Straight Roads Circular Buildings and a Supernova

The Great North Road embodies many nonutilitarian aspects and has no clear practical destination. It displays a level of effort in its engineering and construction that is far out of proportion to any material benefits that could be realized from it.

—A. Sofaer, M.P. Marshall, and R.M. Sinclair, The Great North Road: A Cosmographic Expression of the Chaco Culture of New Mexico, in World

Anasazi is the name given to the ancestors of the present-day Hopi and Zuni tribes that live along the Rio Grande in New Mexico and Arizona. The Anasazi civilization flourished in the centuries around 1000 AD in the region that corresponds to the border area joining Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. This is not a particularly fertile area, but the Anasazi succeeded nevertheless in building a thriving economy based on hunting and efficient farming (Brody 1990). The Anasazi dwelt in villages that often boasted monumental architecture. Around 1250 AD, however, their life changed drastically: many villages were abandoned, and new settlements were built in out-of-the way, almost inaccessible, places. Abandonment of sites is a phenomenon common also to other civilizations of the Americas, but the Anasazi version was extremely striking and difficult to account for. For example, the Anasazi constructed an enormous 420-room building at Sand Canyon, which was created, inhabited, and abandoned, all in the space of 50 years around 1200 AD.

We have little information about the life and society of the Anasazi. As far as we know, they did not have writing, and until recently they were thought to be (along with the Mayas) a sort of "sons of the flowers." This view, however, now has been modified considerably. For instance, at the so-called Castle Rock site, in Colorado, also inhabited for an extremely short period between 1256 and 1274, there is no doubt that the occupation ended in a

G. Magli, Mysteries and Discoveries of Archaeoastronomy, DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-76566-2_7, 135 © Praxis Publishing, Ltd. 2009

Archaeoastronomy, 1989

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