chaco canyon history

After a reconnaissance trip that year, Judd proposed to excavate Pueblo Bonito, the largest ruin at Chaco. It's not entirely clear why the Anasazi abandoned Chaco Canyon, however, tree ring data indicates extended dry spells, and is one possible explanation. [19] It has been suggested that even during wet periods the canyon was able to sustain only 2,000 people. Initial probes revealed 72 ground-level rooms,[59] with structures reaching four stories in height; one large circular kiva has been identified. Due to the fragile condition of the erosion-prone canyon, some parts of the park are closed to the general public, however much of it can be seen by automobile. [6] Climate change is thought to have led to the emigration of Chacoans and the eventual abandonment of the canyon, beginning with a fifty-year drought commencing in 1130. Although each Great House is distinct, they all share architectural commonalities that identify them as uniquely Chacoan. Large gaps between the southwestern cliff faces—side canyons known as rincons—were critical in funneling rain-bearing storms into the canyon and boosting local precipitation levels. [12] Today, aside from occasional storm runoff coursing through arroyos, substantial surface water—springs, pools, wells—is virtually nonexistent. This facilitated distant trading and commerce and supported short-term populations gathered in the canyon for these events. Orographic precipitation, which results from moisture wrung out of storm systems ascending the mountain ranges around Chaco Canyon, is responsible for most of the summer and winter precipitation, and rainfall increases with higher elevation. With the archaeological and anthropological evidence limited to items and structures left, lots of tantalizing clues tease scientists but refuse to fully reveal their secrets. [9][66][67], The meticulously designed buildings composing the larger Chacoan complexes did not emerge until around AD 1030. Chaco's structures were established in a sparse landscape surrounded by spiritual mountains, mesas, and shrines that still have deep spiritual significance for their descendants, which include the Hopi, Zuni, and Puebloan tribes. The most studied is Pueblo Bonito. [68], Around this time, the extended Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) community experienced a population and construction boom. [citation needed], Another cluster of great houses lies in Chaco's northern reaches; among the largest is Casa Chiquita ("Small House"), a village built in the 1080s, when, in a period of ample rainfall, Chacoan culture was expanding. Excavation of their campsites and rock shelters has revealed that they made tools, gathered wild plants, and killed and processed game. The Anasazi were mainly nomadic, classic hunter-gatherers, when the first agriculture appeared, and they settled on the Colorado Plateau and begin building and living in small pit houses. A number of multi-disciplinary research projects, archaeological surveys, and limited excavations began during this time. It ended up being designated a nationwide historic park in 1980, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Website in 1987, placing it among a curated list of safeguarded locations "whose impressive natural and cultural resources form the typical inheritance of all humanity. As architectural forms evolved and centuries passed, the houses kept several core traits. [42][43] While investigating Wetherill's land claim, federal land agent Samuel J. Holsinger detailed the physical setting of the canyon and the sites, noted prehistoric road segments and stairways above Chetro Ketl, and documented prehistoric dams and irrigation systems. This remains a mystery to this day. The alluvial canyon floor slopes downward to the northwest at a gentle grade of 30 feet (9.1 m) per mile (6 meters per kilometer); it is bisected by the Chaco Wash, an arroyo that rarely bears water. Chetro Ketl, located near Pueblo Bonito, bears the typical 'D'-shape of many other central complexes. In 1901 Richard Wetherill, who had worked for the Hyde expedition, claimed a homestead of 161 acres (65 ha) that included Pueblo Bonito, Pueblo del Arroyo, and Chetro Ketl. As a historic property of the National Park Service, the National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. Chaco Canyon's structures are excellent examples of pre-Columbian "public architecture" that utilized advanced engineering to create spectacles and serve as gathering points. Advanced astronomical alignments, ingenious agriculture, water control systems, and mysterious earthen mounds surrounded the Great Houses of Chaco. Chaco's impact continued at Aztec, Mesa Verde, the Chuska Mountains, and other centers to the north, south, and west, and throughout the Colorado Plateau, which is roughly the 4-corners region. Extensive building and construction took place throughout Chaco Canyon from 900 to 1100 AD, leading to the construction of several advanced Great House complexes. The lines perpendicularly bisecting their principal walls are aligned north-south, implying a possible intent to mirror the equinox midday. Why did the ancient Anasazi construct such an extravagant destination in so extreme an environment; one with 100-degree summer seasons, freezing subzero winter seasons, and just 9 inches of rain each year? The modern Navajo Nation lies west of Chaco Canyon, and many Navajo live in surrounding areas. [7][63] Some 60 miles (97 km) directly south of Chaco Canyon, on the Great South Road, lies another cluster of outlying communities. [54], Kin Kletso ("Yellow House") was a medium-sized complex located 0.5 miles (800 m) west of Pueblo Bonito. The park is located in northwestern New Mexico, between Albuquerque and Farmington, in a remote canyon cut by the Chaco Wash. [70] Over 15,000 turquoise beads and pendants accompanied two burials at Pueblo Bonito. The canyon itself, located within lowlands circumscribed by dune fields, ridges, and mountains, is aligned along a roughly northwest-to-southeast axis and is rimmed by flat massifs known as mesas. The former and larger whorl to its right was lit by the titular "sun dagger", which bisected it through another interplay of slab and sunlight. Comprising at least two stories and 124 rooms,[59] it shares an arc or "D"-shaped design with its contemporaries, Peñasco Blanco and Pueblo Bonito, but has a unique "dog leg" addition made necessary by topography.

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