Casas Grandes, Mexico, and the Chaco Meridian
Casas Grandes (big houses), also known as Paquime, is in Chihuahua, Mexico, an hour’s drive south of the U.S. border. The local culture arose after 1250 A.D. Chaco archaeologist, Steven Lekson, noted that Paquime stands on the same meridian as Chaco Canyon and as Aztec Ruin. The Chacoans left Chaco for Aztec and around 1250 A.D. left Aztec for parts unknown. Archaeology shows that the Chacoans were very concerned with alignments of their great houses with each other, with the cardinal directions, with the sun, moon and stars.
There are similarities in building techniques – T-shaped doors for instance. Armed with this and a few other facts, Lekson concluded that there was a Chaco Meridian and that the people went from Aztec to Paquime.
I had thought this theory far-fetched. The last thing we Europeans learned to measure was longitude – meridians – and then only in the latter half of the 18th century and then only by the use of very accurate clocks. Minutes and seconds of difference in the rising of the sun can be converted into distances east and west. So, I reasoned, the Chacoans would know nothing of meridians. But, they did understand north and south, east and west.
Every year archaeologists discover more alignments in Chaco. It is clear that these alignments meant a great deal to the Chacoans and that they were able to measure them over great distances – Pueblo Bonito aligns with Pueblo Pintado 15 miles away. There are so many alignments that coincidence becomes unsatisfying as an explanation. At the very least, Lekson must be forgiven for imagining a Chaco meridian, at best, he is correct.