A thought after the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, which I was lucky enough to see:

In 1097, a total solar eclipse was visible over Chaco Canyon in what is now New Mexico. An artist there recorded the event in this petroglyph. Scientists now know that 1097 was a period of high activity for the sun, so those curlicues aren’t just embellishments, but a pretty accurate sketch of what the Chacoans saw. The smaller circle to the upper left is thought to be Venus, visible during the eclipse then just as it was to us on Monday.

As long as there have been humans, we have been staring up at the sky in wonder. How incredible to be a part of that long, long chain of awe.

After the 1097 eclipse, the people in Chaco Canyon built the great houses, large multi-purpose buildings where people lived, worked, and probably worshipped. The great houses were oriented toward the rising and setting sun at the solstices, plus various other astronomical geometries. It seems like a good guess that the eclipse prompted or inspired these massive building projects.

Find out more about the Chaco eclipse petroglyph

(Petroglyph image from https://www.colorado.edu/today/2017/08/08/chaco-canyon-petroglyph-may-represent-ancient-total-eclipse)

Petroglyph carved into brown sandstone. Carving shows a circle with curlicues and loops extending from it on all sides. To the upper left is a smaller solid circle.