Ancestors and the sun: astronomy, architecture and culture at Chaco Canyon

Munro, Andrew M., and Malville, J. McKim (2011) Ancestors and the sun: astronomy, architecture and culture at Chaco Canyon. In: Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union (11) pp. 255-264. From: Oxford IX International Symposium on Archaeoastronomy, 5-14 January 2011, Lima, Peru.

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Abstract

Three architectural traditions with astronomical associations have been identified among the 'Great Houses' and 'Great Kivas' of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Great Houses and one Great Kiva built during the height of construction activity (AD 1020-1100), the Bonito Phase, include front-facing south-southeast (SSE) orientations, and cardinal north-south and/or east-west (NS/EW) alignments. We present ethnographic material supporting our previous proposal that the SSE orientation is probably linked to migration traditions and ancestor veneration. We also confirm that a majority of Late Bonito Phase Great Houses (built after A.D. 1100) exhibit a. third astronomical tradition: five of the principal in-canyon Great Houses built at that time were positioned at or near observing locations that could have functioned as solstice calendrical stations. Through use of these locations for public ceremonies, the Chacoan elite could demonstrate astronomical knowledge and ritual power. These findings provide support for Van Dyke's hypothesis that construction during this period was intended to reinvigorate a faltering system. One 'Chaco halo' Great House, Bis sa'ani, incorporates all three traditions. We suggest that temporal analysis of these traditions improves understanding of migration paths and shifting balances of power and social dominance among ancestral Pueblo culture groups.

Item ID: 22648
Item Type: Conference Item (Research - E1)
ISSN: 1743-9221
Keywords: Chaco Canyon, Great House, cardinal NS/EW alignment, SSE orientation, solstice calendrical station
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2012 09:20
FoR Codes: 02 PHYSICAL SCIENCES > 0201 Astronomical and Space Sciences > 020199 Astronomical and Space Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 30%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210199 Archaeology not elsewhere classified @ 40%
22 PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES > 2202 History and Philosophy of Specific Fields > 220206 History and Philosophy of Science (incl Non-historical Philosophy of Science) @ 30%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950506 Understanding the Past of the Americas @ 100%
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