Chaco Canyon Sun Dagger

Why Did The Anasazi Need A Calendar

The Anasazi, also known as the Ancestral Puebloans, believed that both secular time (non-religious or everyday time) and sacred time (time used for ceremonies or religious purposes) were regulated by the sun, stars, and moon. They believe in the crucial role of time when holding their events. For them, it is important that their events occur at the correct moment while ensuring that the sun, stars, and moon are in their right positions. These cycles were crucial factors that help them regulate timing.

Solar Calendar

The Anasazi gave high importance to the sun as they built a number of structures according to the sun’s position in order to measure the time of the year. They used these structures as calendars.

One example of these calendar-inspired structures can be seen at Casa Rinconada. Casa Rinconada is also a kiva since the Anasazi used it as a place for religious ceremonies and for prayer. Here, the wall bore ledges which were built according to the sun’s movement at the equinox and the solstice.

A window can be seen in the northeast wall at Casa Rinconada while another is also seen in the southeast wall. The inside wall has several niches that had equal space apart. Each niche or ledge represents a position of the sun’s light which varies according to the varying times of the year. These ledges are illuminated when sun shines through the window.

Pueblo Bonito is another station that was used for sun watching. It had two windows which faced the winter-solstice sunrise. It was believed that the Anasazi had used one of the windows when they anticipated the coming of the solstice.

Fajada Butte at Chaco Canyon bore a series of parallel rocks which were used as a sun and moon calendar. When sunlight passes through the rocks, it produces a dagger of light against a spiral that was carved on the cliff that went beyond the rocks. During the solstice, the “light dagger” occurrence is viewed on the cliff for around 20 minutes a day.

The Lunar Standstill Phenomenon

The lunar standstill is a phenomenon that involves the moon which occurs every 18.61 years. Researchers discovered markings at an Anasazi cave which recorded the occurrence of a lunar standstill.

A lunar standstill is either a major or a minor occurrence. The difference lies in the fact that the distance of the moon from the horizon varies each month with its movement going north and then south. A major lunar standstill occurs when the movement from one phase of the moon to the next is at its greatest. It is called a minor lunar standstill when the movement is at its least.

Knowledge of the lunar standstill and other occurrences were important to the leaders of the Anasazi society. For one thing, it allowed them to easily organize the calendar click here of both practical and religious events.

Telling The Time

One way to determine the time was to look above the horizon and observe the height of the sun and then make estimates based on what was observed. Usually, this method of observing is performed by a sun priest. In order to keep track of “months,” the Anasazi had to use the so-called “calendar sticks.” This practice allowed the Anasazi to predict good harvest season since water and rainfall are scarce.

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