OFLI “Out There” 2013
Posted 23 February 2014 - 08:13 AM
Posted 23 February 2014 - 10:16 AM
Company is always welcome.
CNer killdabuddha and his wife drove from New Jersey for this trip, with a massive self-built bino-scope in tow:
It was a magical instrument under Chaco's dark skies made all the more special by its user-made uniqueness.
Posted 24 February 2014 - 07:20 PM
Here's an image from the Pueblo Alto section of the trip report:
Notice the faint red patina on a segment of the wall? That's an indication that at some time in the distant past it was subjected to fire. While stone does not burn, many of the ruins in the canyon show evidence that the roof timbers were burned, either ritually or as a result of conflict.
This is Chaco's "South Gap", a natural gap in the south wall of the Canyon separating Chacra Mesa (which stretches east/left of the gap in the picture) and West Mesa (to the right of the gap in the picture) on which another ruin covered in the report, Penasco Blanco sits, and against which the overhang where the Supernova Pictograph resides. A straight many mile road called the Great South Road stretched from the canyon through this gap in ancient time. Multiple "Outliers" which are Great Houses like those in Chaco lie in village sites along this and the other Chacoan Roads.
This is a "pecked basin". These appear in the tabular sandstone atop several mesas in the area. Modern tribes in the region still leave offerings occasionally in these basins, usually bits of turquoise or corn.
Getting up to Pueblo Alto and the pecked basin, as well as the Jackson Staircase pictured in the report, is a heck of a lot of fun:
Posted 24 February 2014 - 07:32 PM
It's actually a lot more exciting than you'd think, though. As sophisticated as these palace/temple/fortresses were, they lacked any form of basic sanitation. Household waste was dumped in piles called "midden heaps" nearby most Anasazi ruins. I showed the team where one of Tsin Kletso's midden heaps was located a short distance from the rear/south of the ruin. Midden heaps are the best place to find pottery shards, the remnants of material culture 1000 years ago.
Now, care to guess the best place to find turquoise, bone or stone decorative beads? Ant hills. We spotted numerous turquoise, bone and jet beads in the scatter fields around the mouths of ant hills near ruins, together with bits of worked chert (scraps from point making).
No matter how tempting, please leave artifacts where you spot them. That way the next visitor can enjoy a moment of discovery.
Posted 24 February 2014 - 08:32 PM
You may be wondering what all of the circular subterranean structures are about. You can see several from this clifftop image of Pueblo Bonito:
Here's a closeup of two Great Kivas (Kiva is what the structures are called), one from Chetro Ketl and the other from Rinconada:
Great Kivas are "Great" due to the dimensions (30-60 meters in diameter) as well as key features such as bench seating around the perimeter, fire boxes, foot drums and roof pilaster/column support bases (the round masonry structures seen on the Kiva floor.
In addition to "Great Kivas" there are small circular Kivas sometimes called "Kin Kivas". Here's an unexcavated
Kin Kiva" at Tsin Kletsin:
Here's a rare "Tri-Wall Kiva" at Pueblo Del Arroyo:
There are only two other Tri-Wall Kivas in the world. One at Salmon Ruin about 50 miles north of Chaco and I'm not sure where the third is.
An above ground, multi-story "Tower Kiva" at Chetro Ketl:
A "Spoked Kiva" more common in the Mesa Verde region to the north (this one is at Bonito):
A "Keyhole Kiva" also mor characteristic of northern Anasazi (this one is at Pueblo Del Arroyo):
The wall of an "Enclosed Kiva" at Hungo Pavi:
So, what is the purpose of a Kiva? No one knows for sure, though there are many, many theories. Almost certainly the Great Kivas were for mass assemblies (probably ritual). The many and varied smaller Kiva styles, though, are harder to fathom.
Posted 24 February 2014 - 11:16 PM
Penasco Blanco wall segment with ruined door:
Looking up-canyon from the back side of the Penasco Blanco "oval". Unlike most Chacoan Great Houses, which are D-shaped or E-shaped, this one is oval. Fairly unique among Chacoan ruins, and given that it is one of the oldest of the ruins in the canyon, it makes one wonder.
There are two principal masonry styles in the canyon. Chacoan (in 4 or 5 phases depending on which school of thought one follows) and McElmo. McElmo is shared with the northern Anasazi regions around Mesa Verse in Colorado. The McElmo influenced Great Houses appear relatively late in the canyon's occupation. Casa Chiquita, Kin Kletso, Tsin Kletsin and New Alto are all McElmo in masonry style. The rest of the ruins displaye multiple phases of Chacoan fonr core and veneer masonry and a few also include some McElmo additions.
McElmo architecture tends to be compact and rectangular, but Tsin Kletsin is something of a hybrid - McElmo masonry (mostly) but a Chacoan D-shaped architectural style. So we know that at least two regional cultures, likely with close ties, co-existed in the canyon for a time.
So what to make of the great oval design of ancient Penasco Blanco?
Here's a 13th century Zuni site virtual reconstruction:
Here's a similar reconstruction of Penasco Blanco:
Perhaps the late additions at Penasco Blanco were influenced by contact with proto-Zuni neighbors to the south? Unconvinced? One additional thing to consider, then. On the cliff below Penasco Blanco is the famous "Supernova Pictograph":
Now, while some think this is a depiction of the 1054 Supernova that created the Crab Nebula, others disagree. Apparently there are *very similar* images 90 miles to the south at a Zuni sun watching station.
I haven't seen the Zuni art in person, but would like to walk the Zuni trail and do so in the summer of 2015. Certainly something to think about...
Posted 24 February 2014 - 11:39 PM
And who knows. Maybe a little extra-dimensional travel?
Posted 25 February 2014 - 01:58 AM
Thank you for such a great report.
Posted 25 February 2014 - 07:47 AM
Posted 25 February 2014 - 11:01 AM
We'll do another big trip in 2015, though we're still thinking about where. It will be the southwest, but where in the southwest remains open. I'd love to do Carlsbad Caverns and related caves in the general area, but the camping for big groups around there is simply junk. Garbage. It would seem to me to be a no-brainer for the Park Service to have proper campgrounds and to encourage astronomy as a reason for public visits to Parks located in dark regions.
Once we figure out where we're going, I'll get the word out. For 2015 I think we'd like a bigger turn out than usual, so we'll probably open it up to CNers in general.
Posted 25 February 2014 - 02:43 PM
Posted 25 February 2014 - 07:37 PM
You'll have to get some of your glass out of the Great White North and down into the hot sands and scorpions with us one of these trips.
Just look at those skies!
C'mon. You know you want to...
Posted 04 May 2014 - 10:11 AM
Posted 11 August 2014 - 09:42 PM
I lied about there not being an OFLI 2014 trip. We're headed to Pinnacles National Park in San Benito County, CA, in October for a couple of nights observing. It won't be a long trip, but it will be a good one. Great hiking.