Forthcoming in 2019
New Perspectives on the Greater Chaco Landscape
edited by Ruth Van Dyke and Carrie Heitman
Chaco Canyon is a national monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, important not only for contemporary indigenous peoples and archaeologists but for all of humanity. It preserves a unique aspect of the human experience and draws over 40,000 visitors yearly. However, Chaco does not stop at the borders of the monument. Since the 1970s, archaeologists have understood that the Chaco Phenomenon extends over the landscape of much of northwest New Mexico and adjacent areas, encompassing over 100 additional great houses and associated communities, or outliers. Although we have made progress, forty years later we continue to struggle to understand Chaco’s spatial and temporal complexity. Few outlier communities have been comprehensively studied. Furthermore, the greater Chacoan landscape involves roads, agricultural fields, shrines, rock art panels, night skies, viewsheds and soundscapes – all aspects that do not fit easily into traditional site-focused frameworks for preservation and research. Chaco was not a single locality, nor was it merely a series of discrete localities or elements. Management decisions that reduce this landscape to dots on a map threaten to destroy the most compelling, least-understood, and perhaps most significant aspect of this phenomenon. Currently, the greater Chacoan landscape is under threat from aggressive oil and gas development. Existing laws and management policies are good at protecting monumental architecture such as great houses, but it is more difficult to locate, interpret, and manage features such as roads, soundscapes, and night skies. Our ability to understand Chaco depends upon the protection of this landscape in a way that honors both what is known and what we still have to learn.
With these concerns in mind, in this volume we present thematic summaries of areas that need more attention. Funded by the National Park Service, Van Dyke, Heitman, and Steve Lekson convened a conference at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center on August 14-17, 2017, entitled, “Chaco Landscapes: What We Know and What We Don't.” Cloudy Ridge Productions created videos of all conference presentations. Cloudy Ridge Productions also videotaped two Native American conference attendees presenting material in Chaco Canyon on October 20-21, 2017. From these meetings and materials, in collaboration with the University Press of Colorado, we are producing an edited scholarly volume that interdigitates visual as well as textual materials. Four of the 13 chapters in this hybrid volume consist entirely of filmed presentations.