Damage at Fajada Butte?

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I’ve had a go at set­ting up an archae­oastro­nomy chan­nel on Youtube. Jsefick’s account is a bit of a gold­mine for that as he has plenty of videos with inter­est­ing archae­oastro­nom­ical con­tent. Searching for videos to favour­ite today, I found video above that there was an unau­thor­ised land­ing at Fajada Butte. I found it extremely help­ful as it taught me two things.

1) Fajada Butte is a restric­ted area.
That’s very handy to know as I’m the sort of per­son who would drive out some­where on the off-chance of see­ing some­thing. If I ever visit the south­west­ern USA, then Fajada Butte is the sort of place I’d try and take a trip to because of a pet­ro­glyph site fam­ous for an effect known as the sun-dagger. This is a spiral behind a couple of rocks. There’s a gap between the rocks so that on spe­cific days of the year a shard of light shines onto the spiral, like a dagger.

I’ll be hon­est, I don’t know how much of this is coin­cid­ence. Still, there’s plenty writ­ten about it by intel­li­gent people, so it’s the sort of thing I’d like to see. However, as the guide men­tioned in the top video, Fajada Butte is so restric­ted that even they have very lim­ited access. This is a shame, but I can see why it might be neces­sary. It’s handy to know before you go.

2) Butte rhymes with chute, not shut. Small lin­guistic details like these are import­ant if you decide to go on a trip to “look at some buttes”.

For more about Chaco cul­ture, I highly recom­mend vis­it­ing Gambler’s House.

2 thoughts on “Damage at Fajada Butte?

  1. Thanks for the link. Further to what you say about Fajada, it’s actu­ally com­pletely off-limits to vis­it­ors, and almost com­pletely off-limits to staff, who only go up very occa­sion­ally for spe­cial pur­poses such as check­ing out the dam­age from that land­ing. It’s also phys­ic­ally very dif­fi­cult even for those who are per­mit­ted to go; there is a trail, but it’s steep and dif­fi­cult, and in some places it’s almost but not quite a tech­nical rock-climb. When staff go up there they wear harnesses.

    The reason for all these restric­tions is one of the great tra­gedies of south­west­ern archae­oastro­nomy, namely that due to overzeal­ous vis­it­a­tion after the dis­cov­ery of the sun dag­ger the soil appar­ently shif­ted under the rocks and the dag­ger no longer lines up the way it’s sup­posed to. While the pet­ro­glyph is still there, if one were to go up to it on the sol­stice the dag­ger would not pierce the cen­ter of the spiral the way it used to. So there’s not actu­ally any­thing to see even if you could go there to see it.

    All is not lost, how­ever, as far as vis­ible archae­oastro­nomy at Chaco. While there is not at the moment any really obvi­ous archae­oastro­nom­ical mark­ers open to the pub­lic, plans are under­way to develop a pet­ro­glyph site near the vis­itor cen­ter as a pub­lic attrac­tion. I don’t work at Chaco any­more, so I don’t know exactly how far plans have pro­gressed, but it shouldn’t be too long before that site is open.

  2. Thanks for the link. Further to what you say about Fajada, it’s actu­ally com­pletely off-limits to vis­it­ors, and almost com­pletely off-limits to staff, who only go up very occa­sion­ally for spe­cial pur­poses such as check­ing out the dam­age from that land­ing. It’s also phys­ic­ally very dif­fi­cult even for those who are per­mit­ted to go; there is a trail, but it’s steep and dif­fi­cult, and in some places it’s almost but not quite a tech­nical rock-climb. When staff go up there they wear harnesses.

    The reason for all these restric­tions is one of the great tra­gedies of south­west­ern archae­oastro­nomy, namely that due to overzeal­ous vis­it­a­tion after the dis­cov­ery of the sun dag­ger the soil appar­ently shif­ted under the rocks and the dag­ger no longer lines up the way it’s sup­posed to. While the pet­ro­glyph is still there, if one were to go up to it on the sol­stice the dag­ger would not pierce the cen­ter of the spiral the way it used to. So there’s not actu­ally any­thing to see even if you could go there to see it.

    All is not lost, how­ever, as far as vis­ible archae­oastro­nomy at Chaco. While there is not at the moment any really obvi­ous archae­oastro­nom­ical mark­ers open to the pub­lic, plans are under­way to develop a pet­ro­glyph site near the vis­itor cen­ter as a pub­lic attrac­tion. I don’t work at Chaco any­more, so I don’t know exactly how far plans have pro­gressed, but it shouldn’t be too long before that site is open.

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