ABOUT THE SOLSTICE PROJECT


The Solstice Project, a non-profit group, was organized in 1978 to study, document, and preserve the remarkable Sun Dagger - a celestial calendar of the ancient Pueblo Indians.  It continues to study other achievements of ancient Southwestern cultures.

At summer solstice in 1977, Anna Sofaer, now president of the Solstice Project, discovered the Sun Dagger on top of Fajada Butte in New Mexico's Chaco Canyon. The calendar marks, with precise light patterns, the summer and winter solstices, the spring and fall equinoxes, and the nineteen year cycle of the moon.

The Solstice Project has presented its research on the Sun Dagger site in several scientific publications, including: Sofaer, A., Zinser, V. & Sinclair, R.M. (1979), "A Unique Solar Marking Construct," Science, 206, pp 283-291; and Sofaer, A., Sinclair, R.M. & Doggett, L.E. (1982), "Lunar Markings on Fajada Butte, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico," Archaeoastronomy in the New World, ed. A.F. Aveni, pp 169-186, Cambridge University Press. The Project produced "The Sun Dagger," an hour-length film documenting the Sun Dagger site, which was narrated by Robert Redford. It was broadcast nation-wide by PBS in 1982-1983 and received numerous awards, including the American Film Festival Blue Ribbon award.

Since discovering the Sun Dagger, Sofaer, Sinclair and the Solstice Project research team documented numerous other solar markings on Fajada Butte that record solar noon, the solstices and the equinoxes; Sofaer, A. & Sinclair, R.M. (1986), "Astronomical Markings at Three Sites on Fajada Butte", Astronomy and Ceremony in Prehistoric Southwest, ed. J. Carlson & W.J. Judge, Maxwell Museum Technical Series, University of New Mexico.

In recent years the Project has conducted extensive research on the major constructions of the Chaco culture throughout the San Juan Basin. From investigations of the Chaco roads, the Project has demonstrated that certain of these roads were probably symbolic expressions of the Chaco culture's cosmology; Sofaer, A., Marshall, M.P. & Sinclair, R.M. (1989), "The Great North Road: A Cosmographic Expression of the Chaco Culture of New Mexico", World Archaeoastronomy, ed. A. Aveni, Cambridge University Press.

With the assistance of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Project conducted a survey of Chaco's primary architecture. This study revealed that the large buildings of the Chaco culture are organized in a complex regional pattern, with astronomical and religious implications; Sofaer, A., Sinclair, R.M., & Williams, R. (1987), "A Regional Pattern in the Architecture of the Chaco Culture of New Mexico and its Astronomical Implications", Bull. Am. Astronomical Society 19. No. 4, pp 1044; and Sofaer, A. (1997), "The Primary Architecture of the Chacoan Culture: A Cosmological Expression", Anasazi Architecture and American Design, University of New Mexico Press.

In addition, the Solstice Project's survey of the large Chaco buildings revealed that they were oriented to the sun and moon; Sofaer, A., Sinclair, R.M., and Donahue, J. (1990), "Solar and Lunar Orientations of the Major Architecture of the Chaco Culture of New Mexico," Proceedings of the Colloquio Internazionale Archaeologia e Astronomia, University of Venice. In studying the internal angles of the Chaco buildings, the Project discovered a solar-lunar geometry; Sofaer, A., (1994), "Chacoan Architecture: A Solar-Lunar Geometry," Time and Astronomy at the Meeting of Two Worlds, University of Warsaw.  One key Chaco building, Pueblo Bonito, appears to be shown in its relationship to the sun in a petroglyph on Fajada Butte; Sofaer, A., (1994), "Pueblo Bonito Petroglyph on Fajada Butte: Solar Aspects," Celestial Seasonings: Connotations of Rock Art, Papers of the 1994 International Rock Art Congress, edited by E.C. Krupp.

With computer graphics programmers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Ohio State University Center for Mapping, the Solstice Project is currently completing an archival model of the Sun Dagger site. The Project also worked with NASA in developing a remote sensing study of the Chaco road network and with the Bureau of Land Management in further investigations of the roads.

The Project's documentation of the astronomical markings of the Chacoan culture have been presented in numerous museum exhibits and in several school and college textbooks. "The Sun Dagger" film has been distributed abroad to seven countries and in this country to numerous schools, colleges, museums and libraries as an educational video program.  The Project recently produced a one-hour documentary entitled "The Mystery of Chaco Canyon," which demonstrated, in 3-D animation, the complex alignments of the Chacoan buildings to the sun and moon.  PBS debuted this film in June 2000 and it will be distributed internationally and to schools and universities throughout the United States.

The Project continues to work for the protection and archival preservation of the fragile remains of the Chaco civilization. Problems of erosion and vandalism and continuing pressure for modern energy development endanger this priceless heritage of our Native American culture.

Critical to the achievements of the Solstice Project has been its unique opportunity to draw upon the wide-ranging skills and creativity of an interdisciplinary team. Sharing a common fascination with the archaeoastronomy and cosmology of Chaco, these professionals, mostly volunteers, have ranged from archaeologists to mathematicians; from remote sensing experts to film makers; from physicians to art historians; from computer graphics experts to a Pueblo ethnographer/poet.  Support to the Solstice Project work has been provided by the Shaler Adams Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Batir Foundation, the McCune Foundation and the Chamiza Foundation.

 


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