US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



This is an unpublished manuscript having a DOI of: 10.13140/RG.2.2.30889.95842


Chaco has long been considered a semi-urban environment where elites residing in great houses oversaw the labors of approximately 2,000 individuals occupying small 2 houses on Chaco’s valley floor. Recent studies cast doubt on the Canyon’s ability to provide sufficient meat and maize to sustain a population this large and indicate that archaeological maize and archaeofauna found in the Canyon came from the periphery of the San Juan Basin. An alternative model for Chaco is hereby proposed wherein it was a largely vacant monumental complex to which people from outlying areas made pilgrimage along ceremonial roads. The great and small houses in the Canyon were built by visitors for their use during pilgrimage. The religious nature of Chaco is reinforced by the fact that its architectural complex was primarily constructed for ritual expression and public image with buildings situated so as to conform to the movement of celestial bodies.