Chaco Canyon - Doorways to the Past

Pueblo Bonito Doorways to the past ~

Doorways invite you to the past in Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon.  Image from National Park Services.
Doorways invite you to the past in Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon. Image from National Park Services. | Source

Enter into the past ~

Pueblo Bonito is the largest of what is called "Great Houses" in Chaco Canyon, in the American Southwest. The image above shows doorways to the past in Pueblo Bonito. They invite visitors to enter and become part of the ancient times.

To sit and study the photographs of Chaco Canyon leads to a phenomenal journey of the imagination. To visit the fabulous Pueblo site in person is beyond fascination! It is like stepping back in time to when the ancients were busy at their daily tasks and way of life. In the silence of the ruins one can almost hear the tinkering of tools and murmuring voices of the past.

Researchers have, for over a century, carefully conducted detailed and complicated studies, excavations and surveys to find out more about the people who created Chaco Canyon and lived there. This major center of puebloan culture was thriving between AD 850 and 1250. This is part of the ancient homeland of the puebloan peoples of New Mexico, the Hopi Indians of Arizona, and the Navajo Indians of the Southwest.


Great Kiva of Chetro Ketl ~

The Great Kiva of Chetro Ketl, Chaco Canyon
The Great Kiva of Chetro Ketl, Chaco Canyon | Source

Ancient Ruins ~

This National Historical Park contains 115 ancient kivas and other ruins of pueblos. In the American Southwest, it is Chaco Canyon that has the most extensive and profound reminder of the distant past.

It is an excellent educational lesson of, not only how the ancient ones lived, but, how intelligent and skillful they were.

The immense size of the entire area, the quality of the structures, organization of the layout, and the great distance they had to journey to transport building material shows the skillful work of people far advanced for their time.

The Four Corners ~

Chaco Canyon, one of the most intriguing and mysterious ancient cultural sites of America, sits in the Four Corners area of the southwest United States (southwest Colorado, northwest New Mexico, northeast Arizona and southeast Utah).

The numerous concentration of pueblos contains the most fascinating ruins north of Mexico. This magnificent cultural center is the sacred ancestral home of an ancient culture. The spiritual bond with the land is still, to this day, included in the oral traditions that are handed down to younger generations by the descendants of these ancient architects.

For over 10,000 years, Native Americans have been in the Colorado Plateau region. The creators of this fascinating site were the Anasazi Peoples, the ancient ancestors of the Hopi of Arizona, the Navajo and the Puebloans of New Mexico.

The construction of Chaco Canyon was done with such precise astronomical alignments, geometry, masonry and engineering techniques that it is still a mystery as to how they managed to accomplish this spectacular feat without the technology methods of today. This achievement astounds researchers, archaeologists and laymen alike. The abundance of kivas is evidence of strong ritualistic belief and spiritual bond with Nature and the Heavens.

Four Corners Monument ~

Monument at Four Corners -  Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah
Monument at Four Corners - Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah | Source

Kivas ~

The kivas within the complex are round, semi-subterranean and built inside of some of the great houses. Ladders were made to descend down into the kiva from the rooftops.

These kivas were used for ceremonial rituals. In later years of the culture, kivas with two or even three stories were built. Many of the kivas are grouped together, but two great kivas were built free-standing. These are the Casa Rinconada and Kin Nahasbas.

Some of the smaller kivas, within houses, were probably used by particular clans of related kin. The only way out of the kivas is to come up the ladders, which symbolizes the Hopi creation myth that the people came up to this world from another world below ground.

The whole complex is composed of so many pueblos, rooms, kivas, terraces and plazas that it makes one's head spin to just imagine the lives of the great numbers of people that existed there.

The extensive prehistoric ruins are a fascination to everyone who is fortunate enough to see them. The structures of Pueblo Alto, Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, and the Great Kiva at Casa Rinconada are reminders of the greatness of the ability and intelligence of the people from this ancient culture.

Chaco Canyon ~

Would you have a desire to visit Chaco Canyon?

See results without voting

National Monument ~

In 1907 Chaco Canyon became a National Monument by a Presidential Proclamation to preserve and protect the area and it's many mysteries. In 1980 it was designated a National Historical Park and included in UNESCO World Heritage List of Cultural Properties. It is recognized as a worldwide cultural site of great importance.

One of the main and extraordinary attractions of this wonder of civilization is the astronomical tracking structures that were built. This enabled the Chacoans to time their agricultural planning and ceremonial rituals to the seasonal cycles.

They observed the skies for planetary signs and lined up the edges of their structures with the moon cycles. This was imperative to them and their way of life because it gave them the information they needed to survive.

show route and directions
A markerFour Corners -
4 Corners Rd, Utah, USA
[get directions]

Four Corners National Monument.

B markerChaco Canyon -
Bloomfield NM, USA
[get directions]

Chaco Canyon

C markerChetro Ketl -
Unnamed Road, Nageezi, NM 87037, USA
[get directions]

Chetro Ketl

D markerFajada Butte -
Fajada Gap, New Mexico, USA
[get directions]

Fajada Butte in New Mexico

Tracking movements of the heavens ~

It is uncanny how they were able to build the structures to track the movements of the heavens. For instance, at Casa Rinconada, the largest Kiva, the rising sun of the summer solstice comes through a northeastern side of the building and enters into a niche on the western wall. Sacred ceremonies would have centered around this marvelous observation.

It would be very easy to get caught up in the imagination of the past and become lost to the technology of today, but, how peaceful it is to escape for just a few minutes and become part of the spiritual experience of Chaco Canyon.

One can only marvel at how the ancient peoples of Chaco Canyon were able to use this extraordinary ability without the modern tools and observatories we have now. The photograph below shows an Anasazi petroglyph that is believed to show the explosion of the Supernova in the year 1054.

Anasazi petroglyph ~

Petroglyph in Chaco Canyon, - believed to depict the 1054 Supernova explosion
Petroglyph in Chaco Canyon, - believed to depict the 1054 Supernova explosion | Source

Fajada Butte ~

Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico | Source

Sun daggers ~

Diagram showing the location of the sun daggers on the petroglyph on various days
Diagram showing the location of the sun daggers on the petroglyph on various days | Source

Sun Daggers at Fajada Butte ~

The Fajada Butte location is now called the Sun Dagger site. It became the most popular site for tourists -- however, because of its fragile condition is no longer open to the public.

In 1977, during a study of rock art, petroglyphs of spirals were found on the southeastern cliff. This would not be so unusual, except that it was noted there were three large slabs of stone placed in such position against the cliff that they were channels to direct light onto the petroglyphs, which made daggers of sunlight on the spirals on the cliff. After a long period of observation it was found that these sun daggers mark on the spirals the solstices and equinoxes of the year.

Fajada Butte, at 6,623 feet, rises high above the canyon floor. Near the top of the butte are ruins of cliff dwellings, which were used during the 10th and 13th centuries. Having no source of water up that high, it is believed by experts that the location was used for ceremonial purposes only.

Access to the area for construction and ceremonial purposes was made possible by a large ramp, over 311 feet high and more than 754 feet long, on the southwestern side of the butte.

Back down on the canyon floor, several buildings had also been to keep track of solar cycles, and possibly lunar cycles as well. This alignment to the sun and moon cycles took generations of observation and very skillful planning of construction over centuries to obtain the accuracy of cycles.


Deeply Spiritual ~

The Puebloans did not build their complex of buildings in the canyon simply for living comfort. There was a deeply spiritual connotation to all the planning and organization.

It was a place of worship and to bring the spiritual aspect of their beliefs into the physical on a daily basis, so that all was in harmony and balance. They saw an order of things in heaven and endeavored to bring the same thing down to their earthly home. Even the mysterious Great North Road, which is 30 feet wide, leading north away from the complex and ending in the middle of nowhere, seems to have a spiritual purpose.

Careful study and the beliefs of present day Puebloans, indicates that the road was created as a journey for the dead, so their spirits could find their way to the afterlife in peace. Foods would have been left alongside the road for the spirits on their long journey.

It is very interesting to note, here, that this road leads to where the Ancient Ones (earliest ancestors) emerged from the Sipapu, or place of emergence, which is a dimensional doorway. A sipapu is a hole in the ground and the Puebloans believed that the original ancestors came from underground to emerge into the "first world".

The actual place of the Sipapu is sacred knowledge and not to be shown to any but the dead. The Hopi and other Puebloans believe we are now in the "third world" and approaching the fourth.

At certain times of the year, the living would carry out a ceremonial procession, carrying baskets of food for the spirits. A spiritual leader would lead the procession, purifying and blessing the way, sending prayers up to Great Spirit to heal and guide the spirits.
~ ~ ~ ~

Mystery of Chaco Canyon ~

Note from author ~

Thank you for reading my article. Your opinions are important to me and let me know your interests. This helps me to offer more of your favorite subjects to read about. Your time and interest are very much appreciated. I hope to hear from you in the comments section below.

I write on several different subjects, all evergreen articles. You can read more about me and see more articles I wrote by clicking on my name by the small picture of me at the top right of this page.

Blessings and may you always walk in peace and harmony, softly upon Mother Earth.

Phyllis Doyle Burns
~ ~ ~ ~

© 2013 Phyllis Doyle Burns

More by this Author


Comments 48 comments

Genna East profile image

Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

When first looking at the doorways in Pueblo Bonita in you photos, I was immediately impressed with the compact alignment of the stones in the structures, and the fact that they are still standing. The Chaco kivas look as though they were made with a giant cookie cutter, they are so precise. The sun daggers marking the equinox and solstice periods are simply amazing. Fascinating hub, Phyllis – thank you! Voted up and sharing. :-)


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Genna, thank you so much for your visit and compliment. I so appreciate this. Chaco Canyon is absolutely fascinating. I love that video and it fits in perfect.


CarolynEmerick profile image

CarolynEmerick 3 years ago

I enjoyed this article very much! Ancient cultures and ruins are so fascinating. I especially enjoyed the Kivas ruins, had never heard of them before. I'm interested in ancient sacred sites, so this was a pleasure to read. Upvoted!


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Carolyn, thank you so much for your visit and comment. Kivas have always been of great interest to me. I would love to spend time in one to connect to the spirits of the past and feel the great spirituality that lingers there. I am glad you enjoyed my article. Thanks again.


Mike Robbers profile image

Mike Robbers 3 years ago from London

Interesting and well written hub, Phyllis. As you mention in your title, ancient remnants are quite fascinating as they are indeed a doorway to our past.


sheilamyers 3 years ago

I always enjoy reading about the ancient Native American cultures. Thanks for providing such an interesting hub.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Mike, thank you very much. Yes, they are doorways to the past. How fun would that be to just walk through to that time and learn many things? You would have a great time at Chaco with your camera. Thanks for the visit, Mike. Take care.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Sheila, I enjoy learning about ancient cultures also, especially Native American ones. The Anasazi people have always interested me. Thank you for the visit, I so appreciate it.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 3 years ago from North Carolina

Very interesting topic with some very intriguing info, thank you, Phyllis. Those spirals turn up a lot on ancient drawings and i believe they represent ...well, you and i can talk in more detail ...you can contact me @ daneman10o@ gmail.com should you wish. Do want to hear an update on your new residence plus other things. Look forward to hearing from you my friend. ,


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Thank you, Alastar, so much for the visit and comment. I will love to talk with you in more detail. I tried to send you a message at the email, but it is coming back as invalid. I will contact you at our other site. Take care and will chat soon.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 3 years ago from North Carolina

Pardon that, Phyllis. A lot to get straightened out as you can well imagine. The other site came through fine and I'll get up with you today - Sat the 26th. See you soon!


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Thanks, Alastar. Looking forward to it.


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal

Prior to reading this hub, I had never heard of Chaco Canyon. I don't know if I will be able to visit this place, but I enjoyed reading the hub.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Thank you, Vinaya. I always appreciate your visits and comments. Chaco Canyon is a place of great mystery and marvelous structures.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 3 years ago from North Carolina

My gosh Phyllis you have turned me on to something I knew nothing on. Chaco Canyon is astounding. The Great Kiva etc are where the ancients with their amazing constructions and reasons (those that we can understand at this point) made it into North America a bit. Could go on for pages but I'll just say thank you so much for writing this my friend.

PS- Congrats on the well deserved Editors Choice award and without going into details here, some fantastic constructions have been discovered in the Georgia mountains recently. I know you will particularly interested in that. A wonderful world of discovery isn't it.:)


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hi Alastar, I am very glad you find Chaco Canyon so interesting -- yes, it is astounding, for sure. Every time I think about it, I am near stunned that the ancients could accomplish their astronomical feat of aligning buildings with the Heavenly planets to track the course of the sun and moon over time. It truly is amazing.

I would really like to find out more about what was discovered in the Georgia mountains. What ancients did without the use of modern technology is fantastic. We must talk about this new discovery, for, yes, I am very interested. A wonderful world of discovery -- I agree. Thanks, Alastar, for your visit and comment. I truly appreciate it.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 3 years ago from Stepping past clutter

I have had the privilege of living in Colorado and traveling to Mesa Verde as well as Taos and Santa Fe Pueblos. It always astonishes me when eastern Americans tell me we have no history in the West!

My brother and family hiked Chaco years ago... I would love this very spiritual experience. Thanks so much for reminding me of this fascinating location in time.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Storyteller, thank you so much for sharing your experience in the West. I truly love to hear from anyone who has been to the historical places I write about. I have a friend who lives in Mesa Verde and she loves it. I never get over the astonishment of Chaco Canyon, the spiritual aspect of it, and the highly intelligent planning of the structures to coincide with the moon and sun, the soltices, etc. -- fascinating ! The Southwest is rich in ancient history and I love to delve into it. Thanks for your visit and comment -- I so appreciate it.


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 3 years ago

I have heard its a place of harmonic convergence.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

poetryman6969, yes, it is a place of harmonic energies. Thanks for your visit and comment.


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

Hi Phyllis. I have never heard of this particular site, and yet it seems extraordinarily well preserved, and interesting to explore. Coming from the UK, I have long planned to visit this part of the USA for the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Antelope Canyon and other natural sites - I can see that when I do, I may have to find time to fit Chaco Canyon into the schedule as well!

Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Voted up. Alun.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Greetings, Alun, and thank you for the visit and comment. I do hope you can work Chaco Canyon into your schedule. It is a fascinating place. I love to learn about the history and way of life of ancient peoples. Hope you have a great time on your journey to all those great places on your itinerary. Thanks again, Alun, I so appreciate it that you stopped by to read.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

This is a wonderful article and congrats on it being chosen as an Editor's Choice - it is truly inspiring and well written. I would love to see this canyon. It sounds so interesting and I love the Pueblo indians, Navajos and Hopi. I have some of their silver handmade bracelets and rings. They are amazing people and as you have shown so intelligent.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Thank you, Suzette. Glad you enjoyed it. The Pueblo people have always been of great interest to me. Thanks for the read and comment, I really appreciate it.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

A great hub and voted up Phyllis and I shall be in touch tomorrow about helping you with the songs. Sorry its been so hectic. Voted up and enjoy your day.

Eddy.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Eddy, thank you so much for the read and votes. I always appreciate your visits. I may have forgotten something? I don't remember about songs we may have discussed. Have a great day, Eddy.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 2 years ago

Phyllis , This is amazing ! My friend I have failed to keep up with many an awesome hubber ! You my dear are on that shameful list ! I have been to many of the Indian ruins in the southwest , Yet to go to Chaco ! You do such awesome justice to these spiritual paces , thank you for this and so much more !.......Ed


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Ed, it is great to hear from you ! You are most welcome, I am very glad you like the hub. Thank you so much for the visit and kind words. Places like Chaco Canyon are very spiritual and I feel strong connections to them. I often visit Chaco and other places like the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi, but only in spirit. Maybe some day I will go there in person. Thanks again for the visit and comment, I really appreciate it. Please don't be a stranger now. Have a great evening.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 2 years ago

Phyllis , Phyllis ,you got to go out there , The Navajo National Monument just west of Kyenta Az. , one of my most favorites ! Quiet , peace , serene ! Ummmph! Oh yea !......:-}


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from Orlando, Florida

This is a wonderful hub, Phyllis. My husband has a potential job opportunity in Nevada, so we may have an opportunity to see some of the American Southwest in the near future. I have bookmarked your hub to share with him!


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hi Annette. I think you will like Nevada. My ghost town hubs were fun to write and tells a little history on the way it was in the old days during the gold rush. There are a lot of small towns here in Washoe Valley that have not changed much since they were built in the early 1800s. We are quite a way from the Chaco Canyon area -- I hope to some day visit there. Thanks for your visit and comment.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Ed, my friend -- visiting Chaco Canyon, Monument Valley and the Four Corners is definitely on my Bucket List. Quiet, peace, and serene I can always take. You make me want to go there now -- if only I could ...


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a very interesting hub, Phyllis! I would love to visit the area myself, but reading your hub and looking at the photos is the next best thing. What a fascinating place this must be explore! Absorbing the atmosphere and contemplating the spiritual significance of the area would be very enjoyable.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hi AliciaC. I am glad you enjoyed a spiritual journey through Chaco Canyon. I get drawn there every time I read about and study the pictures. I find it amazing that the people had such knowledge about the planets. Also, the architectural structures are fascinating. Thank you so much for the visit and comment. I really appreciated it.


Abe 2 years ago

Take the tour thru the kiva. It runs all they way thru the structure thru doorways and windows.

One time there in the 80s there were hundreds of thousands of rabbits heading out of the area, more than 1 per square yard for about 3 miles. I drove out a 5 mph trying not to kill any.

Another time there torrential rains turned the road to mud but my 4x4 just barely made it out.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hi Abe. Thanks for reading and commenting.I would love to go through the Kiva, all of them. Good thing you made it out during that heavy rain. Do torrential rains hit there often?


RhondaAlbom profile image

RhondaAlbom 2 years ago from New Zealand

I was drawn to this page by the doorways (from your home page), but it was the kivas and sun dials that really fascinated me once reading. I would love to visit here some day. I have been to 3 of the four corner states, but never near the "corner."


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hi Rhonda. Those doorways intrigue me. I bet you would have a grand time at Chaco with your camera. Thanks very much for reading and commenting.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 2 years ago from North Carolina

Oh how I'd love to visit Chaco Canyon with you someday. The way things have been going on around here lately, who knows, we may make a discovery ourselves my friend! This is the next best thing for now and you've written it so vey well. Alastar highly recommends Phyllis's article to the world audience. Sharing here, Twitter, G+ and friends FB.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

You are one awesome Southern Gentleman, Alastar. Thank you so much for this wonderful comment and all that sharing. Let me know when you are ready to visit Chaco Canyon and I will find my hiking boots, pack my duffel bag and off we go.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 2 years ago from malang-indonesia

I had never heard about Chaco Canyon before. Nice review and I really enjoy reading this hub. I love the pictures as well. Thanks for sharing with us. Voted up!

Prasetio


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

You are most welcome, Prasetio. Thank you for reading and commenting. I am glad you enjoyed the hub. I was very happy to find such great pictures. Thanks again.


bethperry profile image

bethperry 2 years ago from Tennesee

Phyllis, fascinating article and I love the photos you included! This info really should change the way the modern "scientific" mind perceives our ancient American peoples.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Thank you so much, Beth. That photo of the doorways just really captured me. I can imagine walking through them to the past. I agree with you that our ancient peoples should be viewed in a different light - they were far more advanced and intelligent than most realize. Thanks again, Beth, I appreciate your visit.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 2 years ago

Chaco , here I come ! Not being a "practicing " Christian I can say this ! There are spirits that hold an amazing presence in the air in certain places . The multiple native ruins of the American west have them all . Having visited plenty of them , I can say that I "feel" something every time . Perhaps simply the magic of the deserts , the awesome quiet of a full moon night at a circular labyrinth at the crest of a mesa . But I feel the same presence as I do walking into an empty church . "Yes Virginia" there are spirits ! The more I learn about these places , I realize as well that there were perhaps more than just one society of natives that lived in them too . The original inhabitants , and even those who now claim them as historical dwellings . There is something magical about a place where you can touch a piece of broken pottery once used on a daily basis ........Let's go !


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

I so understand what you say about the spirituality of places like Chaco Canyon, Ed. I feel it in the desert surrounding where I live. It is magical and powerful. Sometimes I believe I hear voices of the Ancient Ones in the sands that drift endlessly like a sea. I love the desert. Thank you so much, Ed, for your visit and uplifting comment. I truly appreciate it.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 2 years ago

Phyllis, have a perfect desert day !......Lol


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Thank you, Ed. Hope your day is wonderful.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working