Monday, August 10, 2009
Chimney Rock - A Chacoan Outlier
Here's an interesting report on this year's excavations undertaken by the University of Colorado Field School at Chimney Rock, an Anasazi site near Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Chimney Rock was a colony planted in the 11th century AD by groups from the political/cultural Anasazi center in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Steve Lekson, a Chaco expert on the faculty at CU, is aiming his research at showing status differentiation between inhabitants of different parts of the pueblo.
When I was in graduate school ages ago, the consensus was that the prehistoric Anasazi were largely an egalitarian society, with a highly developed ceremonial complex, much like contemporary Pueblo peoples. Lekson is among a group who now believe that the entire Chaco complex is based on a political elite imposing control over large portions of the Southwest. This article from the NY Times from a few weeks ago talks about Lekson's theories, and previews a new book he has coming out this Fall.
Lekson believes that this Chacoan political entity is based on a Mesoamerican model and has ties to Paquime (also known as Casas Grandes) a large site in northern Chihuahua. He ties in the appearance of Mesoamerian behaviors that are preserved in Anasazi sites, such as cannibalism; trade in exotic goods such as rubber, macaws, and cacao; and construction of monumental architecture and roads.
Chimney Rock is nearly the northernmost of Chacoan outliers, I believe only the Escalante Ruin over near Dolores is further north, and apparently purposefully positioned for conducting astronomical observations. As the article points out, this is the first work done at the site since the early 1970s when one of my former professors at CU, Frank Eddy, ran excavations there. True to its name, the site is on a high precipice, and work was banned during this period due to concerns about Peregrine falcons nesting in the area.
Also, just for fun, some friends of mine, Mike and Kathy Gear, have written an imaginative novel about the inhabitants of Chimney Rock based on real archaeology titled People of the Moon.