Recent research on Chaco: Changing views on economy, ritual, and society

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56 Scopus citations


Current research on Chaco Canyon and its surrounding outlier communities is at an important juncture. Rather than trying to argue for the presence or absence of complexity, archaeologists working in the area are asking different questions, especially how Chacoan political, economic, ritual, and social organization were structured. These lines of inquiry do not attempt to pigeonhole Chaco into traditional neoevolutionary types, but instead seek to understand the historical trajectory that led to the construction of monumental architecture in Chaco Canyon and a large part of the northern Southwest in the 10th through 12th centuries. This review discusses the conclusions of current research at Chaco including definitions of the Chaco region, recent fieldwork, histories of Chaco archaeology, chronology, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, demography, political organization, outlier communities, economic organization, social organization, ritual, violence, and the post-Chacoan reorganization. Although many issues are hotly debated, there is a growing concensus that power was not based in a centralized political organization and that ritual organization was a key factor in the replication of Chacoan architecture across a vast regional landscape. Exactly how ritual, social, and political organization intersected is a central question for Chaco scholars. The resolution of this problem will prove to be interest to all archaeologists working with intermediate societies across the globe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-117
Number of pages53
JournalJournal of Archaeological Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Chaco Canyon
  • Complexity
  • Economy
  • Political organization
  • Ritual
  • Social organization
  • Southwest archaeology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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