New Mexico – Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon depicts the highest degree of specialization of the Great Pueblo Period. Pueblo Bonito which has over eight hundred rooms. Each of the other sites of Chaco Canyon contain more than one hundred rooms on the ground floor. Each of the pueblos was similar in plan and was terraced from front to back, being three to five stories high. The rear of the buildings are always high blank walls. The pueblos usually surrounded three sides of the court and within the courtyard are the kivas.


First off, THIS was the road you had to take to get to Chaco Canyon. One of the visitors was complaining to one of the Park Rangers that the road was so washboarded that it was shaking cabinet doors open and popping knobs off appliances in his RV. There are no alternatives.

Chaco Canyon falls between the Jicarilla Apache and Navajo Reservations. To say that it is in the middle of nowhere would be a modern assumption. In it’s heyday, roughly the 1200’s AD, it WAS the CENTER of culture in the area. In fact, this whole area was connected by a series of roads, a series of roads that all lead to Chaco Canyon. These roads were 30 feet wide and perfectly straight. Whenever one of these roads encountered a bluff, they merely built stairs or a ramp, so that the road would not have to change direction. Now considering that these people had not yet discovered the wheel, nor domesticated animals , ALL their traffic was foot traffic. One has to wonder WHY they felt their roads needed to be 30 feet wide, AND how the heck did they do it? To attribute geometric and trigonometric functions to a people who had not even grasped the concept of a circle/wheel is a stretch, and yet, build it they did.

Unlike the Gila Cliff Dwellings these people built their communities close to, but away from the sandstone bluffs. No one knows just what their justification was, but you can see that these bluffs have large cracks in them. When those cracks give way, the entire bluff falls.

You can see here, how the bluff collapsed on this community long after these people had been long gone. This entire culture just disappeared by the 1300’s, as did the Gila Cliff Dwellers. What I found so amazing about THESE people was their stone work. Every corner is a sharp corner, every wall is smooth along it’s entire height and width. The timbers you see in the pictures are over 800 years old, and STILL performing their function. Oh yeah, and most of the damage you see to these structures was NOT caused by poor workmanship or the effects of time. Most of the damage was caused by “pot hunters”, people who are more interested in finding something they can sell than in preserving the integrity of the site. Dynamite was a common pot hunter tool

Please take a moment to notice the intricate stone work that is found everywhere in these structures. These people did not carve stone to their own purpose, they constructed a jigsaw puzzle of bits and pieces to accomplish their goals. Who knows how long it took to construct a single wall, a room, a kiva, an entire pueblo, a series of pueblos, connected by roads – only to walk away and disappear into the fog of history.

Each pueblo had room for hundreds of residents. The round “holes” are not for storage. Those are “Kivas”, a meeting place, often sacred. Roofs would have covered these kivas.

These next two shots are looking left and looking right from a middle position at the front of the pueblo (the middle is the next vertical shot) This was to give you an idea of the size of this place.

Inside that doorway, and to the right, is this doorway (there’s another one on the other side too) If you look closely, you can see two more doorways in the background. My brother followed these doorways and found that each room leads to another and to another until finally you end up in the central courtyard. Apparently, there were no “private” quarters. Lol

* Extra Pics *


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