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Preserving archaeology and culture for our future


On September 21, 2012, President Barack Obama named the Chimney Rock archaeological site in Colorado as a U.S. national monument. Old Pueblo Archaeology Center’s executive director wrote the following letter to the President on this same date:

Dear President Obama,

On behalf of the nonprofit Old Pueblo Archaeology Center (www.oldpueblo.org) in Tucson, Arizona, and our supporters, I write to thank you for naming the Chimney Rock archaeological site, in Colorado’s San Juan National Forest, as our nation’s newest national monument.

The description of Chimney Rock National Monument that The White House posted on the Internet at
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/09/21/chimney-rock-becomes-our-newest-national-monument notes that Chimney Rock was home to Ancestral Pueblo people who built more than 200 homes and cere­monial buildings overlooking the valley floor a thousand years ago. Many of the structures remain today, and were designed to align perfectly with major lunar events. This draws visitors from around the world.

Chimney Rock is one of the Southwest’s significant cultural resources that I describe and illustrate in a presentation titled “Southwestern Rock Calendars and Ancient Time Pieces,” which I developed with assistance from the Arizona Humanities Council (http://azhumanities.org/) to educate people of Arizona and the Southwest about the remarkable achievements of the our land’s ancient peoples. Chimney Rock Pueblo is one of the northernmost “outposts” of the ancient Chaco Canyon social system, which arose in northwestern New Mexico after about AD 800. This pueblo was established on a narrow mesa next to the area’s two massive natural rock pillars (the “Chimneys”), in a position such that its residents could have observed the moon rising between those pillars during every “major lunar standstill” event that only occurs every 18.6 years.

Archaeological investigations at Chimney Rock have determined that the site’s first Chacoan-style kiva (a kind of subterranean structure that Puebloan peoples have used for their rituals for over 1,500 years) was built in AD 1076, and the rest of this “Great House” pueblo was completed around 1093. Many archaeologists and others who have studied Chimney Rock believe it is no simple coincidence that major lunar standstills occurred, as determined by modern astronomers, around the time of the winter solstices in AD 1075-1076 and 1093-1095. Therefore, the Chacoan people are credited with constructing Chimney Rock Pueblo where it was so that the major lunar standstills could be easily observed from that location. This recognition of astronomical events is just one of the testaments to the sophistication of ancient Indian peoples in the American continents.

We join the citizens of Colorado in thanking you for your thoughtful action regarding Chimney Rock.

Sincerely yours,

Allen Dart, RPA
Executive Director


Allen Dart’s “Southwestern Rock Calendars and Ancient Time Pieces” can be scheduled for presentation to nonprofit-organization audiences in Arizona through the Arizona Humanities Council (AHC). Other presentations that Mr. Dart offers through the AHC include:

“Arts and Culture of Ancient Southern Arizona Hohokam Indians”

“Ancient Native American Pottery of Southern Arizona”

“Archaeology and Cultures of Arizona”

“Set in Stone but Not in Meaning: Southwestern Indian Rock Art”

“Archaeology’s Deep Time Perspective on Environment and Social Sustainability”

For information on scheduling any of these presentations please contact Allen Dart at 520-798-1201 or adart@oldpueblo.org, then visit the AHC’s http://azhumanities.org/speakers1.php “Speakers Bureau” web page.

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