F I L M S
The Mystery of Chaco Canyon
and absorbing, simultaneously poetic and analytical, this film provides
a new benchmark of understanding."
Unveiling the ancient astronomy of southwestern
This is the long-awaited sequel to Anna Sofaer's classic film THE SUN DAGGER, which changed forever our perception of America's earliest Indian peoples.
THE MYSTERY OF CHACO CANYON examines the deep enigmas presented by the massive prehistoric remains found in Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico. It is the summation of 20 years of research. The film reveals that between 850 and 1150 AD, the Chacoan people designed and constructed massive ceremonial buildings in a complex celestial pattern throughout a vast desert region. Aerial and time lapse footage, computer modeling, and interviews with scholars show how the Chacoan culture designed, oriented and located its major buildings in relationship to the sun and moon. Pueblo Indians, descendants of the Chacoan people, regard Chaco as a place where their ancestors lived in a sacred past. Pueblo leaders speak of the significance of Chaco to the Pueblo world today.
The film challenges the notion that Chaco Canyon was primarily a trade and redistribution center. Rather it argues that it was a center of astronomy and cosmology and that a primary purpose for the construction of the elaborate Chacoan buildings and certain roads was to express astronomical interests and to be integral parts of a celestial patterning.
While the Chacoans left no written text to help us to understand their culture, their thoughts are preserved in the language of their architecture, roads and light markings. Landscape, directions, sun and moon, and movement of shadow and light were the materials used by the Chacoan architects and builders to express their knowledge of an order in the universe.
Awards for The Mystery of Chaco
Ratings for the Summer 2000 PBS Premiere of The
Mystery of Chaco Canyon:
average PBS primetime audience rating is 1.6. The PBS premiere of The
Mystery of Chaco Canyon was in Summer 2000 and garnered significantly
higher ratings in most markets and exceptional ratings in the markets
listed below. Since that time, our film receives consistent rebroadcasting
on PBS stations.
Reviews for The Mystery of Chaco Canyon:
"I am grateful to Anna Sofaer for involving me in her decades-long passion to explain this extraordinary and magical place." Robert Redford.
"'The Mystery of Chaco Canyon' superbly explores an enigma in the desert and sheds light (literally) on the constant quest of humanity to create order and patterns from the unknown -- the Chacoans did a millennium ago with their structures, and archaeologists are currently doing so with its ruins. What lingers in Sofaer's film is a remarkable mix of mysticism and science that is Chaco Canyon." Connie Wethington, Los Angeles Times.
"This documentary...uses computer graphics and other high-tech methods as well as interviews with archaeologists and archaeoastronomer Anna Sofaer - who produced, directed, and co-wrote the film -- to make a compelling case for this ancient people's astronomical prowess." Barbara Phillips, The Wall Street Journal.
"The time-lapse photography and computerized 3-D demonstrations marvelously explain how generations of Chacoans engineered the world's only known site constructed to mirror perfectly both solar and lunar cycles. And you thought the pyramids were impressive." Sandra P. Angulo, Entertainment Weekly.
"An old, abandoned building site in the middle of the desert hardly seems like a topic for a fascinating TV show. However, 'The Mystery of Chaco Canyon'...turns it into a fascinating reality...The story is a tantalizing whodunit." Tom Dorsey, The (Louisville, KY) Courier-Journal.
"Quiet aerial shots of the 1,000-year-old Pueblo Indian civilization are astounding. The explanation of the intricate astronomical system is compelling...Viewers will come away respecting Chaco's ancient structures as marvels." Joanne Ostrow, TV Critic, The Denver Post.
"A stunning piece of work -- the graphics are astounding and the entire production is powerful." Dr. R. Gwinn Vivian, Ex-Curator of Archaeology at the Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona.
"The video...becomes part of the ongoing dialogue between archeologists, anthropologists, and native peoples...(It's) a multi-level phenomenon, like Chaco, which embraces complexity, beauty and mystery." Rina Swentzell, Architect, Santa Clara Pueblo.
"From the pyramids and temples
of Egypt, to England's Stonehenge, (ancient peoples) locked their buildings
to the movements of the sky gods. Now, with a definitive study, Anna Sofaer
shows that the Pueblo cultures of the southwest US deserts were a high
climax to this bonding with the sky...Certainly Chaco was the great center
of civilization in North America, long before Columbus landed." Dr. Gerald
S. Hawkins, Commissioner, History of Astronomy, International Astronomical
Reviews of The Mystery of Chaco Canyon Teacher's Study Guide:
film and study guide that will stimulate your students' understandings
about the southwest and its first inhabitants. Place your students' experiences
in the shadow of a civilization that knew and understood much or more
about the world, the heavens, and its cosmology long before modern scientists
came along." Dr. Christine Sims, Acoma Pueblo, Professor, University
of New Mexico, Director, Linguistic Institute for Native Americans
"Modern science is just discovering the understandings and teachings of the ancestors, and that it is an affirmation of the great knowledge long held by the native people of this land. The interconnections and multidimensional concepts of time and space found in Chaco further evidence the complexity and sophistication of the Pueblo world." Penny Bird, Santo Domingo Pueblo, Assistant Secretary of Indian Education for New Mexico
"The Mystery of Chaco Canyon is an exciting addition to middle and high school curriculum. The easy-to-use Guide (addressing national standards in social studies, science, language arts, and geography) provides teachers with the knowledge and tools they need to open the amazing world of the ancient Pueblo people to their students. The complexity of these people's scientific knowledge revealed in Anna Sofaer's film will astound teachers and students alike." Lois Hirst, Coordinator and Professor, Educational Administration Programs, Northern Michigan University
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