Peñasco Blanco floorplan Peñasco Blanco

Peñasco Blanco, Spanish for "white cliff", is a large, oval-shaped pueblo on top of the northernmost point of West Mesa overlooking the confluence of Chaco Wash and Escavada Wash. It contained some 160 ground-floor rooms and reached three or four stories tall. There are two great kivas in the central plaza and two more outside.



Construction of Peñasco Blanco may have begun around AD 900, making it one of the first large pueblos in the canyon. Additional building continued until about 1095. The ruin shows development in Chacoan masonry style from more primitive slab walls, through banded walls to rubble core and veneer seen in later Bonito Phase great houses.

Not far from Peñasco Blanco is the pictograph panel containing a crescent moon, a ten-pointed star, handprint, and a sun sign which has so caught the imagination of astronomers. The possibility that the panel represents the supernova of A. D. 1054 was considered by the archaeologist Florence Hawley Ellis and others in the fall of 1972 and initiated much of the interest in Chaco Canyon among astronomers. The symbols are similar to those painted on a pillar marking a Zuni sunwatching station described by Cushing, and sunwatchers may have been in place in the July morning of 1054 to view the supernova.
On the vertical face beneath these pictographs is a set of three concentric circles with apparent flames extended horizontally to the west, which may be a representation of the A. D. 1066 appearance of Halley's comet, which was sufficiently impressive at that time to alarm the Saxon king prior to the Battle of Hastings.

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