Playing with Fate: A Relational and Sensory Approach to Pilgrimage at Chaco Canyon

Author(s): Robert Weiner

Year: 2017


Chaco Canyon is generally understood to have derived its regional influence by virtue of ceremonial power. But what exactly - experientially, sensorially, affectively – was so compelling about the experience of Chacoan ritual, and how might we approach these immaterial dimensions of the archaeological record? In this paper, I suggest that ceremonial gambling/gaming was an important practice during Chacoan gatherings that allowed participants to interact directly with supernatural forces. After briefly discussing multiple lines of evidence for gambling at Chaco, I emphasize the sensory and affective dimensions of games of chance. For example, ethnographic Native American gaming was often accompanied by fervent singing and shouting to distract the opposing team. Furthermore, gambling is primarily an endeavor that deals with The Unknown: with forces known variably as "fate," "divine favor," or "luck" depending on one’s worldview. To gamble is to enter a direct and highly-charged relationship with those unseen agents who make dice land heads or tails, who bring plentiful rainfall one year and not the next. I argue that the relationalities experienced by Chacoan gamblers with supernatural forces and with each other – and control over access to such experiences – formed crucial elements of the site’s allure and power.

Cite this Record

Playing with Fate: A Relational and Sensory Approach to Pilgrimage at Chaco Canyon. Robert Weiner. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430769)

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15698