Becoming Chacoan: The Archaeology of the Aztec North Great House

Author(s): Michelle I. Turner

Year: 2019


Between 900 and 1140 CE, people at Chaco Canyon and throughout its region built multistory monumental structures with hundreds of rooms, known as great houses. This dissertation reports on recent archaeological testing on one such great house, the Aztec North great house at Aztec Ruins National Monument.

I argue that Aztec North’s occupation represents an early, transitional period, as people previously not involved in the Chaco world made choices that increasingly brought them into Chaco’s orbit and changed their way of life forever. The structure represents a remarkable architectural experiment in large-scale adobe construction, one that likely was not terribly successful but that might have been an inspiration for generations after.

The two main strands of data I report here, the architecture and the artifact assemblage, each tell a very different story. The artifact assemblage is one entirely typical of a Chacoan great house fully absorbed in the network of trade that characterized the Chacoan world. The architecture, however, suggests a more complicated site biography, with some aspects that seem entirely Chacoan, and a few striking elements that are not at all characteristic of Chacoan construction. Drawing on theories of social complexity, landscape archaeology and materiality, I argue that this great house was a site of rapid transition and of a community drawn into the Chacoan world in very short order, and perhaps with unintended consequences.

Cite this Record

Becoming Chacoan: The Archaeology of the Aztec North Great House. Michelle I. Turner. Doctoral Dissertation. Binghamton University (SUNY), Department of Anthropology. 2019 ( tDAR id: 454944) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8454944

Spatial Coverage

min long: -109.006; min lat: 36.646 ; max long: -107.369; max lat: 36.997 ;

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