Graduate Studies


First Advisor

Carolyn Heitman

Date of this Version



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Anthropology, Under the Supervision of Professor Carrie C. Heitman. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2021

Copyright © 2021 Olivia H. Thomsen


In the two papers presented in this thesis, I examine mealing facility architecture both within and beyond Chaco Canyon. Both ethnographic and archaeological evidence tie the secular and sacred action of grinding corn to the gendered labor of women in modern and Ancestral Pueblo societies. In both chapters I utilize the defining elements of context, scale, association, and access to measure the ways in which corn grinding facilities in various Chacoan sites are similar and dissimilar to one another.

In chapter 2, I examine the dichotomy between great and small houses located within Chaco Canyon regarding mealing facilities. Utilizing legacy data available via the Chaco Research Archive, I look at the ways in which female power, prestige, and authority is reflected in mealing facility architecture at these sites. I also present data regarding groundstone tools, I include a discussion of funerary contexts, and I review previous studies that present data regarding corn pollen frequencies. Based on this data I argue I conclude that mealing rooms at neither great nor small houses represent one consistent type.

The second paper in this thesis examines changes to mealing facility architecture in the Chacoan and post-Chacoan landscape. Utilizing legacy data and introducing new 360 degree photography I examine mealing rooms at Pueblo Bonito, Salmon Pueblo, and Aztec West to identify differences in the prehistoric contexts between each site and modern alterations to the individual spaces. In the cases presented I conclude that changes to mealing facility architecture are significant and the rate of change at these sites necessitates a more robust process by which they are monitored. In addition to my analysis of modern changes I compare mealing facility architecture as it was documented at the point of excavations. Differences in context, scale, association, and access at these sites lead me to conclude that a certain degree of fracturing occurred between mealing practices at Pueblo Bonito and those at Salmon Pueblo and Aztec West.

Advisor: Carrie C. Heitman