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Cultures > Anasazi

:: 400 AD - 1300 AD

Cultural Background | Surviving | Living in Community | Finding Meaning in the Cosmos

Living in Community

Urban Organization
Because agriculture was very important to the Anasazi way of life, the weather became important, too. They needed to know when the weather would change so that they could plant and harvest their crops at the right time. Their interest in the weather and the changing of the seasons led them to closely watch the sky. The sun was particularly important and they developed many religious beliefs to explain the path of the sun.

This fascination with the sun led the Anasazi to organize their cities in a way that mirrored the sky above them.

At Chaco Canyon, one Anasazi city, many buildings and structures were aligned with the sun and moon at the solstice and equinox days. Many also were built in line with the four cardinal directions, which are north, south, east and west.

A solstice is a day when the sun is farthest from the Equator. This happens in June in summer and in December in winter. The equator is an imaginary line around the Earth that is the same distance from the North and South Poles. It divides the Earth into the northern and southern hemispheres.

The equinox occurs when the Sun crosses the equator. This happens twice each year, as the Sun travels north and again when it travels south.

The Anasazi built structures called kivas at Chaco Canyon. These kivas were places where they prayed and held ceremonies and formal meetings.

Casa Rinconada was built by the Puebloans in nearly a perfect circle. The four main supporting posts in the ancient kiva were located in the corners, which also indicate the four cardinal directions: northwest, southwest, southeast, and northeast.

Casa Rinconada is one of six great kivas in the Chaco Canyon area. This kiva was built in nearly a perfect circle. The four main posts supporting the kiva were placed the the cardinal directions.

Researchers believe that Casa Rinconada was built as a model of the universe. The walls represented the sky and the ceiling represented the galaxy.

Another Anasazi area built in relation to the sky and the four cardinal directions is Pueblo Bonito. There the entire town is astronomically aligned. The line by which the town is divided into east half and west half is almost exactly parallel to a north-south line.

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Learn more about the sun and its role in urban

"...the Chacoans were expert skywatchers, with a clear knowledge of the cyclic and seasonal patterns of the sun, moon, and stars. This knowledge is reflected over and over again in the architecture of the great houses, and in various observational and ceremonial sites around the canyon."


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