Abstract: “Solving” the Mystery of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico


Chaco Canyon in the 11th century was the center of a vast region in the “Four Corner” states of the US Southwest.   Today it is a National Park and a World Heritage site.  In the course of my career at Chaco (from the 1970s to today), Chaco has gone from a riddle wrapped in an enigma, to one of the best known and most precisely documented archaeological districts in the world – thanks to the hard work of many talented archaeologists!  But even with huge amounts of new data and astonishing new discoveries, Chaco remains mysterious – in part due to forces beyond archaeology’s control.  There are audiences and stake-holders who want Chaco to remain a mystery.  Working with the remarkable Chaco data and thinking about what was going on a thousand years ago at Chaco’s time, rather than the Southwest today, it’s possible to present an interpretation which goes far towards “solving” the mystery of Chaco Canyon.  We know more than enough to begin defining what Chaco was and was not – and what Chaco was and wasn’t may surprise you! 


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Lekson, Stephen H.  “Chaco Meridian” (2nd edition, 2015)

Lekson, Stephen H.  “The Southwest in the World”     https://stevelekson.com/

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