The Anasazi sun dagger

David Romano
2 min readOct 2, 2023

“Chance favors the prepared mind.” 1977 Anna Sofaer, an artist, was exploring rock art in Chaco Canyon and discovered the sun dagger. Her interest in native American art and her desire to increase her knowledge and experience of this art led her to explore the environment where the art was created and there, she happened upon the sun dagger. Is it only serendipity that she was present at precisely the right time and place to observe the sun dagger, witch is only visible at the equinoxes and solstices.

The element of the unknown, the irrational, enters here and we can only say that the artist had mentally readied herself, her imagination open to the experiences available in exploring the sacred sites of the Anasazi.

The power of mathematics and physics to evoke visceral emotion and an intangible eloquence and beauty by way of abstract formulae and theories is well known. Both mathematics and physics must meet the criteria of simplicity and elegance if they are to express the essential elements of physical or mathematical reality. The simplicity of E=MC2 is eloquent in its power to explain and illuminate the laws of matter and energy.

Using these modern, western concepts one can reach back in imagination to try and understand the creation of the sun dagger but at the very least we must allow that the Anasazi created a work that is both simple and elegant and expresses a high degree of astronomical knowledge and in a dramatic and elegant way. A work of art that reveals the workings of nature. It is not an instrument that can be manipulated to measure anything yet it does measure just through its architecture and placement, the annual cycle of the sun and earth; truly a fusion of art and science.