Chaco Great Houses

(Click on any image to enlarge)

Pueblo Bonito is the oldest of the Chacoan Great Houses, and also the one first excavated. About 60 rooms were destroyed when a portion of the cliff collapsed. The boulders in the foreground are from that disaster.

This is a smaller version of 'threatening rock' that fell on Pueblo Bonito.

The day starts before sunrise with a coyote serenade. The tent is beginning to lighten, so I get up and discover that it is still night; the brightness is caused by the half full moon.  There is a faint glow on the horizon, an omen of sunrise to arrive in an hour.  The campground is quiet at 5:30 so after taking care of necessities I go back to bed.

Elissa led the tour at Pueblo Bonito. Note the core-and-veneer construction of the wall behind her.

The doorways at Pueblo Bonito, as at all the Great Houses, are small by today's standards.

(A  coyote just walked through my campsite as I am typing this, passing not 10 feet from me!)

Ranger Lauren led the tour of Chetro Ketl.

The Great Houses contain hundereds of rooms, all built to a plan. While construction methods changed over time, rooms were not haphazardly added on.

While cooking breakfast – oatmeal with raisins – I discover that my meal plan is a day short!  The decision to come out Monday instead of Tuesday was made at the last minute, and the meal plan had not been updated.  Fortunately an extra loaf of bread had been thrown in along with a box of Triscuits.  I should be able to survive this trip!

At first this building in Chetro Ketl was thought to be a multi-story 'tower kiva'. Excavation showed it to be many kivas built over each other

Common to nearly all the Great Houses is a Great Kiva. Note the round stones in the upper center. These were foundations for the four Ponderosa pillars that held up the roof.

The plan is to bike out to Pueblo Bonito for the 10:00 ranger tour, perhaps tour another of the great houses, and return to camp for lunch.  Only two bottles of water are deemed necessary, but two extra liters and some trail mix are thrown into the panniers “just in case”.  It’s a good thing, too, as events transpire.  The tour at Pueblo Bonito was led by Elissa, an intern from the Student Conservation Association.  Actually she has a BA in Anthropology but can’t find a job and was fortunate to land this internship.  She is very knowledgeable on the topic.  After the tour I strike up a conversation with a couple going through the Great House.  They said that a new ranger-led tour of Chetro Ketl has been added , so of course I go on that tour.  Ranger Lauren was very knowledgeable and provided an instructive and pleasant tour.

This small human-constructed cave in the cliff behind Chetro Ketl is one of the few places where representations of human faces have been found. From these the appearance of the Chacoans can be deduced.

The sandstone cliff face behind Chetro Ketl is an ideal location for petroglyphs. (Click to enlarge to see them better.)

It’s now after 2:00.  I’ve used 3 of my 4 bottles of water and some trail mix, and I’m starting back to camp.  The Chaco Loop Road is one way, so I can’t come back the way I came.  Fortunately Pueblo Bonita is at the far end of the loop, so the return trip is no farther than the distance to get to Pueblo Bonita.  Along the way is Pueblo Arroyo and Casa Rinconada.  Of course I have to tour those two Great Houses.  Without a tour guide, this takes much less time to accomplish.  Casa Rinconada is where the Autmn Equinox event will take place.

Pueblo Arroyo is not as excavated as other Great Houses.

Over the hundreds of years that Chaco was occupied, the Chacoans often rebuilt structures on the same site. This kiva at Casa Rinconada was rebuilt multiple times.

The last water bottle is empty, and I am on my way back to camp, with only one stop to view the Chaco Staircase.  It isn’t obvious, but I did eventually locate it.  I’m looking at Fajada Butte and remembering some conversation about being able to see the Sun Dagger location, so I pull off at the Visitor Center to ask.  Sure enough, at the Fajada Butte Overlook there is a telescope set up to allow viewing of the site.  You can see the three rocks, but not inside where the spiral is located.  The sun dagger is an ingenious way to track the motion of the sun and moon.  That’s the last sight before arriving at camp.

This staircase is located at the top of a cliff. Probably earthen ramps and ladders led up to where the staircase starts.

At the top of Fajada Butte is the Sun Dagger. It is located inside a cave marked by the leaning rocks at the base of the large formation.

All the ice has melted in the cooler, but the watermelon is still cold.  I eat several pieces and share some with a couple who has hiked to Peñasco Blanco.  This is a hike I am considering for tomorrow.

Pictographs done in red paint adorn the cliff near the Wijiji Great House.

There are still three hours before the Night Sky program, so I decide to ride out to Wijiji.  The big draw here is some pictographs on the canyon wall.  I did not know about them and only found one by following a sign.  Only one pictograph is visible to my naked eye, but after scanning the area with binoculars I found several more.  I take several photos at max resolution in the hope that these additional pictographs would be visible after some digital enhancement.  The camera has less maginification than the binoculars so I did not see these additional pictographs through the lens, but with RAW resolution I should be able to blow up the image quite a bit.

The Chaco area abounds in natural beauty. Here artists are sketchnig Fajada Butte at sunset.

The Night Sky program is on Archeoastronomy and once again very informational.  Telescopes were available for viewing celestial objects, but I was so tired after a full day that I could barely keep my eyes open.  In fact I am constantly yawning as I type this blog entry.  I’ve found that I need to record a day’s events immediately or they may never be recorded.  Time to hit the sack.

Mouse over the pins in the map to see a thumbnail of the photo. Click on the Everytrail link to see a slide show, linked to the location where the photo was taken.

Chaco Canyon: Great Houses at EveryTrail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>