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Archeologists Call for More Protection for the Chaco Canyon Region

ancient walls at chaco canyon

Ancient ruins at Chaco Canyon. Photo by John Gutierrez [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Cropped.

chaco canyon solar alignments

A digital reconstruction of Pueblo Bonito, one of the largest buildings at Chaco Canyon, aligned to solstices and equinoxes. Public domain image found here.

A recent Associated Press article by Susan Montoya Bryan, which was published in a number of news outlets1 highlights ongoing concerns over the preservation of the areas surrounding Chaco Canyon — an ancient sacred site aligned to the sun in New Mexico USA. Archeologists and researchers are calling for more protection for the Chaco Canyon area, as fracking threatens to disrupt further study of the ancient history and culture of this region.

Chaco Canyon is an expansive ancient complex of great stone buildings, various structures, and ceremonial platforms, many of which are aligned to solstices and equinoxes. Chaco also contains a a rich array of symbols of the Religion of the Sun.

Concerns over Protection of Chaco’s Surroundings and Implications for Future Research

Currently the Chaco complex is under national park protection, however concerns have been raised over satellite structures (such as some of the kivas) and other archeological sites in the expansive surrounding areas, which are subject to increased oil and gas development activities — these activities can potentially spoil elements in the landscape that could provide a further understanding of the ancient Chacoan culture.

chaco canyon sunset

Sunset at some of the ruins at Chaco Canyon. Photo by Linda Gutierrez [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

According to the AP News article, new research suggests that there is evidence of the existence of roads connecting to satellite sites and archeological remnants throughout northwestern New Mexico.2

Additionally, the landscape itself may be an important study point. As for example unobstructed views of certain mountain peaks or buttes may have been of significance to the ancient builders of the sacred sites in the area.

It is suggested that more discoveries could be made via further exploration of the region that would provide more clues to the history of the area and the vanished Anasazi culture that once thrived there.

The article explains that according to Anna Sofaer, president of the Solstice Project,3 “people who don’t understand Chaco see it as sort of a high desert wasteland that can offer only oil, gas, coal and uranium.” The article quotes Anne, saying:

“I think it’s our obligation as people who’ve been working with Chaco for decades to bring out to the public and to the people who affect policy the great value of going back and connecting with the people who were so connected with their natural world.”

Current Regulations Might Not Be Offering Sufficient Protection

There are some regulations in place for the protection of this world heritage site, however some question whether the protection offered sufficiently safeguards the surrounding landscape.

For example, the article references Ruth Van Dyke, an anthropology professor at Binghamton University, stating that:

“the Bureau of Land Management followed the letter of the law in protecting the site but allowed for 12 pump jacks to be installed within view of the great houses. The nearest one is less than a mile away and others can be seen glinting in the distance.

Van Dyke said archaeologists need to be cognizant of things like viewscapes and soundscapes, figure out ways to study and record them and provide that information to land managers. She said such features are important for understanding a complex like Chaco.

“”We really need to set aside large landscape areas to protect and to prohibit drilling all together,” she said.”

the observatory at chaco canyon

Chaco Observatory. Public domain image via National Park Services found here.

Environmental pollution created by fracking activities is also of great concern.4 For example, Chaco was the first National Park observatory, recognized specifically for its dark night skies that allow for better celestial observation. The article highlights a possibility that the night sky at Chaco might be affected by resulting pollution. This could potentially further impede the observation of the relationship between the various structures and alignments at chaco and celestial bodies.

Read full article by Susan Montoya Bryan on AP News

The Importance of Study and Preservation of Sites like Chaco Canyon

chaco canyon walls and doorways

An interior portion of Pueblo Bonito, depicting beautiful walls and a series of aligned doorways. Photo by Brian W. Schaller [FAL], via Wikimedia Commons.

Ancient sites aligned to the sun, select artifacts, artwork, and symbols are among the few remaining physical clues in pre-Columbian America of the presence of the lost global civilization of the sun and the religion that it practiced.

There is evidence suggesting that peaceful cultures that practiced a form of the Religion of the Sun in the Americas, such as the Anasazi (the culture behind sites like Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde), were violently persecuted and driven away from their cities, ceremonial complexes, and sacred sites. As a result, today much remains unknown about the original master builders and astronomers behind Chaco Canyon and their distinct and sophisticated culture.

More information about the disappearance of the Anasazi

And so the ability to study and better understand complexes such as Chaco Canyon, their alignments, connections with other sites, cultures, etc., can be crucial for understanding more about the presence and influence of the lost civilization of the sun in the Americas.

Various groups have been calling for better protection and preservation of these sites over the last several years. An active petition organized by an environmental group in the region can be found below:

Thanks Geraldine for bringing the Associated Press article to our attention.

  1. Bryan, Susan Montoya. “Archaeologists: More protections needed for Chaco region.” AP News. September 22, 2017. Accessed October 03, 2017.

  2. On the Solstice Project’s website (an organization that has played a monumental role in the study and preservation of Chaco Canyon). It is explained that: “In 2010 Sofaer, with archeologist Richard Friedman, through the Solstice Project, recorded The Great North Road with lidar (aerial laser scanning). This effort, funded by a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, precisely documented the Chacoans’ remarkably elaborate alignment to the North. It also affirmed the great efficacy of lidar to precisely record other Chaco “roads.” Following the Solstice Project’s nomination, the Great North Road is now designated as one of the “Eleven Most Endangered Sites” by the NTHP.”
    Source: The Solstice Project – About Us. Accessed September 29, 2017.

  3. More information about Anna Sofaer and The Solstice Project can be found here: The Solstice Project – About Us

  4. See for example: Horton, Melissa. “What are the effects of fracking on the environment?” Investopedia. January 19, 2015. Accessed October 03, 2017.

About the author

Jenny Belikov

Jenny Belikov is a researcher and practitioner of the ancient religion of the sun and the Managing Editor for The Spiritual Sun, where she also researches and writes about ancient sacred sites; spiritual texts and practices; the latest discoveries in archeology, archeoastronomy, and related sciences; as well as the exploration of various facets of the lost civilization of the sun.


  • Sad to hear of this. Goes to show the loss of respect for our surroundings.
    As it has been noted, egos and profits win out at any time of the day, as long as they are being fed. At least we can aim to change our internal states.

  • Thanks very much for bringing this to our attention.

    As a humanity we have lost our respect for our environment and also everything that came before us. We have become so short-sighted and ignorant.

    I hope that those that have the power can avoid any damage to these great and important sites.

  • I appreciate the work some people do to study and preserve ancient sites around the world.

    I do think nowadays there’s more awareness of their importance to perhaps let’s say a hundred years ago when there were probably less regulations and less oversight. But then again the sort of heavy industries and the impact modern man is able to make with all the technologies to these sometimes delicate sites definitely calls for the need for protection.

    I like, if I understand correctly, that’s it’s not just about the basics of conservation (such as not demolishing historically significant sites) but to try to preserve everything that’s present in order to preserve the ability for someone to ‘experience’ a site.

    One site I know of for example has a very big telephone mast/tower right next to it and it does really affect the atmosphere.

  • Thanks for sharing Jenny. I hope people come to their senses so that ancient sites like chaco can be preserved forever for our and future generations to appreciate and learn of this past global civilization.

  • Thanks Jenny for bringing out in great details all the going-on that is taking place in Chaco Canyon – it would be a real shame and a great loss to see this amazing sacred site being degraded and threatened by fracking and oil drilling.. I’m glad that there are petitions taking place and the word is being spread about it – I hope that even though this has been going for a while, it is stopped and does not escalate even further.

    @Ella, I didn’t have a problem signing the petition either.

    @Justin, Yes I agree with you, there is a need for balance for resources being used in modern society and what is extracted from Mother Earth.

    I remember when I was a kid, you could bring a malfunctioning toaster to a repairman, and have it repaired for example – now these skills are mostly gone, and the most common step is to throw the old one out, and go get a new one.. More incentives should be done toward re-using and recycling what we have in society, but I feel that sadly nowadays, everything seems to be manufactured to only last about a year or two before it no longer is ‘supported’ or has become ‘obsolete’..

  • That’s a great site Jenny, thanks for sharing. Nice reconstruction photo of Pueblo Bonito.

    I find that it’s very important to preserve and to learn from our ancient spiritual sun sites, hopefully many US citizens will speak out to preserve this amazing ancient sites and our planet from the terrible affects of fracking. A prepared petition sounds a like a great idea for US citizens.

    I wonder whether world attention could help in this situation. There are petition sites with a very large network of world wide contacts who are willing to sign petitions, such as, protecting our planet from environmental destruction. In the past I’ve been involved with certain sites and often they were quite successful to help our planet. For example, there’s, they have a petition going on with nearly 1 million signatures.

  • Thanks for sharing Jenny – it’s sad how profits are placed over sites that are really significant historically and in understanding our roots, like how some temples and sites have been subject to demolition work so that there could be extra rubble for building purposes.

    I signed the petition and really hope the fracking doesn’t go ahead or get worse and that Chaco gets the protection it deserves.

  • Another example of profits being the ultimate goal, I hope it does not happen, although money does seem to talk the world over : (

  • This is terrible news. I hope the fracking does not go ahead there or at any archeological site. Thanks for the link to the petition.

  • Thanks for flagging this up and for linking to a petition to protect Chaco, though I couldn’t get through to it when I tried from Europe. It’s sad to hear the threat it’s under, and what’s even more sad is that the situation is all too familiar and part of a general trend, one which reflects people’s general disregard for sacred sites like this.

    On a different note, I was glad to hear that the area is actually part of a National Park observatory. It must be incredible to be able to witness a site like that under unadulterated skies (for now). I was recently reading in Magicians of the Gods how Gobekli Tepe has been covered with a giant roof, which totally cuts it off from the skies which it has such an intimate connection with and thus totally diminishes the experience of the site. Ironically, this is in the name of preservation, but in Hancock’s view, stemmed from a wider insensitivity.

    • It is very sad to see greed threatening not just the environment but sacred sites too.

      Regarding that petition, it might be the case that it’s geared towards US citizens (voters) as most politicians only really pay attention to the voices of those who can vote them in (or out) of power. I am able to open the petition page from Australia however.

  • It is really sad to read about this, and I really hope something can be done.

    It is incredibly difficult to find truly pristine viewscapes and soundscapes in the world today. If anywhere, then, I would hope we could preserve some areas free from industrial intrusion at these sacred places where ancient peoples understood and developed the landscape in accordance with celestial principles.

    I recognize that we all need and use these resources and that there are challenges in addressing both the needs of a modern society (with all the conveniences it affords) and the preservation of the natural environment. But it seems to me that resource extraction operations are often motivated as much by greed as by necessity, and are done with reckless abandon and disregard for the environment and for the health and safety of the people working there and people who live nearby, whose drinking water and atmosphere might be poisoned. The practice of fracking seems particularly concerning in this regard, as I recall reading that it appears to be causing a lot of seismic activity in places that were previously not earthquake prone.

    And of course, there is also the question of more advanced energy technologies that some say are being suppressed and that would enable modern conveniences without the associated environmental impacts.

    • Good points Justin. There’s certainly a delicate balance to be achieved between that reality of needing resources vs. preservation of the land.

      That said, I hope in this case the fact that it’s already a recognized world heritage site would help the further protections being called for be enacted. After all there really aren’t that many world heritage sites all things considered, so it makes sense to protect them fully – not to mention this one in particular is so important in piecing the puzzle together as Jenny points out.

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