Hidden away in the canyon- Solar alignments and storyboards of the past.


We arise early from a very comfortable stay at The Cultural Visitor's Center, located right on the main road. We have received instructions to meet our guide for this morning's trip, Clyde Qotswiswma, immediately after breakfast. Clyde is an employee of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office and a Hopi village clan member. During our drive we ask Clyde about his work.

Clyde's responsibilities center around the retrieval of stolen artifacts. He contacts museums around the world that have been found to hold sacred Hopi religious items and expedites their return to the tribe. Despite recent Federal laws to back him up, he encounters frustrating delays and unforeseen problems. He tells us of a sacred mask recently identified in one of the most important national museums. Prior to its return to the Hopi, it was found to have been impregnated with arsenic, a once common museum trick to reduce the destructive growth of molds and fungus on organic material. It has since been determined that there is no safe way to remove the poison so that the mask can be handled or worn again. Since the Hopi believe that these masks embody the very spirit in whose honor they were created, this situation presents quite a dilemma.

Clyde pulls our 4-wheel drive vehicle off the main road to a horseshoe-shaped canyon. Even in this remote and secret location, he is careful to wear his official identification badge and reminds us that we may be watched by the Tribal Police, who are more aggressive now in response to invasions of their land by outsiders.

As we enter the canyon, we notice that cliffs, some sixty feet high in places, protect a large flat courtyard and that the central plaza is graced by a high sun clock.

Centrally located, but invisible until it's pointed out, the clock is made from an existing protrusion of rock which creates a natural pointer at its right top corner. Recessed behind this rock stands a flat surface bearing a circular target-like petroglyph (shown slightly enhanced). Clyde tells us that during a certain ceremonial dance which is performed at the same time each year, the shadow of the pointer falls exactly in the center of the circles. According to Clyde, this date is the only occasion on which this natural phenomenon occurs.

We find this interesting since we have been told that some of the petroglyphs at our Colorado destination also bear this special feature.

--NEXT-- || Viewzone