Archeoastronomy

The sun rises adjacent to a long stone wall, with people and scraggly bushes nearby.
Visitors experience the summer solstice sunrise alignment at the Aztec West great house site.

NPS Photo.

Ancestral Pueblo people had a deep and abiding relationship with the heavens. The visible structures today remain as witnesses to those connections between culture and cosmos.

Specific examples visible at Aztec Ruins National Monument include the Aztec West great house solistice alignment. During the summer solstice sunrise and the winter solstice sunset, the north wall of the great house aligns with the sun's location as it touches the horizon.
 
A doorway in a wall with five ladder rungs below it; the bottom section is illuminated by a narrow section of sunlight.
The summer solstice sunrise view from inside the Great Kiva, showing the moment when the "doorway of light" rests inside of the base of this t-shaped structure.

NPS Photo, by Danielle York.

Potential alignments are visible within the Great Kiva as well. The locations of "doorways of light" during well known solar and lunar alignment days have long inspired park rangers, visitors and archeoastronomers alike to wonder if these potential alignments held great importance to the ancestral Pueblo culture living here centuries ago. Although the Great Kiva is reconstructed, the original doorway locations were well documented during the excavation by Earl Morris.

For the protection of these archeologic sites, access options for visitors to see these events are limited. The monument hosts solstice alignment observations each year, and full moon tours during the summer. There is no access to the archeologic features here outside of those special events - see the monument's calendar for specific program opportunities.

Last updated: April 3, 2019

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Mailing Address:

725 Ruins Road
Aztec, NM 87410

Phone:

(505) 334-6174 x0

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