Morning Coffee

Starting the day with manuscript editing over coffee and breakfast, working on evidence of ancient astronomy.  My interests in archaeology and astronomy preceded combining them.  Inevitably, archaeoastronomy caught my interest.  When my research focus shifted from Mesoamerican codices to rock art–to start reading the story from the beginning so to speak, Fajada Butte and Chaco Canyon caught my attention.  I found the codices overwhelming and indecipherable.  Rock art wasn’t any easier, but it is a much larger sample of the original “writing” and it is still in place, in context and I enjoyed a year spent in the Southwest desert “reading” the sites.  After noting a specific glyph was distributed on a north-south line I examined Southwest ruins and found a concentration of major sites on a meridian.  I named it the Chaco Meridian, drew a map, and, considering the finding significant, notarized the map and sent a copy to a few archaeologists.  Thus I was drawn into a new area of research decades ago, site-to-site relationships of ancient monuments, what I term archaeogeodesy.  Archaeology has a way of leading the researcher down new and unexpected paths of exploration and of learning.

Learning archaeology has been a long road with many branches.  To study the past, especially if your focus is past knowledge, your level of knowledge has to match the topic.  Archaeologists focused on ceramics become experts in ceramics, those focused on subsistence learn agriculture, etc.  At one point I did not know the word geodesy existed, albeit I knew about navigation, surveying, and cartography.  Our paradigms blind us to what other cultures knew and I did not suspect past cultures placed their largest monuments at specific latitudes or in relation to distant monuments.  Bit by bit, the archaeological evidence forces the researcher to learn what the ancients knew.  This process can hit a wall when the evidence demonstrates that past knowledge may exceed one’s one and the knowledge of one’s own culture.  I hit that wall when my research results indicated past civilizations had determined longitude accurately.  How else could they place major monuments in relation to each other when direct survey between them wasn’t possible.  My knowledge was inadequate to explain how this was accomplished without modern tools.

Analysis of site-to-site relationships also yielded evidence of accurate heliocentric astronomy and precise knowledge of astronomy constants.  How did ancient civilizations determine astronomy constants?  Since modern astronomy offered no solutions, I had to figure it out the way they did, using reasoning.  So now I’m trying to figure out how to communicate all this to a culture generally lacking literacy in these areas.  No one said archaeology would be easy.  Most certainly no one said we might lack enough knowledge to understand aspects of the past or that we would have to expand our own knowledge to do so.  I really need that morning coffee because somehow I ended up an archaeologist.