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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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  • June 29, 2011
  • 12:33 AM

Chaco before Chaco: The Basketmaker III Period

by teofilo in Gambler's House

The Basketmaker III period (ca. AD 500 to 750) is a very important time for understanding the prehistoric Southwest.  Maize agriculture had been introduced earlier, although exactly how early is still a matter of debate, and it was definitely well-established by the immediately preceding Basketmaker II period, but Basketmaker III saw the introduction of beans, [...]... Read more »

  • May 27, 2011
  • 05:14 PM

Non-Chacoan Kivas at Chaco

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Implicit in my previous discussion of “Chacoan” kivas was the idea that the term “Chacoan” in this context refers to a specific architectural form defined by a collection of features, rather than to a geographic location.  Thus, Chacoan kivas are common at Chaco Canyon, but they are also found at many sites outside the canyon, [...]... Read more »

  • June 15, 2011
  • 10:10 PM

Chocolate Everywhere!

by teofilo in Gambler's House

I mentioned earlier that there was a new paper out on chocolate at Chaco that I needed to read.  I read it today, and it’s quite interesting.  One of the most interesting things about it is that it’s by a different group of researchers than the first one and uses somewhat different methods.  As far [...]... Read more »

  • June 22, 2011
  • 12:48 AM

Chipped Stone

by teofilo in Gambler's House

When it comes to stone tools, archaeologists make a basic distinction between “chipped-stone” and “ground-stone” tools.  Chipped-stone tools are generally those that need to be sharp, such as projectile points, knives, scrapers, and drills, and are typically made of hard stone that keeps an edge.  Some ground-stone tools, such as axes, are also sharp, but [...]... Read more »

  • February 16, 2011
  • 10:25 PM

Kayenta Warfare

by teofilo in Gambler's House

I’ve written quite a bit here about warfare in the prehistoric Southwest, but I’ve only said a little about one of the areas where it has been most carefully documented and studied: the Kayenta area of northeastern Arizona.  This is partly because this area seems to have had very little contact with or influence from [...]... Read more »

  • September 8, 2011
  • 09:25 PM

More about the Gila Cliff Dwellings

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Despite their impressive preservation, the Gila Cliff Dwellings have gotten surprisingly little attention in the archaeological literature.  This is apparently because they were so thoroughly ransacked by pothunters early on that there wasn’t much left intact for archaeologists to study, and possibly also because the early establishment of Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in 1907 [...]... Read more »

  • June 22, 2011
  • 07:05 PM

Warren K. Moorehead, Cartoon Villain

by teofilo in Gambler's House

In the spring of 1892, an expedition headed by Warren K. Moorehead traveled through northwestern New Mexico to collect archaeological specimens for the Chicago World’s Fair to be held the next year.  Moorehead was a young man from Ohio who had already conducted considerable excavations there that had drawn the attention of Frederic Ward Putnam [...]... Read more »

  • July 4, 2011
  • 12:23 AM

The Stars Bursting in Air

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.  The Fourth is actually a pretty important date for the study of Chaco, but in a roundabout (and somewhat controversial) way.  It all has to do with a very famous pictograph panel below Peñasco Blanco at the west end of the canyon.  While the interpretation of this panel is a [...]... Read more »

Pauketat, T., & Emerson, T. (2008) Star Performances and Cosmic Clutter. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 18(1), 78-85. DOI: 10.1017/S0959774308000085  

  • June 19, 2011
  • 10:43 PM

The View from Dolores

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Southwestern archaeology, especially in the Chaco area, is structured chronologically primarily by the Pecos Classification.  This system was initially worked out at the first Pecos Conference in 1927, and it was originally interpreted as a series of stages in cultural development, with the assumption that sites with similar characteristics and material culture were roughly contemporaneous.  [...]... Read more »

  • September 10, 2011
  • 03:27 AM

The Mysterious Mimbres

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Inspired by my recent visit to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, I’ve been reading about the Mimbres Mogollon culture of southwestern New Mexico.  As I noted earlier, the cliff dwellings themselves aren’t actually Mimbres, instead belonging to the Tularosa Mogollon culture more common to the north, and they postdate the “Classic” Mimbres period (ca. AD 1000 [...]... Read more »

  • June 20, 2011
  • 11:39 PM

Where They Got the Pots

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Pottery is the most important type of artifact for archaeology in the Southwest.  This is because the agricultural societies of the prehistoric Southwest made huge numbers of pots and often decorated them in distinctive ways that differed both from place to place and over time, often within quite short periods.  With the precision available from [...]... Read more »

  • June 14, 2011
  • 01:04 AM

On the Purported Evidence for Feasting at Pueblo Alto

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Many recent interpretations of Chaco Canyon see it as a site of pilgrimage, and this is often specifically seen as taking the form of regular region-wide ritual events involving communal feasting, construction work on the massive buildings in the canyon, trade involving various mundane and exotic items, and ritual breakage of pottery and deposition of [...]... Read more »

  • December 31, 2010
  • 10:33 PM

Cowboy Wash Is Not an Easy Place to Live

by teofilo in Gambler's House

If you stand at the Four Corners monument and look in the direction of Colorado you will see Sleeping Ute Mountain dominating the view.  From this direction you are looking at the southwest side of the mountain, and in front of it you see the southern piedmont.  On the right side of the piedmont, though [...]... Read more »

  • November 20, 2011
  • 10:58 PM

Level of Measurement and Archaeological Dating

by teofilo in Gambler's House

In 1946 the psychologist Stanley Smith Stevens, founder and director of Harvard’s Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory, published a short article in Science laying out a classification scheme for scales of measurement.  This system, and the four scales it proposed, would go on to become extremely influential in the quantitative sciences, and it is still widely used.  I [...]... Read more »

  • September 21, 2010
  • 05:17 PM

Casas Grandes Macaw Breeding

by teofilo in Gambler's House

One of the many similarities between Chaco and Casas Grandes in Chihuahua, in addition to the similar types of effigy vessels, is the presence of significant numbers of scarlet macaw skeletons at both sites.  As with most of these parallels, the evidence at Casas Grandes is more impressive in scale, with hundreds of macaws found [...]... Read more »

Somerville, A., Nelson, B., & Knudson, K. (2010) Isotopic investigation of pre-Hispanic macaw breeding in Northwest Mexico. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 29(1), 125-135. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaa.2009.09.003  

  • June 28, 2011
  • 01:55 AM

How Old Is Pueblo Bonito?

by teofilo in Gambler's House

The “Chacoan era” is a period of about 100 years in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries AD during which Chaco Canyon was at the center of some sort of system that covered a large portion of the northern Southwest.  The exact nature and exact extent of that system are endlessly debated, but the period [...]... Read more »

  • January 20, 2010
  • 01:12 AM

The Supposed Linguistic Evidence for the Spread of Agriculture

by teofilo in Gambler's House

The prehistoric peoples of the American Southwest were agriculturalists.  Different societies may have calibrated their mix of farming, hunting, and gathering differently, but they all seem to have done all three eventually, and for most it’s quite apparent in the archaeological record that farming was the predominant method of subsistence.  The crops they grew were [...]... Read more »

  • March 19, 2012
  • 03:12 AM

Mississippian Houses

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Mississippian societies are best known for their mound centers, with Cahokia in Illinois being the largest and most impressive but by no means the only one. These sites have drawn the interest of archaeologists since the very beginning of American archaeology as a field of study, but the focus on mounds meant that other aspects [...]... Read more »

Bennett, J. (1944) A Note on Middle Mississippi Architecture. American Antiquity, 9(3), 333. DOI: 10.2307/275792  

  • January 18, 2010
  • 10:52 PM

The Linguistic Evidence for Navajo Origins

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Although it can be rather difficult to define what it means to be Navajo, it is quite clear from a variety of lines of evidence that speakers of Athapaskan languages, including Navajo and the various Apache languages, have not been in the Southwest for very long compared to most of the other language groups there, [...]... Read more »

  • October 30, 2009
  • 08:40 PM


by teofilo in Gambler's House

When I was working at Chaco, we would often get visitors who would complain about how hard it was to get there.  They usually focused on the road in and asked why there wasn’t more effort to pave it and make it more accessible to the American public.  After all, isn’t that what national parks [...]... Read more »

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