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|Chimney Rock, at the Crossroads, Part Four|
|Bill Hudson | 5/17/12|
|Back to the News Summaries|
|Read Part One|
"The ancestors of modern Pueblo Indians made the journey to this northernmost outpost of the Chacoan civilization, to witness a rare lunar occurrence that they held to be sacred. Chimney Rock is one of only three such sites known to exist."
—Rep. Scott Tipton, May 16, 2012.
Camille ‘Caz’ Cazedessus began his testimony, at the May 11 Chimney Rock gathering, by pointing out — on the big map the Forest Service had provided — the location of his 17-acre homestead on Highway 151. Just south of the proposed Chimney Rock National Monument border.
"You could say, well, okay, maybe this [new federal Monument] will attract more tourists, and maybe my house will become more valuable.
"Well, I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in living in a wilderness place — especially, a place that is historic, like this."
I consider myself a friend of Mr. Cazedessus. We’ve conducted numerous email discussions over the years on a wide range of political topics, and his writing has appeared numerous times in the Daily Post. He’s a former history professor and one of the more active students of Pagosa and Southwest Colorado history; he’s published a number of books and articles on local historical topics. He also (like many of us here in Pagosa) maintains a healthy distrust of our federal government and its numerous bureaucratic agencies.
"The word, sacred, comes from the root, sangre, which means blood. Red blood," he continued. "I do not know of any blood sacrifices that went on at Chimney Rock. So I don’t know why it would be called ‘sacred.’ It’s certainly an historic place, and people have been there for years and years. I even wrote an article, detailing how the primitive peoples moved up the Stollsteimer Creek there, over many centuries, and finally arrived at the top of the hill, where they built those structures."
"I don’t think it’s really sacred. It’s certainly an archaeological site, and I appreciate what they did up there. I’ve been to Mesa Verde, when I was a little kid. I’ve seen Stonehenge. I’ve visited places in Mexico. I have a roomful of Indian stuff, as Mr. Hudson will attest."
Caz Cazedessus makes his case.
I was kneeling in the aisle at that moment, snapping photos with my camera, and I thought about the little museum contained inside Mr. Cazedessus’ home.
And I thought about Congressman Scott Tipton’s comment, a few minutes earlier, comparing Chimney Rock to ruins in England and Scotland; I assumed Rep. Tipton had been referring to Stonehenge, one of the most famous and confounding primitive sites in all of Europe. No written records have been found documenting Stonehenge, and no one knows its original purpose; it was apparently built over a span of about 1000 years, between 3000 and 2000 BC, and in its final form, today, it includes about 60 massive (25-ton) stones assembled in generally circular patterns, along with numerous smaller stones.
British astronomer Gerald Hawkins famously theorized in 1963 that the sight lines through various openings in the Stonehenge circle seemed to line up with 165 Key Astronomical Events, such as solar and lunar eclipses, as they would have occurred in the sky in about 1500 BC. He made his predictions using an amazing new-fangled device, the IBM computer at Harvard. Professor Hawkins concluded that Stonehenge was a sophisticated Neolithic astronomical calculator, and had been built to predict or observe celestial events.
Stonehenge, north of Salisbury, England.
More recent archaeological evidence, however, indicates that professor Hawkins may have been totally mistaken; it appears the monument was visited almost exclusively during the winter solstice, when the skies in England are notoriously overcast.
Chimney Rock has no comparison to Stonehenge, except for one curious similarity. Local archaeo-astronomers (professional and amateur) have latched onto one observed occurrence and imbued it with great cultural importance. Every 18.6 years — during the so-called Major Lunar Standstill — the full moon appears to rise between the two rock spires atop the hill. If one happens to be standing in the center of the ancient pueblo's eastern kiva, that is.
Why an ancient people would build a Pueblo settlement atop a desolate hill to celebrate a lunar event that happens every 18.6 years, we have absolutely no idea. I personally suspect that the so-called Lunar Standstill Theory of Chimney Rock is probably on par with Gerald Hawkins’ theory about the 165 Key Astrological Events Viewable from Stonehenge.
Moonrise at Chimney Rock. Photo by Helen Richardson.
But my personal suspicions will have little impact on the actions of the federal government, and maybe that’s for the best?
What we do know, with some certainty, is that yesterday, May 16, the U.S. House of Representative passed Congressman Tipton’s legislation establishing a National Monument at Chimney Rock. The news appears on Rep. Tipton’s website.
We might wish to note, however, that the bill passed only on the condition that the designation does not increase federal spending.
"H.R. 2621, the Chimney Rock National Monument Establishment Act, requires no additional federal funds, and therefore no increase in direct spending," states Rep. Tipton in yesterday’s press release.
"It ensures continued access to the area so that local ranchers will be able to utilize the lands they depend on for grazing, outdoorsmen will be able to take advantage of the game opportunities in the area, and members of the Indian tribes will be able to continue to use Chimney Rock for traditional ceremonies. The bill also allows for continued archaeological research and exploration of the area."
In other words, nothing will change, really. No money will be available to upgrade the site. Access to the site will remain the same. Apparently, the only thing that will change will be the name: Chimney Rock National Monument.
"Without any new direct spending, making Chimney Rock a national monument would create a win-win situation for this remarkable place, local communities, the state of Colorado, Native Indian tribes and future generations of visitors," wrote Rep. Tipton.
The legislation must now be approved by the U.S. Senate. Who can doubt that the Senate will jump at the chance?
Read Part Five...
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