"I’m waiting for an alignment," says the woman when we stumble across her, smiling beatifically as she sits in the corner of an empty room. No, she’s not talking about her car. This is Chaco Canyon on the summer solstice, and folks of all stripes have journeyed here from far and wide for the occasion. Here, alignments are all about the sun.
Rich with the thousand-year-old artifacts and architecture of the ancient Pueblo culture, this canyon is also home to a number of sites that are thought to be ancient observatories. At these sites, some as simple as a few circles carved on a rock face, shafts of sunlight align with human-made markers that were probably used to chart and celebrate celestial patterns, in particular, the seasonal shifts of the sun.
We say "probably" because there’s no way to know exactly what the inhabitants of Chaco Canyon had in mind when they crafted the various sites that today we invest with astronomical significance. Still, the great number of possible sites constitutes a preponderance of evidence that, while circumstantial, is hard to ignore. In the words of G. B. Cornucopia, interpreter and resident of Chaco Canyon, "The greatest coincidence of all would be that they were all coincidences."
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