Anasazi and Chaco Canyon Archaeology

What Is Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon is a famous archaeological site that’s located in the region now known as the Four Corners in the American Southwest. It is the site that was occupied by the Ancestral Puebloans, otherwise known as the Anasazi. Today, Chaco Canyon is part of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park which is a major unit of the national park system in the United States.

Ancient Period

Chaco Canyon is a 10-mile canyon that can only be accessed through the washboard dirt roads. Due to its distance of 70 miles from the nearest town, it is deemed as a remote region based on today’s standards.

With an elevation of up to 6,200 feet, Chaco Canyon experiences sun-scorched temperature in the summer and terrible cold in the winter. Interestingly, evidence of human presence in the region can be traced back to 2900 B.C. despite the harsh weather conditions. While the early groups were predominantly nomadic, it wasn’t until 200 A.D. when the people learned how to build small pit houses and settled in the area to become its first farmers.

Massive Stone Structures

In 850 A.D., the people at Chaco Canyon began building massive stone structures which were unlike anything that had been built in the past. These unique buildings towered four to five stories and had seven hundred rooms as well as dozens of kivas. Often, they were connected to one another using lines of sight which have allowed rapid communication. Apart from having celestial alignments, the great houses had water-collection systems and an extensive network of roads that created a link to the outlying communities. These elaborately built structures prove the existence of a highly organized and sophisticated culture. At the center of it all is Archaeological importance anasazi of chaco canyon Chaco Canyon.

Chacoan Culture

Chaco Canyon became the center of a thriving Puebloan culture one thousand years ago. The so-called “cultural flowering” of the Chacoans started in the mid 800s and thrived for over 300 years. These people used masonry techniques when they constructed the massive stone buildings (Great Houses) that had multiple stories and hundreds of rooms. Chacoans must have been great building planners as the huge structures showed evidence that the great houses were planned from the very beginning of construction. While each building is unique, all the stone buildings share architectural features that gave them a distinct Chacoan character.

Modern Period

During the late 1800s, the need to protect Chaco Canyon from vandalism and looting became apparent. Soon in 1907, the Chaco Canyon National Monument was finally established. After being excavated, studied, and surveyed, the site was turned into a national historical park in 1980. Seven years later, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At present, there are around 80,000 people who visit Chaco Canyon every year. Majority of these visitors are interested to see the remains of the excavated great houses.

Fajada Butte

Located near the south entrance, the Fajada Butte is one of Chaco’s signature features. It is a narrow, steep-walled butte that stands around 400 feet above the canyon. It is also a notable site for artifacts. One of these artifacts has been referred to as the “Sun Dagger” which is said to be an astronomical clock that kept track of the Chacoans’ annual progress toward the summer solstice.

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