2020-2021 Annual Letter
I want to thank you for your interest and continuing support to the Solstice Project, and send warm greetings of the season. Our research and engagement with Chaco has been ongoing even in this challenging time, and despite the uncertainties we’ve all been experiencing, we have exciting news to share. May this letter find you well.
Work in Progress
Our biggest news is the progress on our film, Written on the Landscape. Our latest research shows that the patterns of astronomical alignments in the central canyon and their relationships to sacred landscape are repeated throughout the Chaco world, much amplified since The Mystery of Chaco Canyon. The new film expands our field of vision to the culture’s reach across the Four Corners, and it also looks south, finding interchanges and correspondences with Mesoamerica.
One of our most important recent discoveries is how remarkably vast the Chaco region is – reaching into four states, an area the size of Ohio. We query the Chacoans’ inspiration to amass immense resources and manpower to build massive structures in desolate swaths of a remote desert, including hundreds of great kivas and ritual roads. The mystery unfolds as we discover many sites and roads align to dramatic formations in the landscape, and often to solar or lunar events. And we return to Chaco Canyon, to Pueblo Bonito as a great ritual center and power hub radiating out.
Rather than telling you, we’re including a special bonus, to show you – a link to the trailer that suggests its promise as a final hour-long film. We are very pleased that Robert Redford has lent his endorsement to the film.
We need to raise $180,000 now to reach our goals of completing this phase of production in early 2022, and ultimately to raise an additional $700,000 further to complete our full-length version of the film. Interviews are in the wings to be shot on location in Aztec Ruin at winter solstice, at Mt. Taylor, and two outlying Great House/Road complexes. Updating scenic, time lapse and aerial footage is essential in evoking the magnetic beauty of the Chaco world. Further development of the script is required, involving consultations with writer/advisors, as well as review and sequencing of extensive footage. Please join us by contributing to this exciting venture to enhance our understanding and appreciation of the great legacy of the Chaco culture – not only for Puebloan descendants, but for all of us! Know that contributions will be noted in thoughtful credits in the final production.
Governor Brian Vallo of Acoma Pueblo
Action for Preservation of Chaco
News on Chaco from the Biden administration is encouraging. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced it would seek to withdraw federal land holdings within 10 miles of the Chaco Culture National Park boundary, making the area off-limits to oil and gas leasing for 20 years. The action halts new leases in the area for the next two years while federal officials consider the proposed withdrawal. We are proud that the LiDAR work of the Solstice Project’s colleague Rich Friedman showing Chaco roads, helped inform the government’s decision.
We’ve led protests on fracking at Chaco for years, and though we’re relieved at the announcement, we’re also fully aware that a protection bill needs to become law so that future administrations cannot undo it. Thanks to the efforts of U.S. Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez, and Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan, such a bill is underway. Further, our latest findings indicate Chaco sites extend well beyond the 10-mile radius. Our friend, Governor Brian Vallo of Acoma Pueblo, had this to say:
“Our fight to protect this sacred place is rooted in what our elders teach us and what we know as descendants of those who settled here. That is our responsibility – to maintain our connection, our deep-felt obligation and protective stewardship of this sacred place.” –Governor Brian Vallo
We are also happy to report that The Mystery of Chaco Canyon still impacts and informs audiences in significant ways. We are told by our distributor that 800 K-12 schools and colleges have purchased copies of The Mystery of Chaco Canyon to teach about the remarkable archaeoastronomy of the ancient Pueblo people of Chaco. The film has also streamed at 130 colleges and universities where 5,000 viewings have taken place in classrooms, student centers, dorm rooms and apartments for a total time viewed of 1,800 hours!
One feature of the film’s popularity is that PBS stations continue to broadcast the film year after year since its release in 1999. Just three weeks ago, the film was aired again on KNME, our local PBS station in Albuquerque. Over the last six months The Mystery of Chaco Canyon film has had over 600,000 viewings on Amazon Prime.
More PBS-related news! I’ve been invited to appear on KNME’s “Colores,” to be filmed shortly and aired in January. I’ll be talking about some of the findings explored in our new film, Written on the Landscape, including the great expanse of the Chaco culture across the Four Corners, as shown in Adriel Heisey’s aerial photography, the huge scale of the Great Houses, numerous roads (enhanced by Rich Friedman’s LiDAR and animation), and the great number of kivas. Check our website for the date!
“For the past four decades. Anna Sofaer and her colleagues at the Solstice Project have documented the brilliant astronomy of the ancient Chaco culture. Her newest film, “Written on the Landscape”, includes the latest technologies of Lidar and 3-D animation along with sweeping aerial imagery, to reveal how the Chacoans’ deep engagement with the celestial cycles transformed the vast desert of the entire Four Corners region into a map of cosmology. Please join me in supporting this important work.” -Robert Redford
Archaeologist Rob Weiner, Solstice Project team member, teaching in the field.
Solstice Project colleagues Rob Weiner and Rich Friedman are greatly advancing our understanding of the complex roads of the Chaco culture. As we had found with Chaco’s Great North Road, their findings suggest remarkable parallels between the Chacoan road relationships with topographic features and the Puebloan and Navajo people’s profound regard for the sacred peaks of the four directions. Sometimes in fact the same peaks are involved.
Great efforts are made by descendant peoples to commemorate events of their history in pilgrimages to special land forms. This belief in the power of the land to carry vital history and spiritual life is inspiring to our world today. As we interviewed Petuuche Gilbert of Acoma at the uranium tailings mounds (not fully reclaimed) at the base of Mt. Taylor, we had the painful realization that our modern regard for land for economic gain contrasts sharply with the indigenous view of its sacredness. This view of the power of the sacred peaks also enlightens our understanding of the Chacoans’ enormous expense of labor and engineering to create rigorously straight roads, often 3 feet deep and 30 feet wide, and up to 35 miles long, to make connections to canyons, mountains, springs and buttes, and frequently with astronomical connections.
Please support our ongoing efforts to educate young people and convey to world-wide audiences the remarkable achievements of the Chaco culture. A contribution of any size will be much appreciated!‡ (Please mail checks to the P.O. Box below or donations may be made on our website: solsticeproject.org.)
Keep in touch with our progress on our new film, Written on the Landscape, as well as upcoming events, news about protecting Chaco Canyon and other exciting information on our Solstice Project Facebook page: www.facebook.com/solsticeproject.
All best wishes for good health and harmony in the coming year,
518 Old Santa Fe Trail
STE 1 #511
Santa Fe, NM 87505
‡Please note that the Solstice Project is a 501c3 non-profit organization and your contributions are tax deductible to the extent that the law allows.