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Download Prehistoric Astronomy in the Southwest epub

by Claudia Putnam,J. McKim Malville

Archaeoastronomy is a discipline pioneered at Stonehenge and other megalithic sites in Britain and France. Many sites in the southwestern United States have yielded evidence of the prehistoric Anasazis intense interest in astronomy, similar to that of the megalithic cultures of Europe.

The authors describe the astronomical alignments at the well-known sites of Chaco Canyon and Hovenweep and present new evidence, based on recent field work of alignments at Yellow Jacket, Chimney Rock, and Mesa Verde.

Drawing on the archaeological evidence, ethnographical parallels with historic pueblo peoples, and mythology from other cultures around the world, the authors present theories about the meaning and function of the mysterious stone alignments and architectural orientations of the prehistoric Southwest.

Download Prehistoric Astronomy in the Southwest epub
ISBN: 1555661165
ISBN13: 978-1555661168
Category: Science
Subcategory: Astronomy & Space Science
Author: Claudia Putnam,J. McKim Malville
Language: English
Publisher: Johnson Books; Revised, Subsequent edition (April 1, 1993)
Pages: 112 pages
ePUB size: 1890 kb
FB2 size: 1991 kb
Rating: 4.4
Votes: 797
Other Formats: doc mobi docx lit

The first chapter of the book is an overview of what the authors intend to get across in their publication. The second chapter is but a summary of an introductory solar/moon/earth astronomy course. Together they set a good foundation for the mostly archeological evidence in the surrounding areas of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. The coverage of each archeological site is very good in terms of text (which ties together the sites with the known history of them), timing, sketches, and photographs, but very poor in terms of exact locational geography due to the lack of a precise, universal map. Tying the Anasazi abandonment of the area to the sunspots of 1200 is a good assertion, and the authors do bring out it is only a supposition, but more evidence is certainly needed.
This fine book was updated in a new edition in 2012: go to Prehistoric Astronomy in the Southwest.

My review of the revised edition is at

J. McKim Malville has a history of updating this fine guide every four years or so to keep up with the new and exciting, as well as the better established learning on astronomy in the Southwest. I haven't seen a new version yet, and he doesn't seem to maintain a blog. But this is really interesting information and he gives a good bibliography to help you keep up to date with other researchers.

The first four chapters deal with general concepts of archeoastronomy, with references to sky watcher as long ago as 7,000 years in the Sahara Desert at Lake Playa. His focus, though, is on the Ancestral Puebloans and their culture in the 600 years between 700 and 1300 CE. He identifies four major themes:

1. Ceremonies at the solstice; the sun dwells at the extreme points for several days so it was relatively easy to establish markers. But, in such a dry climate, with rainfall uncertain, there are better ways to determine when to plant than the position of the sun on the horizon.

2. North-south orientation; this science began in the San Juan region and moved southward into Chaco Canyon where the Great Houses display sophisticated astronomy and strong social cohesion and leadership.

3. Major stand-stills of the moon, obvious, perhaps, at Chimney Rock where every 18.6 years the moon, but never the sun, rises between the chimneys.

4. Unexpected events, especially the supernovas of 1006 and 1054 CE, Sunset Crater in 1064 CE, and Halley's Comet in 1066 are all examples.

Malville then focuses on five major sites: Chaco Canyon, Chimney Rock, Yellow Jacket, Mesa Verde and the Towers and Castles of Hovenweep. His detailed discussions of the astronomical studies evident at each site cannot easily be summarized. But, I was lucky enough to visit Chaco Canyon for the first time and Mesa Verde for the second time last year. I used the previous edition, of course, to give myself a good overview, and then relied on excellent local guides and other information for more detailed study. Malville's teachings were very accurate.

This book is essential if you are visiting any of these five sites, and is also essential if you want only to gain a general sense of what these peoples accomplished.

Robert C. Ross
May 2012
revised April 2015
Malville and Putnam bring an interesting and informative study with "Prehistoric Astronomy in the Southwest" (1993). As a means of understanding the now long disappeared life of the ancient Anasazi people the authors review several southwestern prehistoric Native American sites from an astronomy viewpoint.

With an eye to the sky, Malville and Putnam study Chaco Canyon (New Mexico), Hovenweep (Utah), Chimney Rock (New Mexico) Yellow Jacket (Utah), and Mesa Verde (Colorado), to form the basis of their scientific conclusions. The authors talk about the similarities and differences between each archaeological site. They make several informed suggestions about corner windows (page 35), sunrooms (page 39), the significance of carved spirals on cliff dwelling walls (page 44), ancient Anasazi male and female industry (page 52), T-shaped doorways (page 92), and much more. They think Anasazi life was continuously influenced by celestial activity and portents.

Proving conclusively that the ancients were fervent sky watchers, Malville and Putnam consider the subterranean Kiva, found at nearly all Anasazi locations, to be the principal astronomical symbol. This community central structure may have represented the center of the ancient cosmos. Much of Anasazi belief and living pattern may have focused around what happened in the Kiva as representative for what was seen in the sky.

Although this book is small (108 total paperback pages) its science is well documented (with 6 pages of endnotes). It offers dozens of black and white photos, sky charts, maps and illustrations (of particular interest is page 14's illustrated method for using a gnomon to locate "true north").

This is a very good book. It inspired family tours to most of its study locations (Yellow Jacket is unaccessible to the general public). Malville and Putnam is a must read for all students of the southwest, ancient astronomy buffs, and students of Native American archaeology.'s price is good. Get your copy soon.