Society for Cultural Astronomy in the American Southwest, Inc.
PO Box 2313    Dolores, CO     81323

TAX ID #: 45-3412899

Mission Statement

The Society for Cultural Astronomy in the American Southwest, Inc. (SCAAS) is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Our Mission:

SCAAS promotes public understanding of the cultural significance of astronomical knowledge among cultures of the American Greater Southwest, past and present, by supporting research, education and its public dissemination.

Statement of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion:

The Society for Cultural Astronomy in the American Southwest advances its mission by promoting research and education within the field of cultural astronomy recognizing the rights of all individuals to mutual respect and acceptance without bias. 

Imbedded in the mission of our organization is the interpretation and characterization of knowledge specific to diverse cultures.  In all Society activities the dissemination of information about cultural practice and meaning will be done with the highest level of integrity and with an abundance of deference to and respect for living persons and their cultures. 

Strategic Priorities and Commitments:

  • Recognizing significant contributions to cultural astronomy knowledge.
  • Maintaining high professional standards in research design and publication.
  • Supporting the effective dissemination and presentation of cultural astronomy knowledge and practices through education.
  • Sustaining innovation and originality in education, research and presentation.
  • Providing an enhanced understanding of the cultural significance of astronomical knowledge among American Greater Southwest cultures, past and present.


SCAAS provides members with:

  • A professional forum for presenting research results and seeking constructive inputs.
  • A newsletter containing news, research and presentation tips.
  • A professional website with links to conferences, books, and other research materials.

A Brief History of the Society for Cultural

Astronomy in the American Southwest

By Bryan Bates and Greg Munson

Near the end of the Oxford VII International Conference on Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture, Dr. Steve McClusksy, then president of the International Society for Archaeoastronomy an Astronomy in Culture (ISAAC), addressed the 2004 conference and called for different world regions to create their own cultural astronomy societies.  These societies would be responsible for fostering cultural astronomy research, hosting conferences for research presentation by and critique of the presentations by conference attendees and the publication of vetted research papers by the regional society. This proposal was intended to provide for more local engagement in the research process and reporting by those individuals most familiar with the topics presented and helping cultural astronomy researchers better articulate their research design, data interpretation and the presentation of material prior to a researcher presenting at an international conference.

In 2006, Dr. Todd Bostwick, editor of the Oxford VII proceeding and conference co-Chair, and Bryan Bates, Oxford VII Conference Chair and co-editor of the proceedings completed Viewing the Skies through Past and Present Cultures. Todd Bostwick and Ken Zoll proposed organizing a regional conference to be held in 2009 in Camp Verde, AZ.  They contacted Bryan Bates asking him to join forces in convening a gathering titled the Conference on Archaeoastronomy of the American Southwest (CAASW), to which Bryan agreed. The conference theme was Creating Sustainability in American Southwest Archaeoastronomy Research addressing the fundamental question of how do we work toward supporting a discipline of anthropology and sustaining it into the future. While roles and responsibilities overlapped, fundamentally Todd and Bryan were responsible for outreach to researchers, collecting and vetting applicants wanting to present and creating the conference program. Ken Zoll took on the essential task of finding a conference venue and hotel, managing registration and keeping the conference within its budget. All three were involved with eventual publication of vetted papers with Todd taking on the role of Managing Editor. The papers were published as Volume XXIII of Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of Archaeoastronomy in Culture by the University of Texas Press. Dr. Steve McClusky was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural conference.

Given that the 2009 conference was predominantly research papers from multidisciplinary presenters using various research designs, it was decided to host a follow up technology workshop on the topic of research design and methodologies in March 2010.  Held at the Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix, AZ, this workshop provided for actual hands-on activity in research design and methodologies with the intent to make regional archaeoastronomy research more pertinent to the professional archaeologist and anthropologist. Todd Bostwick, Ken Zoll and Bryan Bates served as the workshop organizers.  J. McKim Malville was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the workshop. It was at this time that serious conversation began on creating a more durable organization that had IRS tax exempt status and legal standing. Mr. Greg Munson formed an organizing committee and began his long-term involvement with the transformation of a conference series into a non-profit professional scientific and educational research organization.

The June 2011 Conference on Archaeoastronomy in the American Southwest was organized by Greg Munson and Tony Hull and held at the Hibben Center for Archaeological Research at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology on the campus of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. This conference harkened back to the seminal symposium Astronomy and Ceremony in the Prehistoric Southwest held at the same facility in 1983 with publication of the symposium proceedings in 1987. Returning from that symposium were Dr. John B. Carlson, Dr. Jonathan Reyman and Michael Zeilik. In 2011, we examined the progress of archaeoastronomy research in the American Southwest and looked for ways to continue to support the development of the discipline. Dr. Ed Krupp was awarded our Lifetime Achievement Award at a public outreach lecture. We also held a banquet at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center with John B. Carlson speaking on The 2012 Phenomenon – What the Ancient Maya Calendar Keepers Might have Anticipated: An Astronomer-Mesoamericanist’s Perspective. The conference proceedings were published as Astronomy and Ceremony in the Prehistoric Southwest: Revisited – Collaborations in Cultural Astronomy, Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, Anthropological Papers No. 9, University of New Mexico Press with Greg Munson as Managing Editor.

In September 2011 an administrative meeting was held naming the group the Society for Cultural Astronomy in the American Southwest, Inc. (SCAAS). Here we used Cultural Astronomy instead of Archaeoastronomy to widen our base, be more inclusive of ethnoastronomy studies and to try and distance ourselves from some past research and practices. Greg Munson and Ken Zoll completed the needed documents to establish the Society as a Colorado Non-profit Organization with Federal tax-exempt status. The initial Pro-Tem officers of the Society were Todd W. Bostwick – President, Tony Hull – Vice President and Ken Zoll – Secretary/Treasurer. Kim Malville took over as Secretary in June of 2013. We became a non-profit organization in November 2013 with a designated creation date in September 2011. As a result of the untimely death of our much beloved colleague Carol W. Ambruster, the Society formed the Carol Ambruster Memorial Fund with an initial endowment from Villanova University. The fund has been supported by additional significant donations from her family and a series of silent auctions held at subsequent conferences.

It was the original goal of the CAASW conference series to hold conferences every two years with workshops on the alternating years. To move forward, SCAAS held a combined workshop and conference in June of 2014 at the Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration in Tempe, AZ with Ric Alling, Greg Munson, Todd Bostwick and Ken Zoll serving as conference organizers. Charting a Formal Methodology for Cultural Astronomy Research was the theme for this event. A one day workshop titled Astrometry as Applied to Archaeoastronomy Research gave participants experience and instruction in direct sight systems, sun-shadow systems, celestial scenes and figures, planetarium programs for computers, documentation and research methodologies. Conference papers were held the following day with sessions on meteorites and eclipses, star lore and field reports. A hosted session was held on Solstices and Equinoxes: Their determination and Meaning with a discussion panel following. The events were held in the Marston Exploration Theater, a fine technologically modern facility featuring a 3D projector. The conference concluded with our first meeting of the general membership where a formal Board of Directors was elected with officers Greg Munson – President, Tony Hull – Vice President, Ken Zoll – Treasurer and Coni McCall – Secretary followed by a member-only reception. A very successful silent auction was held during the conference benefitting the Carol Ambruster Memorial Fund. We continued the tradition of holding an awards banquet with Todd Bostwick speaking on Interpreting the Nazca Lines: Enigmatic Images of the Peruvian Desert and GB Cornucopia speaking on The Koan of Rock Art. GB Cornucopia, Park Ranger at Chaco Culture National Historical Park, was awarded the first Carol W. Ambruster Award and a Distinguished Service Award for his contributions and assistance in cultural astronomy research at Chaco Canyon.

The Society held its 2016 conference in October at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center near Cortez, CO. We changed the conference series title to Conference on Cultural Astronomy in the Greater Southwest with a theme of Before Borders: Revealing the Greater Southwest’s Ancestral Cultural Landscape. The titles and call for papers were formulated to be more inclusive of research and studies in the broader disciplines of archaeology and cultural anthropology, extend the range of participants to include Native Americans and those from Mexico or farther south, a concerted effort to get Native Americans and other indigenous peoples to share their perspective and to begin interpreting the cultural landscape in terms of its archaeology and anthropology. Greg Munson, Ray Williamson and Bryan Bates were the principal conference organizers with assistance from Mark Varien, Grant Coffey and Dan Simplicio at Crow Canyon. It was critical to hold this conference at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center due to their superlative reputation as a Southwestern academic research facility with an active program of Native American participation and consultation. The conference program was such a success that this event extended over three days with one full day devoted to listening to the perspective of Native American speakers. The Carol Ambruster Memorial Fund sponsored the attendance of speakers from Navajo, Ute and Pueblo Tribes as well as from Mexico by assisting with fee waivers and some support for travel and lodging. Conference papers ranged over a wide array of subjects including the Mesoamerican connection to the Southwest, ritual and social landscapes, computer modeling of archaeoastronomy sites and the recording and use of lunar standstills in the Ancestral Puebloan world. A lively discussion panel was convened to examine the evidence for recording and use of the lunar maximum excursions in pre-Hispanic North America, or lack thereof. We are now in the process of writing and editing the conference proceedings with Greg Munson returning as Managing Editor. The conference again hosted a meeting of the general membership of the Society, now with a strength of 70 active members. A new Board of Directors was elected with new officers of Bryan Bates – President, Tony Hull – Vice President, Ric Alling – Treasurer and Ray Williamson – Secretary. Additional Board members are Beth Jewell, Chris Dombrowski and Greg Munson. The Conference kept its participants busy with evening programs. Bryan Bates presented Ancestral Astronomy of the Puebloan Southwest as our public outreach lecture at the Sunflower Theater in Cortez, CO with nearly 100 attendees. Von Del Chamberlain contributed Crystals in the Sky: Dine' Stellar Depictions at Crow Canyon where he received our Carol W. Ambruster Award and Lifetime Achievement Award for his life-long contributions to studies in cultural astronomy. Our conference awards banquet was held at the Destination Grill with Scott Ortman contributing The Mirror-Image and Tewa Origins as the program. An additional Carol W. Ambruster Award and Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Todd Bostwick with Ken Zoll receiving an Outstanding Service Award. Greg Munson was honored with an Outstanding Service Award for his contributions in cultural astronomy research and for his tireless work in establishing the Society as a non-profit organization. The conference concluded with guided field trips to Mesa Verde National Park, Hovenweep National Monument and the stone circle in Cross Canyon, Utah.

The future of SCAAS continues to develop. We are anticipating a publication from the 2016 conference and are looking forward to another technical workshop to be hosted by the Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration at Tempe, AZ in the fall of 2017. We are in the process of reviewing proposals for our next conference in 2018 and working to participate at the 2019 annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Albuquerque, NM. Most importantly is our efforts to begin a visioning process for SCAAS. This is a program to solicit more active participation of the Society’s membership to determine their needs and desires for SCAAS activities outside the normal conference and workshop schedule. With these types of contributions from our membership, we will continue to grow and contribute high quality research and education in cultural astronomy to archaeology and cultural anthropology.

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