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A blog discussing a variety of subjects related to Chaco Canyon, the prehistoric American Southwest, and their complex connections to the world today.

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  • May 9, 2010
  • 06:03 PM

Atlatls to Bows: The Hook Brings You Back

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Atlatl weights are the most widespread attachments to atlatls that are durable enough to survive in conditions where the wooden parts decay, but they’re not the only attachments known to have been used.  Another type of attachment, of more obvious function though of much more limited range, is the “hook” or “spur” near the back [...]... Read more »

Goslin, R. (1944) A Bone Atlatl Hook from Ohio. American Antiquity, 10(2), 204. DOI: 10.2307/275117  

Riddell, F., & McGeein, D. (1969) Atlatl Spurs from California. American Antiquity, 34(4), 474. DOI: 10.2307/277746  

  • May 25, 2011
  • 05:04 PM

What Is a Kiva?

by teofilo in Gambler's House

As I mentioned in the previous post, one of the ongoing debates in Chacoan architectural studies concerns the function of the round rooms that are very noticeable and numerous at the excavated great houses in the canyon.  The standard interpretation for many years, which is still fairly common among archaeologists and nearly universal among the [...]... Read more »

  • January 25, 2010
  • 01:45 AM

More on Food Imports to Chaco

by teofilo in Gambler's House

The paper I discussed earlier about evidence that corn was imported to Chaco was interesting, but while it provided important information about the poorly understood “Mesa Verdean” period after the fall of the Chaco system it didn’t address the question of food imports during the operation of that system.  This has been a topic of [...]... Read more »

  • August 17, 2010
  • 08:41 PM

The Dental Evidence for Agriculture

by teofilo in Gambler's House

I’ve recently been discussing stable isotope analysis as a way to directly determine dietary practices from skeletal evidence, and that is certainly a powerful tool in learning about past societies, but there are some drawbacks to it.  Like all complicated laboratory procedures, it’s expensive, and it has the additional problem of being destructive.  If it’s [...]... Read more »

  • May 22, 2012
  • 12:56 AM

Linguistics and Archaeology in North America

by teofilo in Gambler's House

The same special issue of the journal World Archaeology that I was discussing in the previous post has an article looking specifically at the relationship between linguistic and archaeological evidence in the study of the prehistory of North America. It is by M. Dale Kinkade and J. V. Powell, two linguists who specialized in the languages [...]... Read more »

Kinkade, M., & Powell, J. (1976) Language and the prehistory of North America. World Archaeology, 8(1), 83-100. DOI: 10.1080/00438243.1976.9979654  

  • December 26, 2010
  • 09:39 PM

What Happened at Cowboy Wash?

by teofilo in Gambler's House

In comments to the previous post, Graham King raises an important question: assuming that the assemblages of broken, burned, and otherwise unusually treated bones at sites like 5MT10010 at Cowboy Wash represent incidents of cannibalism, what does this mean culturally and historically?  After all, cannibalism has occurred in various contexts in many societies, including our [...]... Read more »

  • January 22, 2012
  • 04:47 AM

The Density of Cahokia

by teofilo in Gambler's House

The greatest of the Mississippian mound centers, by far, is Cahokia. This vast site contains numerous mounds and is located in the American Bottom area of southwestern Illinois, across the Mississippi River from the modern city of St. Louis, Missouri. This is a highly strategic location, very close to the confluence of the two largest [...]... Read more »

  • March 26, 2012
  • 03:48 AM

Mississippian Burial Practices

by teofilo in Gambler's House

One of the major areas of interest for the “New Archaeologists” who came to dominate American archaeology in the late twentieth century was mortuary analysis. In keeping with the arguments of Lewis Binford and other leaders of the movement that archaeology as a discipline should be “problem-oriented” and focused on reconstruction prehistoric societies as fully [...]... Read more »

  • October 24, 2010
  • 10:16 PM

Mesa Verde Water Control

by teofilo in Gambler's House

I’ve previously discussed water control technologies at Chaco, where they were particularly important given the extreme aridity of that area even by Southwestern standards.  There is abundant evidence, however, that water control was a widespread activity throughout the ancient Southwest, even in areas with more reliable water sources.  The best-studied water control systems have been [...]... Read more »

  • March 31, 2013
  • 02:01 AM

The Numic Spread

by teofilo in Gambler's House

The Great Basin and northern Colorado Plateau were occupied at the time of European Contact (generally between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century for this region) by a variety of relatively small groups of hunter-gatherers, all of whom spoke closely related languages belonging to the Uto-Aztecan language family. By the early twentieth century these [...]... Read more »

  • May 19, 2010
  • 12:48 AM

Atlatls to Bows: A Very Strange Atlatl from Washington State

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Sometime in the early 1950s a wooden object was dredged from the mouth of the Skagit River, north of Seattle.  It ended up in the possession of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Johnson, residents of the nearby town of La Conner.  In 1952 the Johnsons showed it to two local archaeologists, Herbert Taylor of Western Washington [...]... Read more »

Taylor, H., & Caldwell, W. (1954) Carved Atlatl from Northwest Coast. American Antiquity, 19(3), 279. DOI: 10.2307/277136  

  • July 15, 2010
  • 04:34 PM

Why No Wheels?

by teofilo in Gambler's House

I’m back at Chaco and giving tours again, so I’m once again being exposed to visitors’ common questions and preconceptions in a way I haven’t been in a long time.  One thing that seems to surprise a lot of visitors is the fact that the Chacoans apparently had no knowledge of the wheel, or if [...]... Read more »

Ekholm, G. (1946) Wheeled Toys in Mexico. American Antiquity, 11(4), 222. DOI: 10.2307/275722  

  • April 29, 2014
  • 01:08 AM

The Evidence from Linguistic Contact

by teofilo in Gambler's House

As I mentioned in the last post, I don’t think the linguistic relationships among the modern Pueblo languages shed much light on the details of the relationships between ancient and modern Pueblo groups. However, that’s not to say that linguistics is totally useless in addressing this issue. There’s another type of linguistic evidence which has […]... Read more »

  • February 28, 2010
  • 09:07 PM

Athapaskan Continuities

by teofilo in Gambler's House

I’ve recently been  looking a bit into the important issue of the migration of Athapaskan-speaking groups ancestral to the Navajos and Apaches into the Southwest.  Although this is one of the most obvious examples of long-distance migration in prehistoric North America, surprisingly little is known about it.  There’s basically no archaeological evidence establishing when it [...]... Read more »

  • December 27, 2011
  • 02:15 AM

Ram Mesa: A Reasonable Case for Witchcraft Execution without Cannibalism

by teofilo in Gambler's House

One of the most notable examples of an assemblage of highly mutilated human remains from the Southwest being attributed to witchcraft execution rather than cannibalism, in accordance with J. Andrew Darling’s theory discussed in the previous post, is Ram Mesa, southwest of Chaco Canyon near Gallup, NM.  This site was excavated by the University of [...]... Read more »

  • December 26, 2012
  • 02:44 AM

Fremont Cannibalism

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Today is Cannibal Christmas (for previous installments see here and here), and this time I’d like to discuss some instances of alleged cannibalism well beyond the boundaries of the Chaco system or even the Anasazi culture area. These assemblages are in sites belonging to the poorly defined Fremont Complex of Utah, which is roughly contemporary [...]... Read more »

Janetski, J. (2002) Trade in Fremont society: contexts and contrasts. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 21(3), 344-370. DOI: 10.1016/S0278-4165(02)00003-X  

Novak, S. A., & Kollmann, D. D. (2000) Perimortem Processing Of Human Remains Among The Great Basin Fremont. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 65-75. info:/

  • January 30, 2012
  • 03:16 AM

Where Did the Cahokians Come From?

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Regardless of exactly how many people lived at Cahokia, it’s clear from recent research that the population of the site and its immediately surrounding area grew immensely in a short period of time in the eleventh century AD. As Timothy Pauketat points out in the 2003 article that I was discussing earlier, the scale of [...]... Read more »

  • March 11, 2012
  • 05:56 AM

The Figurines of Cahokia

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Among the rarest and most fascinating artifacts associated with Mississippian sites are figurines made of carved stone. These are most numerous in the Cahokia area, although they have also been found in various other parts of the Mississippian world, most notably at the Spiro site in Oklahoma. Regardless of where they are found, however, many [...]... Read more »

  • April 18, 2010
  • 01:45 PM

Atlatls to Bows: First Things First

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Everyone is familiar with the bow and arrow, but what on earth is an atlatl?  Although this implement was once used all over the world and was an important part of life, in most areas it was replaced by other weapons so long ago that it is no longer remembered, and most people today have [...]... Read more »

Howard, C. (1974) The Atlatl: Function and Performance. American Antiquity, 39(1), 102. DOI: 10.2307/279223  

  • January 9, 2012
  • 04:00 AM

Who Were the Padouca?

by teofilo in Gambler's House

In 1827 William Clark, who had attained national fame as co-leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition more than 20 years earlier and had gone on to a successful career as an Indian Agent and governor of the Missouri Territory, obtained title to 37,000 acres in western Kentucky along the Ohio River that had been [...]... Read more »

Grinnell, G. (1920) Who Were the Padouca?. American Anthropologist, 22(3), 248-260. DOI: 10.1525/aa.1920.22.3.02a00050  

Michelson, T. (1921) Who Were the Padouca?. American Anthropologist, 23(1), 101-101. DOI: 10.1525/aa.1921.23.1.02a00120  

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