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The Orion Zone: Ancient Star Cities of the American Southwest (cont.)
By Gary A. David

Solstice Interrelationship of Villages

Another factor that precludes mere chance in this mirroring of sky and earth is the angular positioning of the terrestrial Orion in relation to longitude. According to their cosmology, the Hopi place importance on intercardinal directions (that is, northwest, southwest, southeast, and northeast) rather than cardinal directions. The Anasazi could not make use of the compass but instead relied upon solstice sunrise and sunset points on the horizon for orientation. The Sun Chiefs (in Hopi, tawa-mongwi) still perform their observations of the eastern horizon at sunrise from the winter solstice on December 22 (azimuth 120 degrees) through the summer solstice on June 21 (azimuth 60 degrees), when the sun god Tawa is making his northward journey. On the other hand, they study the western horizon at sunset from June 21 (azimuth 300 degrees) through December 22 (azimuth 240 degrees), when he travels south from the vicinity of the Sipapuni (east of the mouth of the Little Colorado River) to the San Francisco Peaks in the southwest. [2] A few days before and after each solstice, Tawa seems to stop --the term solstice literally meaning "the sun to stand still"-- and rest in his winter or summer Tawaki, or "house." In fact, the winter Soyal ceremony is performed in part to encourage the sun to reverse his direction and return to Hopiland instead of continuing southward and eventually disappearing altogether.

The key solstice points on the horizon that we designate by the azimuthal degrees of 60, 120, 240, and 300 (only at this specific latitude) recur in the relative positioning of the Anasazi sky cities. For instance, if we stand on the edge of Third Mesa near the village of Oraibi on the winter solstice, we watch the sun set exactly at 240 degrees on the horizon, directly in line with the ruins of Wupatki almost fifty miles away. The sun disappears over Humphreys Peak, the highest mountain in Arizona where is located the major shrine of the katsinam (also spelled kachinas, beneficent supernatural beings who act as spiritual messengers.) Incidentally, if this line between Oraibi and the San Francisco Peaks is extended southwest, it intersects the small pueblo called King's Ruin in Big Chino Valley, once a stop-off point on the major trade route from the Colorado River. [3] (See Diagram 2.) If the line is extended farther southwest, it intersects the mouth of Bill Williams River on the Colorado. Conversely, if we stand at Wupatki on the summer solstice, we see the sun rise directly over Oraibi on Third Mesa at 60 degrees on the horizon. On that same day the sun sets at 300 degrees, to which the left arm of the terrestrial Orion points. In addition, from Oraibi the summer solstice sun sets twelve degrees north of the Sipapuni on the Colorado River, the "Place of Emergence" of the Hopi from the Third to the Fourth Worlds.

Diagram 2

If we perch on the edge of Canyon de Chelly, looking not downward into the canyon but instead southwest at the winter solstice sunset, the sun on the horizon appears about five degrees south of the First Mesa village of Walpi. This line extended farther southwest beyond the horizon intersects both Sunset Crater and Humphreys Peak. Again, the reciprocal angular relationship between the two pueblo sites remains, so from Walpi at summer solstice sunrise the sun appears to rise from Canyon de Chelly fifty miles away. A northeastward extension of this 65-degree line eventually reaches a point in New Mexico near Salmon Ruin and Aztec Ruin. [4] In addition, a winter solstice sunrise line (120 degrees) drawn from Walpi past Wide Ruin traverses the Zuni Pueblo (a tribe closely related to the Hopi) and ends just south of El Morro National Monument. [5]

Standing during winter solstice sunrise on the edge of Tsegi Canyon where the ruins of Betatakin and Keet Seel are located, we look southeast along the edge of Black Mesa and watch the sun come up over Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto. The sun is in fact at 120 degrees on the horizon directly over Antelope House Ruin in the latter canyon. An extension of the same line into New Mexico intersects Casamero Ruin. [6] From the same spot at Tsegi Canyon also on the first day of winter, we see the sun set at 240 degrees azimuth over Grand Canyon more than eighty miles to the southwest. From Tsegi a summer solstice sunrise line of 60 degrees intersects Hovenweep National Monument in southeastern Utah, well known for the archaeoastronomical precision of its solstice and equinox markers. Again from Tsegi a sunset line of 300 degrees crosses Bryce Canyon National Park and Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah, where nearly one hundred and fifty small Anasazi and Fremont ruins have been identified.[7]

If we travel one hundred and twelve miles almost due south of Tsegi Canyon to Homol'ovi, the summer solstice sunset appears eight degrees south of Wupatki, which is fifty miles northwest of where we are standing. This line (designated as H in Diagram 1) running between Homol'ovi and Wupatki passes between Grand Falls, an impressive cataract along the Little Colorado River, and Roden Crater, a volcanic cinder cone that artist James Turrell has turned into an immense earth sculpture, to finally end at Tusayan Ruin on the south rim of Grand Canyon. Again, from the reciprocal village of Wupatki the winter solstice sun rises just north of Homol'ovi, which is at 128 azimuthal degrees in relation to the former site. This Wupatki-Homol'ovi line extended southeast passes just south of Casa Malpais Ruin and ends less than ten miles south of Gila Cliff Dwellings. [8]

From Homol'ovi a winter solstice sunrise line (120 degrees) falls seven degrees north of Casa Malpais [9]and three degrees north of Raven Site Ruin [10], both north of the town of Springerville. From Homol'ovi at winter solstice sundown (240 degrees), the sun passes directly through East and West Sunset Mountains, the gateway to the Mogollon Rim. This line from Homol'ovi proceeds past the early fourteenth century, thousand-room Chavez Pass Ruin on Anderson Mesa (in Hopi, Nuvakwewtaqa, "mesa wearing a snow belt") [11]and continues along the Palatkwapi Trail down to Verde Valley, ending near Clear Creek Ruin. If the summer solstice sunrise line (60 degrees) is extended from Homol'ovi into New Mexico, it intersects the vicinity of Chaco Canyon, perhaps the jewel of all the Anasazi sites in the Southwest. In this astral-terrestrial pattern Chaco corresponds to Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens located in Canis Major.

In this schema each village is connected to at least one other by a solstice sunrise or sunset point on the horizon. The interrelationship provided a psychological link between one's own village and the people in one's "sister" village miles away. Moreover, it reinforced the divinely ordered coördinates of the various sky cities come down to earth. Not only had Masau'u/Orion spoken in a geodetic language that connected the Above with the Below, but also Tawa had verified this configuration by his solar measurements along the curving rim of the tutskwa, or sacred earth.

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  1. J. McKim Malville, Claudia Putnam, Prehistoric Astronomy in the Southwest (Boulder Colorado: Johnson Books, 1993, 1989), p. 23.
    -- "Azimuth" is the arc of the horizon measured in degrees clockwise from the north point.
  2. Inhabited from 1026 A.D. (or possibly earlier in light of the underlying pit house) through 1300, King's Ruin has a thirteen-room foundation, twelve of which could have been two stories high. The five hundred pieces of unworked shells found at the site indicate substantial trade with the Pacific. Necklaces of turquoise, black shale and argillite were also found, one of the former materials consisting of 2,031 beads that stretched sixty-six inches long. Fifty-five graves were also discovered, containing sixty-six individuals, most of which were buried in the extended posture with heads oriented toward the east, awaiting Pahana's (or the White Brother's) return. Ginger Johnson, A View of Prehistory in the Prescott Region (Prescott, Arizona: privately published, 1995) pp. 8-9.
  3. Occupied for a few generations after 1088 A.D., abandoned and then reoccupied between 1225 and the late 1200s, Salmon Ruin near the San Juan River contained from between 600 and 750 rooms. It also had a tower kiva built on a platform twenty feet high that was made of rock imported from thirty miles away. Ten miles north of Salmon is Aztec Ruin (an obvious misnomer) located on the Animas River. At its peak development it contained about 500 rooms. Like the former, this latter site was originally inhabited in the early twelfth century by people of Chaco Canyon and then re-inhabited from 1225 to 1300 by people of Mesa Verde. In addition, it has a restored Great Kiva.
  4. Inhabited from 1226-1276 A.D., Wide Ruin, or Kin Tiel, about fifty miles due south of Canyon de Chelly, is an oval shaped pueblo of 150 to 200 rooms with a number of kivas. Atsinna pueblo, located atop a high mesa at El Morro National Monument, was a mid-thirteenth century rectangular structure, part of which was three stories in height. It had 500-1000 rooms and two kivas, one circular and the other square.
    --a. David Grant Noble, Ancient Ruins of the Southwest: An Archaeological Guide (Flagstaff, Arizona: Northland Publishing, 1989, reprint 1981).
    --b. Norman T. Oppelt, Guide to Prehistoric Ruins of the Southwest (Boulder, Colorado: Pruett Publishing Company, 1989, reprint 1981).
  5. Constructed in the mid-eleventh century, Casamero Ruin was a small thirty-room pueblo. However, its Great Kiva, one of the largest in the Southwest, was seventy feet in diameter-- even slightly more spacious than the better known Casa Rinconada at Chaco Canyon about forty-five miles to the north. Noble, Ancient Ruins, pp. 89-90; and Oppelt, Guide To Prehistoric Ruins, p. 177.
  6. Robert H. Lister and Florence C. Lister, Those Who Came Before: Southwestern Archeology in the National Park System (Tucson, Arizona: Southwestern Parks & Monuments Association, 1994, reprint 1993), p. 224.
  7. Located in the Mogollon Mountains of west-central New Mexico, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is a ruin comprised of forty rooms in five separate caves located 150 feet above the canyon floor. The timbers of these structures have been tree-ring dated in the 1280s. The late Mogollon, or Mimbres, people are known for their exquisite black on white pottery, using realistic though stylized designs. The site was abandoned by 1400. Noble, Ancient Ruins, pp. 7-8.
  8. Casa Malpais is a thirteenth century Mogollon site of a hundred rooms with a square Great Kiva (one of the largest in the Southwest), catacombs, ceremonial rooms, three winding stone stairways and an astronomical observatory. Because of the nature of the artifacts found, such as crystals, ceremonial pipes, and soapstone fetish stands, it is thought to have been primarily a religious center. Stan Smith, "House of the Badlands," Arizona Highways, August 1993, pp. 39-44.
  9. Located nearly ninety miles southeast of Homol'ovi and about twelve miles north of the Casa Malpais, the Raven Site (privately owned by the White Mountain Archeological Center) was occupied as early as 800 A.D. through 1450 and had more than eight hundred rooms and two kivas. James R. Cunkle, Raven Site Ruin: Interpretive Guide (St. Johns, Arizona: White Mountain Archaeological Center, no publication date).
  10. Jefferson Reid and Stephanie Whittlesey, The Archaeology of Ancient Arizona (Tucson, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press, 1997), p. 220.

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