The Chaco Culture National Historical Park is renowned for being a native sacred place where the ancestors live in the spirit world. The ancient Chaco Culture built many great house pueblo structures here and they left many clues that provide insight into their daily life. Chaco Canyon has been proven to be an agriculture center and much more. To provide an idea of how important Chaco was back in ancient times, all of the native roads going out of Chaco point straight out like the rays of the sun and Chaco is the central hub. Chaco was a cultural center, a spiritual destination and a place of great astronomical knowledge in ancient times, so the importance of this World Heritage Site cannot be understated.
For a visitor, there are two ways to go about exploring Chaco Canyon. A visitor can explore Chaco with no prior knowledge, which will result in making one new philosophical discovery after another. A visitor can also do some research ahead of time, so the pieces of the puzzle will come together while viewing the ancient sites. With no prior knowledge, a Chaco Canyon feature like the Fajada Butte would just look like any other ordinary mesa rock formation in New Mexico. By doing a little research before the trip, a visitor will realize that Fajada Butte is an important landmark that features a unique solar calendar way up on top!
Fajada Butte is an ancient solar observatory where tribal knowledge of heavenly events were recorded and put to use for local Chaco Canyon agricultural practices. A huge rock on top of this towering butte casts a thin vertical shadow that travels from side to side as the earth orbits around the sun. By marking the ultimate points where the shadow travels from side to side through the course of a year, the exact date of the solstice and equinox were recorded, which is essential knowledge for agricultural production, wild food gathering and hunting seasons.
The Fajada Butte Solar Calendar used to be accessible by hiking and rock climbing, but the trails have been closed for many years due to foot traffic erosion. A natural land bridge mound used to go most of the way up one side of Fajada Butte, but that tall ramp has since faded away. From where the top of the natural earthen ramp used to be, ancient chiseled hand holds can be seen going up the rock face, so there was quite a bit of strenuous climbing involved with getting up to the solar calendar. By native lore, a tribal wisdom keeper was the only person that had access to the solar calendar that cannot be seen from ground level.
The Fajada Butte Solar Calendar is just one of many astronomical event references that can be found in Chaco Canyon, which include a supernova pictograph. When realizing the importance of astronomy in Chaco, an entirely new meaning comes to mind when pondering over why this ancient sacred place exists. It is the little facts about Chaco Canyon that can help a visitor to gain insight into the overall picture, so doing a little bit of reading about the Chaco Culture topic is highly recommended before setting sail. Taking a guided tour will help to gain some insight too. Chaco Canyon is a mysterious place and knowing a little something about Fajada Butte will certainly enrich the experience while there!
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