chaco canyon archaeology
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.
These items are directly related to Chaco archaeology:
- Anasazi culture
- On the 1054 Supernova Petrograph
- History of Exploration / the rediscovery of Chaco Canyon
- 3D Model of Chetro Ketl Great Kiva, by John Kantner
- On Expanding Chaco Protection (discusses the uniqueness of Chacoan sites)
- A color pencil drawing of a Chaco site by E. Richards
Turquoise Road: Mining, Trading
A paper on Chaco Canyon's role in the early turquoise trade, and
how disruption of that trade (as well as the drought) shut down
the culture and dispersed the people.
- An Evaluation of Chaco Anasazi Roadways by John Kanter
- US National Park Service, Chaco Culture
The internet hosts other related topics:
- US National Park Service: Links to the Past
- Archaeology Magazine
- Cultural Resource Management
- ArchNet: WWW Virtual Library for Archaeology
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.