Chaco’s Hinterlands

Stephen H. Lekson

in The Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195380118
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Chaco’s Hinterlands

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Chaco Canyon was the center of an eleventh-century region about the size of Ireland. The bleak sandstone canyon in the deserts of northwestern New Mexico seems a very unlikely place for such a center. Yet the importance of Chaco Canyon is unmistakably manifest in a dozen remarkably large sandstone masonry buildings called “Great Houses,” enormously larger than any other buildings of Chaco's time. The largest Chaco Canyon Great Houses were huge, symmetrical, geometric structures covering acres of leveled land, with as many as 700 rooms stacked up five stories tall. Chaco Great Houses began about AD 850, reached a sort of critical mass around 1000, and then exploded in a century-long building boom, from AD 1020 to 1125, when the region reached its maximum extent. Then Great House construction stopped—at Chaco. The tradition continued elsewhere.

Keywords: Chaco Canyon; northwestern New Mexico; sandstone masonry; Great Houses; geometric structures; critical mass

Article.  4343 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology of North America

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