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No. 10: Spring 1980

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The astronomical sophistication of ancient humans becomes more obvious each year. A novel method of keeping track of the seasons has been discovered on an isolated butte in New Mexico. Here, the Anasazi, who occupied Chaco Canyon between 400 and 1,300 A.D., carved spiral petroglyphs into the face of a cliff. Then, they arranged stone slabs so that sharp slivers of sunlight fell on the spirals. The precise position of the sliver of light depends of course upon the location of the sun. The solstices and equinoxes are registered by unique configurations of light slivers and spirals. In contrast to other calendar sites, which rely upon the rising and setting points of sun on the horizon, the New Mexico clock depends upon the altitude of the sun at midday. Slivers of moonlight on the spirals also seem to have astronomical significance.

(Sofaer, Anna, et al; "A Unique Solar Marking Construct," Science, 206:283, 1979.)

Reference. Our Handbook Ancient Man contains much additional material on archeoastronomy. For a description of this large volume, go to: here.

From Science Frontiers #10, Spring 1980. 1980-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987