House Ritual in Chaco Canyon: Scale, Context, Emergent Differentiation and Inequality

Author(s): Emily Ditto

Year: 2015


At Chaco Canyon, clear indications of social differentiation in the Pueblo world first appeared during the 9th-11th centuries. One materialization of this is the contrast between two contemporaneous architectural forms: great houses, interpreted as populous communities or largely empty centers of seasonal ritual pilgrimage, and small houses, explained as multi-family households. Since ritual artifacts have been excavated from both house categories, analyzing inter- and intra-site variation in ritual assemblages is a fruitful way to investigate the structure of Chaco society. Approaching from the intersection of materiality theory, Pueblo ethnography, and collections-based research, I explore how the differing scales and contexts of ritual in Chacoan houses, particularly cosmological scale, structured sociopolitical relations and emergent inequality. At Pueblo Bonito, objects in ritual caches index a greater breadth and diversity of cosmological phenomena than those indexed in ritual contexts from small houses. This suggests that emerging leaders used their greater control over significant materials and linked cosmological phenomena to connect themselves to potent and distinct forces within a socially valued cosmic order. By doing so in varying public and private contexts, they materialized social differences both among themselves and from small house residents and negotiated their way to greater power in Chaco society.

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Cite this Record

House Ritual in Chaco Canyon: Scale, Context, Emergent Differentiation and Inequality. Emily Ditto. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395335)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;