Solstice project researchers slated to speak at the CRIA Lecture Series Thursday, March 8

By Nadia Werby
Special to The SUN
On Thursday, March 8, Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) is proud to host a special presentation on “Chacoan Astronomy, Cosmography, Roads, and Ritual Power: New Insights into Chaco’s Powerful Expanse using New Technologies.”
The lecture is free of charge and will begin at 7 p.m. at The Springs Resort and Spa (Ecoluxe building) located at 165 Hot Springs Blvd. The public is invited to join the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) for its social hour preceding the lecture at 6 p.m.
Solstice Project researchers Anna Sofaer, Richard Friedman and Robert Weiner will share latest research findings revealing the vast extent of the Chaco culture across an area the size of Ohio and the compelling cosmology that underlay its regional power. They will review the Chacoans’ complex solar and lunar astronomy as commemorated at the Sun Dagger site and in the alignments of buildings. They’ve learned of striking ritual objects found at Pueblo Bonito such as macaws, cacao, copper bells and gambling pieces. The hundreds of outlying great houses throughout the Chaco world will be brought to life through 3-D models.
The researchers will also share the results of the Solstice Project’s recent use of LiDAR technology to document enigmatic Chaco “roads,” many of which establish connections with striking features of the natural landscape and astronomical directions. Their latest findings reveal that the topographic trajectory of Chaco Canyon itself aligns to the major lunar standstill as viewed from a great house, just as Chimney Rock’s landform frames the standstill moon’s rising from ritual architecture. With this use of the sculpted land forms of the Four Corners, the Chacoans created a powerful union of land and sky, a convergence that may have inspired their intense investment in astronomical commemoration and ceremonial extravagance.
About the speakers
At the summer solstice in 1977, Sofaer rediscovered the Sun Dagger site in Chaco Canyon, N.M. Following this finding, Sofaer founded the nonprofit Solstice Project and has conducted three decades of research at Chaco.
She has produced, directed and co-written two award-winning PBS documentaries, “The Sun Dagger” and “The Mystery of Chaco Canyon,” both narrated by Robert Redford. Her work has been published in dozens of scientific papers, republished in the book “Chaco Astronomy: An Ancient American Cosmology.” Currently, Sofaer is producing and co-directing a third documentary, writing a book and pursuing efforts to protect Chaco from energy development.
Friedman is a remote sensing expert who has studied Chaco Canyon for over 30 years. He combines diverse skill sets in geology, remote sensing, archaeology and new digital technologies to study the Chaco world.
Friedman worked with the Navajo Nation Chaco Sites Protection Program to document countless great houses and roads throughout the Four Corners region. Friedman has published numerous articles on Chacoan architecture, roads and agriculture. He currently teaches in the GIS program at San Juan College in Farmington, N.M., and works closely with the Solstice Project.
Weiner is a research associate with the Solstice Project and research affiliate with the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University. He will start a Ph.D. in archaeology at Harvard in the fall.
Weiner studies gambling, roads, ritual, Mesoamerican connections and astronomy at Chaco. His research has been published in American Antiquity, Kiva, Advances in Archaeological Practice and various edited volumes. He has conducted archaeological fieldwork in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Turkey.
Join the Chimney Rock volunteer team
CRIA invites community members to attend the Chimney Rock volunteer open house on March 16 at the EcoLuxe building at The Springs Resort and Spa located at 165 Hot Springs Blvd., from 6 to 7 p.m.
This is a great way to meet our amazing volunteers and learn more about Chimney Rock and ways to get involved. Stop by the Chimney Rock open house and enjoy coffee and desserts with our enthusiastic volunteers. Beverages will be available for purchase.
For more information, please visit our website at

This story was posted on March 6, 2018.