indeed a “phenomenon”. Despite extensive archaeological study, there is little known of the society or the people that lived there. It seems to defy fitting into a known political and/or ritual society. As Lynne Sebastian, director of historic preservation programs at the SRI Foundation, puts it, “The extraordinary archaeological record of this society indicates both a strong political structure and an intense emphasis on ritual.”
During the month, the moon rises at different points across the eastern horizon. When it reaches the farthest point north it pauses, or rises in the same spot for a couple of days, and then reverses course. This pause is called a “Lunar Standstill”. The same thing happens two weeks later at its farthest point south. You may have noticed that the sun does the same thing, but it takes the sun a year to move from its farthest point north (Summer Solstice) to its farthest point south (Winter Solstice) and back again. At each solstice, the sun pauses before reversing course and this is called a Solar Standstill. [refer to last week’s article: Native American Skies: Lunar Standstill]
When the Ancestral Puebloan People, popularly known as the Anasazi, Left their magnificent pueblos in Chaco Canyon and throughout New Mexico and Cliff Dwellings in Mesa Verde, Colorado these incredible palace-like structures lay dormant for over seven-hundred years. The descendants of these people kept the ancient places sacred in their hearts, memories and stories but never returned.
So, when ranchers, explorers, and archaeologists “discovered” the ruins of these grand houses they were a great mystery to be investigated and in some cases plundered. The earliest reference to ancient “ruins” was made by Don Juan Maria de Rivera on an expedition ordered by New Mexico Governor Tomas Velez Cachupin in 1765. But the reference was vague and no detail provided.
Aztec ruins in New Mexico? Were the Aztec ruins really built by the Aztecs? No, the Aztec ruins in northern New Mexico were built by the Ancestral Puebloan people, but early settlers thought they must be Aztec buildings and the name stuck.
This week I want to share my recent visit to Aztec Ruins National Monument with you. It is an amazing archaeological site, a friendly and easily accessible National Monument, and an important historical landmark with a wonderful story. Aztec Ruins National Monument is located on Ruins Road about ½ mile north of New Mexico Highway 516, in the City of Aztec, New Mexico near Farmington and Durango, Colorado.