The Ancestral Puebloans

Apr 122004

Lecture to explore Chaco Canyon enigma by ERICA ENRIQUE, For the Monitor

David Grant Noble, author of the popular book, ”Ancient Ruins of the Southwest: An Archaeological Guide,” which is now in its third printing [mjh: highly recommended]. Noble is the editor of the forthcoming ”In Search of Chaco: New Approaches to an Archaeological Enigma” to be published this spring.

The book presents the views of many noted Chaco scholars, including representatives of three different Native American groups, the Hopi, the Navajo and the Pueblo.

Noble edited a previous book on the site, ”New Light on Chaco Canyon.”

”I’m going to talk about some of the recent research and interpretations of Chaco culture in the last 15 years,” Noble said. ”Some of the important facts are still controversial.”

One of the mysteries that continue to intrigue experts is the purpose of the dozen or so very large, elaborate buildings, Noble said. One theory is that an elite class lived in them.

“The relationship between this elite class and the rest of the group is very controversial,” Noble said. “Was support of this class voluntary or were the common people coerced into supporting them?” Some believe this elite was a military aristocracy, others think they were a religious caste.

Another enduring mystery about Chaco is why the site was abandoned. “The Hopi believe the gods gave the people a message to move on,” Noble explained.

“Archaeologists agree that a severe drought coincided with the abandonment of the site,” he said. Perhaps the prestige of the elite crumbled when the gods refused to provide rain, some speculate.

 Posted by at 2:06 pm
Mar 252004

Thanks for doing this website; it is great. I do have a question that I have not found an answer for.

I last was at Chaco in the 80’s . At that time, the only road in was a long, dirt road that was in pretty bad shape much of the time.

I would like to go again this spring, probably late April, in a motorhome. What is the access situation now?

Thanks, LC


If you drove up from the south (from Navajo 9, which connects Crownpoint to Cuba), that dirt road is about the same as you remember it. I drove it last Fall.

If you came in from the north, that old road was closed after 1995 to protect some of the ruins (particularly Casa Chiquita). There is a different road in from the north (from US550, formerly NM44, 4 lanes and much improved) and a second one in from the south (also from Navajo 9 at Pueblo Pintado, a tiny town next to an interesting outlier, about a dozen miles east of the old South Road) — the newer roads merge before turning towards Chaco. Those newer roads are longer and still dirt, but much nicer, as long as there hasn’t been rain recently.

Thanks for your comment about my Chaco site. Write again with questions / comments and let me know how your trip turns out. You inspired me to mark up this map. mjh

dirt roads into Chaco Canyon

 Posted by at 10:58 am
Feb 242004

This is a very interesting site intended for astronomers. Projecting over the next 48 hours, it predicts 4 qualities affecting sky watchers / star gazers: cloud cover, transparency, ‘seeing’, and darkness. Naturally, Chaco has a pretty dark sky.

What really makes me note this site are the links below the “clock” to various other sites, particularly the Topo Map and Star Map links. Pretty cool.

Also, look for the link to ‘All New Mexico’. From the home page, you can see similar data for points all around the globe. This site and its links are worth some time exploring. mjh

Chaco Culture National Historical Park Clear Sky Clock

 Posted by at 11:55 am
Feb 152004

Nice long article on Chaco from the Albuquerque Journal. mjh

My Chaco site:
My Outliers site:

Ancient timbers stretch over a section of Chetro Ketl, second largest of Chaco Canyon's 11 major pueblos. The 500-room structure was built in phases between A.D. 883 and 1117. photo by Richard PipesABQjournal: Metropolitan Chaco By James Abarr

A capsule look at six major sites easily accessed from a paved, nine-mile loop road through the center of Chaco Canyon:

UNA VIDA: A largely unexcavated pueblo near the Visitor Center, where the loop road begins. Estimated to contain 150 rooms and five kivas. Tree-ring samples place the start of construction in A.D. 850.

HUNGO PAVI: A medium-size pueblo of 73 rooms and two kivas. Tree-ring dates show that the dwelling was built in stages from A.D. 943 to 1047.

CHETRO KETL: Second largest pueblo in Chaco Canyon with 500 rooms and 12 kivas, including rare tower kivas, built in the shape of the letter “E” around broad central plazas. Construction phases date from A.D. 883 to 1117.

PUEBLO BONITO: Largest of the Chaco communities. This massive D-shaped structure, extending over more than three acres of ground, contains 650 rooms and 32 kivas built around two plazas. Constructed in phases from A.D. 828 to 1103, the pueblo was four stories high in places.

PUEBLO DEL ARROYO: A partially excavated pueblo on the banks of Chaco Wash with 284 rooms and 14 kivas. Tree-ring dates place start of construction in A.D. 1052.

CASA RINCONADA: One of the largest kivas, or subterranean ceremonial chamber, ever found in the Southwest. What archaeologists call a “Great Kiva,” it measures 62 feet in diameter and was constructed in A.D. 1054. Features include an encircling masonry bench, antechambers, a large raised firebox and floor vaults.

OTHER MAJOR CHACO SITES: Include Peasco Blanco, Casa Chiquita, Kin Kletso, Tsin Kletsin, Wijiji and Pueblo Alto, built atop the north rim of the canyon. All date from about A.D. 900 to 1100 and are accessible by foot trails of varying distances.

If you go

WHAT: Chaco Culture National Historical Park, administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior; telephone (505) 786-7014.

WHERE: In northwest New Mexico. Best access route from Albuquerque is I-25 to Bernalillo and U.S. 550 to County Road 7900, 50 miles west of Cuba. Turn left, route to the park (21 miles) is clearly marked on paved CR-7900, five miles, and CR-7950, 16 miles of dirt road to park boundary.

HOURS: Visitor Center, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. However, park trails and campground remain open year-round.

FEES: $8 per vehicle.


Visitor Center has an information desk, museum, theater, book store and gift shop. Picnic tables with shade shelters are provided nearby.

Nine-mile paved loop road through the canyon passes the ruins of Una Vida, Hungo Pave, Chetro Ketl, Pueblo Bonito, Pueblo del Arroyo and Casa Rinconada. Self-guiding trails available at each site.

Four back-country hiking trails provide access to other major ruins. Permits required. These are free and are available at the Visitor Center.

Gallo Campground, one mile east of the Visitor Center, offers camping in a picturesque area of petroglyphs, a cliff dwelling and high-desert landscape. There are 48 well-equipped campsites available on a first-come basis at $10 a night. Camping limited to seven days.

Trailers and RVs more than 30 feet long cannot be accommodated.

Read the full article …
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 1:28 pm
Feb 142004

Mesa Verde National Park Centennial 1906-2006

Mesa Verde National Park is the premier archeological park in the United States and a World Cultural Heritage Site. The cultural and natural resources in the Mesa Verde region are significant both nationally and internationally. On June 29, 2006 Mesa Verde will celebrate 100 years as the first National Park set aside to preserve the works of man. In order to commemorate such a significant milestone, Mesa Verde National Park staff, the Mesa Verde Museum Association, and ARAmark Mesa Verde Company, our park concessionaire, are working together to plan a year long celebration in 2006.

Mesa Verde National Park

 Posted by at 3:18 pm
Feb 082004

Y-Press Online | Archaeology lesson takes students to Colorado dig center By Cameron Johnson, 15, Y-PRESS

Eighth-grade students in an accelerated-learning program at Hannibal (Mo.)Middle School spend the year learning about the Anasazis – a Pueblo Indian civilization in the Mesa Verde region during the 10th to 13th centuries. Just before graduation, they take all they’ve learned to the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, Colo., where they spend a week immersing themselves in the Anasazi culture.

 Posted by at 11:47 am
Jan 162004

Very interesting informative article about studies of Anasazi migration into Hohokam territory in Arizona. Several cool photos, including the first rectangular kiva I’ve seen attributed to Anasazi. mjh

Pueblo groups moved to San Pedro River sites in 13th century by PAUL L. ALLEN, Tucson Citizen

The Pueblos, from the Tusayan and Kayenta areas, brought with them prized obsidian and pottery, but they strained the economy in southern Arizona’s river valleys.

Evidence shows that platform mounds began appearing about 1275, coinciding with the migrants’ arrival.

”This may be more than a coincidence,” said Jeffrey Clark of the Center for Desert Archaeology. ”The mounds serve integrative functions inside the villages but also could have served as territorial markers for the irrigation communities – an architectural message directed to the migrants that ‘We were here first; this is our turf.’ ”

The Tucson-based, nonprofit center has spent more than a dozen years studying the northern San Pedro River Valley. The area, from around Benson north to the river’s confluence with the Gila River, is the last relatively undisturbed riparian setting in the southern Southwest. …

The Hohokam and Hohokam-influenced groups living in the San Pedro Valley north of today’s Redington in the late 1200s likely were puzzled by construction being done by their new neighbors about seven miles south, an area now called Davis Ranch.

Architecture was an important aspect of the socio-religious organization of southern Arizona communities.

A 15-by-20-foot kiva is part of the Davis Ruin excavated in the San Pedro Valley north of BensonWhile the locals constructed formal platform mounds, 6 to 8 feet tall upon which important ceremonies were conducted, their new neighbors were digging an underground room – a kiva that also would serve a ceremonial function.

This second article is shorter but chock full of new (to me) places and names in Arizona. Lots of new things to investigate. mjh

Ancient sites reveal clues to life, death of a culture by PAUL L. ALLEN, Tucson Citizen

The movement of Pueblo migrants from the Four Corners region to the southern San Pedro Valley and from northern New Mexico into the Rio Grande Valley to the south between the mid-1100s and the late 1300s was greeted with mixed reactions by the ”locals.”

In some communities, archaeological evidence indicates the newcomers coexisted peacefully and over time were simply absorbed. But evidence suggests not all encounters were so peaceful.

Reeve Ruin, a Pueblo community north of what now is Cascabel, is defensively located atop a high cliff. It was protected by stone walls fashioned with narrow openings that limited access to the village itself. The site was excavated in the 1950s by Charles Di Peso of the Amerind Foundation.

Curiously, the Davis Ranch site, a second migrant village located on a flat across the river from Reeve, also excavated by Amerind, appears to have no such defensive aspects.

 Posted by at 7:59 pm
Dec 012003

kivaKeeping watch over ancient treasures By Deborah Frazier, Rocky Mountain News

CANYONS OF THE ANCIENTS NATIONAL MONUMENT – Dan Corcoran’s eyes and ears help protect this 164,000-acre archeological preserve for future generations.

The area around Sand Canyon Pueblo, with its 420 rooms, 100 kivas and 14 towers, is Corcoran’s territory. The pueblo was excavated in the 1990s and most of it was reburied for protection.

“There are still lots of depressions where the kivas and rooms are,” said Corcoran, who also volunteers at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. “You get the feeling of being in a small village.”

He’s one of dozens of volunteer site stewards at the monument, located north of Cortez. They are trained to look for and report vandalism, pothunting and other damage. …

By the early 1200s, more than 100,000 Anasazi, now called the ancestral Puebloans, lived in southwestern Colorado. The early Puebloans, related to the present-day Hopi of Arizona and the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico, migrated to the area starting in about A.D. 700. Before they left in the late 1200s, trade routes stretched from South America to the Pacific Northwest. Small dams and elaborate irrigation systems watered fields.

 Posted by at 7:26 pm
Nov 282003

Nine Mile Canyon pictographTurkey tracks, The gobblers have been passing through Utah since Anasazi times By Brett Prettyman, The Salt Lake Tribune

[W]hile historians say turkeys were not on the menu of the first Thanksgiving celebration, archaeologists have physical evidence that Meleagris gallopavo merriami was part of the Anasazi diet as far back as 700. No word on side dishes of the time.

”They had them in pens, they used them for food and they used the feathers for ornaments and blankets,” said Ron Rood, Utah’s assistant state archaeologist.

 Posted by at 10:47 am
Nov 242003

Edge of the Cedars State Park is in Blanding, Utah. It is a small park with Anasazi ruins. The museum is small but very nicely done. This was the first place I ever saw a duck-shaped pot. There is a room full of pots, which you can only view through large windows. Worth a stop if you’re in the area. mjh

This is a good article on Edge of the Cedars:

Window to a Sacred Past By Tom Wharton, The Salt Lake Tribune

IF YOU GO: Edge of the Cedars State Park is located at 600 W. 400 North in Blanding and is open daily, though hours vary depending on the time of year. The day-use fee is $5 per vehicle. For information, call the park at 435-678-2238 or log on to or

 Posted by at 11:08 am
Nov 222003

cliff ruinsBLM Colorado – Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwestern Colorado contains a huge number of archaeological sites (more than 6000 recorded, up to 100 per square mile in some places) representing the Ancestral Puebloan and other Native American cultures, as well as important historic and environmental resources.

Visitors planning to explore this National Monument should first stop at the Anasazi Heritage Center for orientation and current information.

See also Canyons of the Ancients | Home for a map (PDF).

 Posted by at 1:59 pm
Nov 072003

Utes OK architect to design new museum

The new Ute museum is to be constructed across Colorado Highway 172 from the Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio. A 3,000-square-foot building attached to the casino that has served as a bingo parlor, radio station and community hall now houses the museum’s collection of artifacts.

”It was never meant to be a museum,” Brittner said. …

“Thousands of people visit Mesa Verde without ever learning anything about the Utes,” Brittner said. “The Utes were here before the Anasazi, and they’re alive today and making great contributions.”

 Posted by at 11:56 am