Directed by Anna Sofaer
Produced by The Solstice Project
DVD Purchase $30 VHS Purchase $30
US Release Date: 1999
Copyright Date: 1999
Awards and Festivals
Silver Plaque, The Chicago International Television Competition
Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film & Video Festival
Honorable Mention, The Archaeology Channel International Film & Video Festival
Taos Talking Picture Festival
American Museum of Natural History, New York
National Museum of National History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Aboriginal Voices Festival, Toronto
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
Heard Museum Indigenous Film Festival
The Mystery of Chaco Canyon (Home Video Version)|
For Personal Use Only
Unveiling the ancient astronomy of southwestern Pueblo Indians.
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.
"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 Union
"A captivating look at one of the most impressive archaeological sites in North America...Anna Sofaer reveals the solar and lunar complexity of Chacoan buildings with impressive visual economy and clarity. In the process, we get a whole new picture of the intelligence at work behind Chacoan society and its architecture...The Mystery of Chaco Canyon interweaves a narrative that is both attentive to indigenous thought and values, and robustly grounded in the rigors of scientific method. Well-paced and absorbing, simultaneously poetic and analytical, this film provides a new benchmark of understanding for serious studies of ancestral-Pueblo astronomy and culture."
Peter Whiteley, Chair, Dept. of Anthropology, Sarah Lawrence College