An archaic sun temple atop a North American canyon overlooking “Cliff Palace” — relics of a settlement built into the opposite cliff face below — incorporates advanced geometric principles in its construction according to new research by a university mathematician.1Mathematician Sherry Towers, whose findings appear in a paper published in the April edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports, was recently quoted on her research in an article by Mcclatchy DC Bureau about her findings on the old temple in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.
In a recent paper, an Arizona State University mathematician examined aerial imagery and concluded that the Sun Temple contains sophisticated geometric patterns, including Pythagorean triangles and other shapes used by other ancient civilizations. The mathematician, Sherry Towers, also concluded the Sun Temple’s builders had used a common unit of measurement – roughly 30 centimeters – in designing the site.
“These findings represent the first potential quantitative evidence of knowledge of advanced geometrical constructs in a prehistoric North American society,” Towers wrote in her paper, published in the April edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports. This knowledge is “particularly remarkable,” she added, “given that the ancestral Pueblo peoples had no written language or number system.”
The Sun temple was already severely deteriorated when it was first excavated in 1916. The ruins are the remnants of one of many sacred sites found across Colorado. It’s believed a people called the Anasazi built the temple more than 800 years ago, and belonged to the same lost tribe and culture who constructed the better-known Chaco Canyon site in New Mexico.
The Great Pyramids in Giza, the Parthenon in Athens and Chichen Itza in Mexico have something in common. Besides attracting hordes of tourists, all of these architectural wonders appear to use the golden ratio.
This mathematical number is often written as 1.618, the first few digits of its infinite decimal form. Expressed another way, two quantities —let’s call the larger one “a” and the smaller “b” —are in the golden ratio if “a is to b” as “a + b is to a.” The result is a composition with aesthetically pleasing proportions.
Now, shapes with the golden ratio, as well as other geometric shapes, have been found in another, unexpected site: the Sun Temple at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, built by the ancient Pueblo people who lived in what is now the modern-day Southwest…
The architecture of the Mesa Verde Sun Temple has noted similarities with the Pueblo Bonito building at Chaco Canyon which was also built by the Anasazi . Both sites incorporate solar and astronomical alignments suggesting they were settlements belonging to a now vanished Pre-Columbian society that practiced the religion of the sun in North America and may have descended from the lost civilization of the sun. The building style of the Anasazi is remarkably similar to that seen at the Machu Picchu site in Peru — as is the use of astronomical alignments and establishment of settlements in hidden remote locations.
Researchers have previously found solar alignments at the Mesa Verde site: the winter solstice sun sets over the sun temple when observed from a viewing site at Cliff Palace, a ceremonial fire pit at the base of the Canyon aligns to the Winter Solstice sunrise, and a number of “great houses” in the settlement align to the cardinal directions.2Towers however has focused her research on the attributes of the sun temple itself, above the old canyon settlement. Her previous research suggests as many as 22 celestial alignments could be observed from the temple, including solstice and equinox sunrises and the rising/setting of various stars and star clusters. She proposes the “four key tower-like elements of the complex were used for observation of the rise or set of celestial bodies known to be sacred to the Pueblo Indians”.3 Her latest research may be the first to focus on the geometric principles encoded in the site’s construction though, finding “apparent evidence that the ancestral Pueblo peoples laid out the site using the Golden rectangle, Pythagorean 3:4:5 triangles, equilateral triangles, and 45° right triangles”.
Along with alignments to the sun and stars, geometric principles (sometimes known as sacred geometry) appear in the construction of a number of sacred sites across the world where the knowledge of the ancient religion of the sun was practiced, most famously in ancient Egypt.
Ancient builders may have employed mathematical principles, along with astronomical alignments, to harness and express universal spiritual principles embedded in creation that were celebrated in the religion of the sun.
Disappearance of the Anasazi People
The Anasazi civilization arose as early as 1500 B.C, and demonstrated technological sophistication far ahead of other Pre-Colombian inhabitants of the region and a distinct and different culture. They mysteriously disappeared from their homeland in the Four Corners region of South Western USA by around the end of the 13th century.
There is evidence indicating they faced violent persecution and warfare from other peoples — there are many signs of brutal massacres at their settlements. Survivors fled southwards to Arizona and beyond, and their later settlements were even more remote — high on the face of sheer cliffs very difficult to reach. Eventually it seems they were driven — or wiped out — from the region altogether.
The name “Anasazi” was given to this culture by another unrelated tribe in the area — it is the name that tribe traditionally used to refer to them. The name means “ancient enemies”.
An oral tradition recorded by a government-funded expedition to the region from 1874 and 1875, led by John Moss, relates that the Anasazi “lived peacefully” in the region since “time immemorial” and “worshiped the sun” but they were driven from their ancestral homes by an invading nomadic tribe. The explorers spoke with Pueblo people in the region, and summarized the oral tradition they learned of which had been passed down through generations in the area:
They [the Anasazi] were an eminently peaceful and prosperous people, living by agriculture rather than by the chase. About a thousand years ago, however, they were visited by savage strangers from the North, whom they treated hospitably. Soon these visits became more frequent and annoying. Then their troublesome neighbors—ancestors of the present Utes—began to forage upon them, and, at last, to massacre them and devastate their farms; so, to save their lives at least, they built houses high upon the cliffs, where they could store food and hide away till the raiders left. But one summer the invaders did not go back to their mountains as the people expected, but brought their families with them and settled down. So, driven from their homes and lands, starving in their little niches on the high cliffs, they could only steal away during the night, and wander across the cheerless uplands. To one who has traveled these steppes, such a flight seems terrible, and the mind hesitates to picture the suffering of the sad fugitives.
At the cristone [likely the site known as Castle Rock] they halted, and probably found friends, for the rocks and caves are full of the nests of these human wrens and swallows. Here they collected, erected stone fortifications and watch-towers, dug reservoirs in the rocks to hold a supply of water, which in all cases is precarious in this latitude, and once more stood at bay. Their foes came, and for one long month fought and were beaten back, and returned day after day to the attack as merciless and inevitable as the tide. Meanwhile, the families of the defenders were evacuating and moving south, and bravely did their protectors shield them till they were all safely a hundred miles away. The besiegers were beaten back and went away. But the narrative tells us that the hollows of the rocks were filled to the brim with the mingled blood of conquerors and conquered, and red veins of it ran down into the cañon. It was such a victory as they could not afford to gain again, and they were glad, when the long fight was over, to follow their wives and little ones to the south.4
Last updated 6 July 2017
Advanced geometrical constructs in a Pueblo ceremonial site, c 1200 CE” by S. Towers, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 12 (2017) 1 – 11: http://www.sherrytowers.com/jasr_published_article.pdf
See the relevant section of the Wikipedia page about the national Park: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesa_Verde_National_Park#Astronomy
“Astronomical Alignments of the Sun Temple site in Mesa Verde National Park” by Sherry Towers: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1610.07463.pdf
An excerpt of the report, published in 1876, on the expedition known as the Hayden Survey, can be read here: http://www.crowcanyon.org/researchreports/castlerock/text/crpw_oralhistory.asp