chaco culture national historical park
Chaco Canyon was an important Anasazi (ancient Native American) cultural center from about 900 through 1130 AD. About 30 ancient masonry buildings, containing hundreds of rooms each, attest to Chaco's importance. Some structures are thought to serve as astronomical observatories or calendars. Archaeologists discovered jewelry made from Mexican and Californian materials in ancient trash heaps. Large well-constructed roadways thought to be built for pilgrims, subjects, or traders, lead from sites 50 miles away to the center of Chaco Canyon. In a very real sense, all roads lead to Chaco.
These cultural assets are now preserved in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, administered by the National Park Service. Chaco is located in the northwest quadrant of New Mexico, surrounded by Navajo and near Zuni and Hopi reservations.
While we appreciate most US National Parks for their present beauty, we appreciate Chaco for its past. It is an environmentally harsh place: hot and dry in the summer, cold and dry in the winter--nearly a desert. Though there is substantial evidence that the Anasazi farmed here, they had to use many dry farming techniques to support themselves. In fact, some archaeologists question whether Chaco Canyon supported itself, or whether outside farming sites sent supplemental food.
There is no written record of the Chacoans. Most of what we know about them relies on inference and circumstantial evidence. Almost everything about Chaco is shrouded in mystery: its structures are huge and its former importance is clear, but we know little about it. Archaeology and speculation rule here. Chaco is a park for the mind.
|Chaco Culture National Historic Park is listed by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations as a property "forming part of the cultural heritage and natural heritage..."|
|•||Where the Moon Stood Still, And the Ancients Watched
(New York Times, 29 September 2006)
|"The great Chaco civilization, trading partner of the Maya, established a far-reaching sphere of influence in the North American desert a millennium ago. Among the most remote and mysterious of their outposts was Chimney Rock, in what is now the very southwest corner of Colorado, 90 miles from Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, the center of the culture.
Visitors can watch the lunar standstill from a fire watchtower.
Why did the Chaco people — the Anasazi, or “ancestral Puebloans,” as their descendants prefer — build an enormous ceremonial Great House at Chimney Rock, so far from home, 1,000 feet above the nearest water supply and at the base of immense sandstone spires?
It was not until two decades ago that archaeologists arrived at an explanation that most now accept: the Chaco people built the Great House as a lunar observatory precisely aligned to a celestial event that occurs just once in a generation." (read more )
|•||Chaco named to list of 100 most endangered monuments|
If you are knowledgeable about Chaco Canyon or would like to research an aspect of Chaco Canyon and write about it, we invite your contributions to this web page. Please send us mail.