tDAR Logo tDAR digital antiquity

An agricultural risk mitigation strategy using multiple water sources, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

Author(s): Christopher Carr ; Vernon Scarborough ; Nicholas Dunning ; Elizabeth Haussner

Year: 2016

» Downloads & Basic Metadata


From approximately 850 to 1250 A.D., despite an extremely arid environment, the ancient people of Chaco Canyon were able to marshal the food production and engineering skills to build a string of "Great Houses", several containing hundreds of rooms. This poster describes a system of multiple water sources supplying the agricultural area below the Great House at Peñasco Blanco. High-resolution aerial lidar was key to identifying the multiple water sources. Rainfall and snow are the source of domestic and agricultural water in this area which lacks perennial streams. During the growing season, rainfall arrives in intense, brief, locally isolated bursts. This pattern of rainfall presents risks of too much rain, rain in the wrong place, and rain at the wrong time. The ancient Chacoan people managed these risks by: (1) utilizing channel flow from drainages of multiple sizes and surface flow off of slick rock areas, (2) storing water in potholes, (3) canalizing water to and away from posited fields and, (4) reservoir containment. Our study used lidar based digital elevation models (DEM) to identify flow channels, water storage areas, and watershed sizes. On-the-ground examination and excavation were used to validate the findings.

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Cite this Record

An agricultural risk mitigation strategy using multiple water sources, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Christopher Carr, Vernon Scarborough, Nicholas Dunning, Elizabeth Haussner. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404850)


Spatial Coverage

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

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America