Our Senior District will be visiting different sites in the mission. Our first visit was to Chaco Canyon. The roads into the Park are difficult when wet so it was decided to visit this National Park first.
The Chacoan people's cultural flowering began in the mid-800s and persisted over 300 years. Using masonry techniques unique for their time, they built massive, multiple-story stone buildings (Great Houses) with hundreds of rooms- far larger than any they previously had built. Buildings were planned from the start; rooms weren't just added to existing buildings as needed. Construction of some buildings planned decades or even centuries. Each great house is unique, but all share recognizably Chacoan architectural features.
They were often oriented to solar, lunar and cardinal directions. Lines of sight between them enabled communication. Sophisticated astronomical markers, communication features, water control devices, and formal earthen mounds surrounded them. They were set in a landscape surrounded by sacred mountains, mesas, and shrines that still have deep spiritual meaning for their descendants.
By 1050, Chaco was the ceremonial, administrative and economic center of the San Juan Basin with a large sphere of influence. Roads linked dozens of Chaco Canyon great houses to over 150 great houses in the region. We don't think great houses were traditional farming villages with large populations but probably impressive examples of public architecture used for ceremony, commerce, and trading when temporary populations came to the canyon for these events.
Pueblo descendants say that Chaco was a special gathering place where many peoples and clans converged to share ceremonies, traditions and knowledge. They traded with peoples from the sea shores and Central and South Americas. They found sea shells, feathers from South America birds and jars with chocolate in them.