Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 2007


Archaeology Southwest, vol. 21, no. 2 (Spring 2007), p. 5.


IN RECENT YEARS, a growing number of archaeologists have explored the potential of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s concept of “house societies.” His and subsequent works describe ethnographic contexts where people are organized through houses ranked according to their age and connection to ancestors. Using Puebloan ethnographic literature and cross-cultural comparisons, the house model helps to draw out the symbolic meaning of Chaco-era architecture. Looking specifically at the classificatory distinction between “great houses” and “small houses” in Chaco Canyon (A.D. 850–1180), my research compares the evidence for house creation, manifestation, maintenance, and abandonment in both great and small house contexts. Using data generated in part by the Chaco Digital Initiative, I evaluate how a house society model might yield new insights with regard to four symbolic dimensions of house construction: the use of wood, directional offerings, resurfacing practices, and intramural human and animal burial practices.