After leaving Albuquerque we (Bob and Ellie) embarked on a very bumpy ride to Chaco Canyon. The canyon started out as a lively trading post hosting 50-100 year-round residents with seasonal guests constantly flowing in and out. The 700 room, four floor building, Pueblo Bonito, was built and rebuilt by the Chacoans using different masonry styles from 900-1130 A.D. The picture below shows part of Pueblo Bonito with some information about the cultural significance of the site. We got to look around the inside of the building even going inside a mostly intact room within the Pueblo. None of our photos could capture the sheer size of the building or its overwhelming presence in the canyon.
The Chacoans left many markers of their civilizations including canyon walls filled with petroglyphs. The picture below shows spirals and other drawings on the bottom right corner and faint pictures of corn near the left. More than half of the petroglyphs found at Chaco are spirals including the spiral on Fajada Butte. The spiral on the butte marks equinoxes using three large rocks to channel the sun into certain places. No one is allowed up on the Butte anymore because of the damaged caused to the site by erosion from foot traffic that broke the system carefully set up by the Chacoans. The Butte is only one instance of the large presence of astronomy in the canyon. The central wall running through the Pueblo is almost exactly lined up with the North/South axis. The petroglyph trail leads directly to Chetro Ketl from Pueblo Bonito, another great structure built by the Chacoans.
One of the marks of Chacoan culture is the round religious rooms called Kivas. Ellie is standing in front of one of the 36 original Kivas in Pueblo Bonito with much of the building behind her in the picture below. The greatest of the great Kivas in Chaco Canyon is a part of Casa Rinconada and also has markers suggestive of great astronomical knowledge. One of the Kivas in Casa Rinconada was three stories and another had an underground entrance. The entire canyon was awe inspiring.
Above is a picture of Bob standing at a sort of look out point above Pueblo Bonito. In the bottom-left portion of this picture you can see large rocks that fell onto the ruins in the ’40s. This rock was aptly named Threatening Rock. The Chacoans knew this rock would fall at some point and they built a support structure for it and placed prayer sticks there to keep it from falling on their home. No one knows exactly why the Chacoans left however it is assumed by many that they simply migrated to another place, as was typical in the culture. We took with us our sunburns and memories and left only our footprints behind.
Today we are doing three math circles at Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington, NM. More pictures of Chaco Canyon and the rest of our trip will be posted on Flickr as soon as possible.
Information and statistics about Chaco Canyon found in Chaco Astronomy by Anna Sofaer et al.