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Solstice Project LiDAR and 3D Modeling is Unlocking Chaco Canyon Mysteries

Jan 18, 2019

Using the latest cutting-edge technology, researchers from the Solstice Project have gained a greater understanding of how the residents of Chaco Canyon lived and viewed their world.

As part of SAR’s Creative Thought Forum, series speakers Anna Sofaer, Richard Friedman and Robert Weiner gave a recent radio interview on The Radio Café, sharing how use of LiDAR (“Light Detection And Ranging” – aerial LASER scanning technology) and 3D modeling has revealed evidence of roads and structures throughout the Four-Corners area.

Pueblo Bonito time lapse, 2010. Photo courtesy of Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

In 1977, Archeoastronomer and Solstice Project founder Anna Sofaer photographed a shaft of light that went straight through a work of spiral rock art in Chaco. She noticed this “Sun Dagger” was connected to the summer solstice, prompting the renewed perspective that the ruins around Chaco contained astronomical sites organized around solar and lunar cycles.

More recent research revealed patterns of straight, engineered roads emanating for miles from Pueblo Bonito, the main Great House in the canyon, to prominent landscape features. Through LiDAR, Sofaer, Friedman, and Weiner have also detected other great houses and road systems similar to Pueblo Bonito up to 300 miles away.

How was all this created? It is still a mystery. Comments Sofaer in the interview:

How did [the Chacoans] relate across a region twice the size of Ireland?…Three-hundred miles from each other, all that coordination—roads standardized and 30-feet wide, straight, all going to special sites in the landscape—this is what we want to bring out: how amazingly coordinated it was, without armies, without beasts of burden, and—we think—without writing and math. What was the communication? Listen to the full interview online…

Sofaer, Friedman and Weiner will give the lecture, Chacoan Astronomy, Cosmography, Roads, and Ritual Power: Insights into the Chaco World Using New Technologies, on Thursday, January 24, 2019, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the James A. Little Theater, Santa Fe. The lecture is currently sold out. If you would like to be added to waitlist, please email Meredith Davidson at Davidson@sarsf.org.

SAR’s Creative Thought Forum brings innovative thinkers to Santa Fe to discuss topics of broad social concern. This year, the series asks how traditional practices interact with innovative thinking and emerging technology. The five-part series includes five significant scholars whose approaches, research, and projects examine this intersection.



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