Escalante Pueblo

Cultural Landscapes Survey

Project Description

It is increasingly apparent that the builders of ancient buildings and villages appear to have been quite intentional in deciding where on the landscape to build and how they oriented their structures. Some structures seem to be deliberately aligned to critical directions such as the summer or winter solstice; others align to prominent natural landscape features. There is no simplified tool currently available to evaluate the possible intentions of the builders in placing their structures on the landscape.

The Society for Cultural Astronomy in the American Southwest, Inc. (SCAAS) is using Escalante Pueblo to develop a cultural landscapes documentation tool focused on evaluating the orientation of buildings and their components to other adjacent sites, environmental features, and prominent landscape topography. Development of this multidisciplinary documentation system will include development of a field form modeled after the Mesa Verde National Park ArcDoc system and compatible for use in CANM and other cultural resource management projects. We are developing the capability to integrate building and terrain models with the local skyscape to investigate the interaction of the buildings and their features with the landscape, other sites, solar and lunar cycles.

Project Methods

Escalante Pueblo is a well-documented, easily accessible, hardened archaeological site that is well suited for our initial building and landscape orientation study. It is partially excavated, exposing prominent liner exterior walls that appear to have intentional orientations to landscape features and are near cardinal orientation. Our project is being conducted in two fieldwork days in late May 2022. There we will develop field forms, complete saturation photography - including a small drone - for photogrammetric 3D modeling and to conduct land surveying to georeference our 3D models. We will also consult with members of descendant communities to incorporate their insights in our thinking. The project will rely on Legacy documentation in the CANM archives to illuminate the background and architectural history of the site. The data collected will be used in a workshop the Society is conducting at the Arizona State University – Tempe School of Earth and Space Exploration in fall 2022. There we will process the data into models, modify and edit the documentation process and evaluate the building’s orientation and features for culturally meaningful alignments.

Link to Escalante Pueblo 3D Photogrammetric Model

Link to November 2022 Journal Club Presentation

Project Products

We are providing on-site public outreach and interpretation of the project’s goals during the field documentation process. At its end, the project will provide digital copies of all photography, photogrammetric models and documentation forms used by the project to CANM. We are creating a special effort to make the documentation produced by the project available to descendant communities in a culturally meaningful manner. We are developing this documentation process with the goal of it being used by a variety of researchers and cultural resource managers to document archaeological sites with a focus on those sites with standing architectural elements.

For more information about the project please contact Greg Munson at or call (970) 882-8082. SCAAS is a 501c3 Colorado Nonprofit Corporation. Please visit our website at

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