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The Solstice Project's two films are excellent teaching tools for grades 7-12, as well as for college and adult audiences.

Study Guides are available for both films; they can be downloaded from the links below:

The Mystery of Chaco Canyon Study Guide

The Sun Dagger Study Guide

The Mystery of Chaco Canyon

photoUnveiling the ancient astronomy of southwestern Pueblo Indians

purchase on

56 minutes, Color
Note for Educators: there is a convenient break
point approximately halfway though the movie, allowing
viewing in 2 sessions if desired.

Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 1999; Copyright Date: 1999
ISBN: 1-56029-812-X

Directed by Anna Sofaer , Produced by The Solstice Project
Narrated by Robert Redford
Written by Anna Sofaer and Matt Dibble, Music by Michael Stearns

"Well-paced and absorbing, simultaneously poetic and analytical, this film provides a new benchmark of understanding."
Peter Whiteley, Chair, Dept. of Anthropology, Sarah Lawrence College

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.

Awards for The Mystery of Chaco Canyon:
Taos Talking Picture Festival
Silver Plaque, The Chicago International Television Competition
Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film & Video Festival
Honorable Mention, The Archaeology Channel International Film & Video Festival
American Museum of Natural History, New York
National Museum of National History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC
Aboriginal Voices Festival, Toronto
Hot Spring Documentary Film Festival
Heard Museum Indigenous Film Festival


Reviews of The Mystery of Chaco Canyon Teacher's Study Guide:

"A film and study guide that will stimulate your students' understandings about the southwest and its first inhabitants. Place your students' experiences in the shadow of a civilization that knew and understood much or more about the world, the heavens, and its cosmology long before modern scientists came along." Dr. Christine Sims, Acoma Pueblo, Professor, University of New Mexico, Director, Linguistic Institute for Native Americans

"The Chaco Canyon civilization is remarkable! It is so full of math and science that it can be daunting not only to the student but to the teacher as well. When viewing the film I inform my students, 'you won't get it all at once. The science is too awesome!' The Study Guide puts 'awesome' into new perspective. It provides activities that lend themselves beautifully to an integrated approach to teaching." Pat Sandoval, Director of Alternative Learning Programs at the Santa Fe Indian School, New Mexico

"Modern science is just discovering the understandings and teachings of the ancestors, and that it is an affirmation of the great knowledge long held by the native people of this land. The interconnections and multidimensional concepts of time and space found in Chaco further evidence the complexity and sophistication of the Pueblo world." Penny Bird, Santo Domingo Pueblo, Assistant Secretary of Indian Education for New Mexico

"The Mystery of Chaco Canyon is an exciting addition to middle and high school curriculum. The easy-to-use Guide (addressing national standards in social studies, science, language arts, and geography) provides teachers with the knowledge and tools they need to open the amazing world of the ancient Pueblo people to their students. The complexity of these people's scientific knowledge revealed in Anna Sofaer's film will astound teachers and students alike." Lois Hirst, Coordinator and Professor, Educational Administration Programs, Northern Michigan University


The Sun Dagger

The astonishing discovery of an ancient
celestial calendar in Chaco Canyon, NM

adriel heisey

"It changes forever history's perceptions of
America's early Indian colonists."

Science 8

purchase on (58-minute version
purchase on (28-minute version)

58 minutes
(28-minute version available)
16mm available
Grade Level: Grades 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 1983
Copyright Date: 1982
ISBN: 1-56029-320-9

Directed by Anna Sofaer and Albert Ihde
Produced by The Solstice Project
Narrated by Robert Redford

This classic, timeless film documents the extraordinary celestial calendar created by ancient North American Indians, and rediscovered by artist Anna Sofaer, high on a butte in New Mexico. The "dagger" is presently the only known site in the world that marks the extreme positions of both the sun and moon. The film explores the complex culture of the Anasazi Indians who constructed the calendar, and thrived both spiritually and materially in the harsh environment of Chaco Canyon a thousand years ago.

Study guide available

Blue Ribon, American Film Festival
CINE Golden Eagle
Margaret Mead Film Festival

"It changes forever history's perceptions of America's early Indian colonists. And as an astronomical and geometrical marvel, it ranks with the Pyramids and Stonehenge."
Science 84

"THE SUN DAGGER is a "must-buy" for school districts and public libraries."
Media & Methods

"The multidisciplinary nature of this film makes it possible to use it in many classroom situations. The excellent teaching guide, written by Don Reid, vastly improves the film's instructional value."
Journal of College Science Teaching

"Both (versions) are excellent."
Editor's Choice, Science Books & Films


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