Project Earth Science

This research started as an honors-student science fair project that combined James' life-long interest in astronomy with his curiosity about the native-American archeological sites in northern Arizona. These ruins are as much as 1,000 years old, and James wondered if he could find evidence that the Anasazi Indians who built them had designed any buildings for astronomical purposes. He struck a mother lode at Lomaki Pueblo, an 11th Century ruin that's part of Wupatki National Monument north of his Flagstaff home. There, he found so many indications of solar alignments that his field work lasted two years, well beyond the original science fair.

cahill project
Sunlight at spring equinox sunset coming through a hole and briefly crossing the threshold of a door in a building at Lomaki Pueblo.
James' most important discovery came near sunset on Mar. 20, 2003, the day of the spring equinox. To mark that annual event, the Anasazi built the western wall of one room with a 7-inches-square hole. It's precisely placed so that rays from the setting sun stream through and bisect the threshold stone of a doorway in the "room of the equinoxes" — the same portal performs a similar feat at the autumn equinox. The display lasted for only 15 minutes, but James says they were the most exciting moments of his life. "It occurred to me that I was seeing something that hadn't been recognized for perhaps 1,000 years."

James got another thrill last summer: His research was accepted for a poster presentation at the prestigious Oxford International Conference on Archeoastronomy. He is only the second high-school student to be granted an appearance as a presenter.


James A. Cahill


Prepare Now for the Post-Oil Era

Flagstaff High School
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Hobbies: Mountain bike racing, cross-country running; plays the saxophone, learning the guitar

Ambition: University professor of physics or astronomy