Local Visibility and Monumentality in the Chaco World: A Total Viewshed Approach


Chacoan great houses are considered "monumental," in the sense both of scale and of conveying meaning. Throughout the Chaco World, great houses and other large-scale buildings would have been associated to some degree with a larger, regional Chacoan ideology. At the same time, these structures vary and should be understood in the context of diverse local and regional histories. Visibility can be a key component of monumentality, and it has been suggested that great houses were frequently placed to be highly visible. We use "total viewsheds"—cumulative viewsheds generated using regularly spaced points across a complete study area—to examine the degree to which Chacoan buildings were positioned to maximize these structures’ visibility within their local landscapes, which required leveraging advanced GIScience algorithms and techniques, as well as substantial supercomputing resources normally unavailable to archaeologists. The data aggregated by the Chaco Social Networks Project facilitate temporal and regional comparisons of visibility between A.D. 800 and 1200 across a sample of approximately 300 Chacoan buildings. The results of previous social network analyses allow us to consider the visibility choices made by the builders of Chacoan structures in light of the dynamics of intra- and inter-community spatial and social organization.

Cite this Record

Local Visibility and Monumentality in the Chaco World: A Total Viewshed Approach. Katherine Dungan, Sylviane Déderix, Barbara Mills, Kristin Safi, Devin White. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429431)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14937