Timeline of Chacoan history

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A timeline of Chacoan history includes Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Aztec Ruins National Monument, Twin Angels Pueblo, Casamero Pueblo, Kin Nizhoni, Pierre's Site, and Halfway House.


Paleo-Indian Period

11000 BC
First foragers?

Archaic Period

6000 BC-800 BC

4th century CE

5th century

Basketmaker farming begins

6th century

Turquoise beads and pendants appear; offerings in great kivas (sites 29SJ423, Shabik' eshchee Village)

7th century

La Plata Black-on-White ceramic
Population of Chaco Canyon between 100 and 201 people [1]

8th century

9th century

Builders use piñon, juniper, and cottonwood trees that grew close by [1]
Large construction projects.
Red Mesa Black-on-White ceramics

10th century

Large buildings, mounds, roadways, great kivas, and tri-walled structures are built throughout the San Juan Basin. [2]
Construction of Penasco Blanco
Emergence of the Chaco Anasazi [3]
Chetro Ketl pueblo begun
Chaco Wash in erosional cycle and cut a paleo-channel. [4]
Stable environmental conditions favorable to dry farming throughout the Colorado Plateau. Human populations also stable. [5]
Keet Seel, second largest cliff dwelling. is inhabited
Nonlocal ponderosa is the dominant beam timber; spruce and fir increase

11th century

Unpredictable rainfall. Little building at Pueblo Bonito [1]
"Chaco phenomenon" acceleration of cultural development
Great House construction, and roads expanded. The first usage of chocolate further than central Mexico was first used in ceramic cylinders for rituals. [6]
Escavada Black-on-White ceramics
Depositional period during which time the paleo-channel was filling. There is some historical, anecdotal evidence that the inhabitants of Chaco Canyon may have constructed a dam at the west end of the canyon. [4]
Chacoans seek trees at higher altitudes [1]
Increased rainfall [1]
Building resumes at Old Bonito. Pueblo Bonito construction stage II [1]
Pueblo Bonito becomes more complex. Pueblo Bonito construction stage III [1]
Imports of copper bells, Macaws, and shells (origin unknown)
~July 4 - Cliff painting near Penasco Blanco consisting of three symbols: a large star, a crescent moon, and a handprint, may portray the sighting of SN 1054, the Crab Nebula supernova. [7]
1064, 1066
Sunset Crater volcanic eruptions; volcanic debris blankets Jemez Mountains and Bandelier area.
Great North Road construction. [8]
Salmon Ruin established. [8]
Construction of Pueblo Alto begins.

12th century

Pueblo Bonito constructed at Chaco.
Five astronomical observatories are built
Peak of Chaco culture.
Tree felling at Pueblo del Arroyo
Aztec Ruins built.
Pueblo Bonito is four stories tall and contains 800 rooms [9]
Fifty-year drought in the Southwest. Rain and snow cease to fall. Alluvial groundwater declines, floodplain erosion occurs. Dry-farming zone reduced, crop production potential decreased. Severe arroyo cutting and depression of alluvial groundwater. Severe environmental stress. [5]
Collapse of the Ancestral Puebloan culture at Chaco Canyon.
Great Houses empty
Sunset Crater erupts for the second time.

13th century

14th century

15th century

16th century

Marcos de Niza erroneously describes the pueblo of Háwikuh as the Seven Cities of Gold.

17th century

The Pueblo Revolt of the Pueblo people against Spanish colonists in the New Spain province.
Don Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco identifies the Chaco Canyon area as "Chaca" on a map. The term, a Spanish translation of a Navajo word, is thought to be the origin for "Chacra Mesa" and "Chaco".

18th century

19th century

Josiah Gregg refers to the Chaco pueblos in his book Commerce of the Prairies, making its first appearance in popular culture.
Lt. James H. Simpson leads the Washington Expedition, a military reconnaissance team which surveys Navajo lands and records cultural sites in Chaco Canyon. Illustrations created by the Kern brothers are included in a government report.
Artist and photographer William Henry Jackson participates in the Hayden Survey of the Western United States, producing maps of Chaco Canyon, but no photographs due to technical problems.
Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason find the Cliff Palace, Spruce Tree House and Square Tower House.
Chaco Canyon is surveyed and photographed by Victor and Cosmos Mindeleff of the Bureau of American Ethnology
Richard Wetherill begins excavating Chaco Canyon
George H. Pepper from the American Museum of Natural History leads the Hyde Exploring Expedition in excavating Pueblo Bonito

20th century

General Land Office special agent S. J. Holsinger recommends creating a national park to preserve archaeological sites in Chaco Canyon
Chaco Canyon National Monument is established.
American astronomer and University of Arizona professor A. E. Douglass participates in a National Geographic Society research project exploring Chaco Canyon. Using his newly invented technique of dendrochronology, Douglass dates Chetro Ketl and dozens of Chacoan sites
Expedition under Neil Merton Judd to collect dendrochronological specimens to date habitation of Chaco Canyon
A Civilian Conservation Corps of Navajo stonemasons repairs Chacoan buildings in Chaco Canyon. A previous group built soil conservation devices, planted trees, and improved roads and trails.
Heavy rains cause Threatening Rock to fall, destroying ~60 rooms at Pueblo Bonito.
Floors excavated at Una Vida
The Chaco Project, conducted by the National Park Service and the University of New Mexico, surveys and excavates Chaco Canyon
Fourteen rooms at Pueblo Alto excavated by the Chaco Project
Chaco Canyon National Monument is renamed Chaco Culture National Historical Park with 13,000 acres (53 km2) added. The Chaco Culture Archaeological Protection Site program is created to protect Chacoan sites.
NASA's Thermal Infrared Multispectral Scanner (TIMS) detects over 200 miles of a prehistoric (AD 900 or 1000) road system in Chaco Canyon, as well as walls, buildings, and agricultural fields.
Dean and Warren estimate 200,000 trees were used to build great houses.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

21st century

Two-thirds of large roof timbers traced to Chuska Mountains and one-third to San Mateo Mountains. [10]

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Bonito Phase is an archeological term that refers to the period between 900 and 1140 CE, during which the Ancestral Puebloans in the Chaco Canyon area constructed numerous great houses. The system is divided into three parts: the Early Bonito phase from 900 to 1040; the Classic Bonito phase from 1040 to 1100, and the Late Bonito phase from 1100 to 1140. When the system was created in the 1980s, it was thought that construction at Pueblo Bonito began around 920, but it is now known that building at the great house started almost one hundred years earlier, c. 850.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">McElmo Phase</span>

McElmo Phase refers to a period in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, when drastic changes in ceramics and masonry techniques in Chaco Canyon appeared. During this period the Ancestral Puebloans living in the canyon started using painted black-on-white pottery versus their standard grey ware, and the masonry and layout of great houses built during the McElmo phase, which was the last major construction era in the canyon, differ significantly from those built during the early parts of the Bonito Phase, which overlaps with the McElmo Phase. Archeologists initially suggested that the McElmo influence was brought to Chaco Canyon by immigrants from Mesa Verde, but subsequent research suggests that the developments were of local origin. Archeologist R. Gwinn Vivian notes, "The jury is still out on this question, a problem that poses intriguing possibilities for future work."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jackson Staircase</span> Named after William Henry Jackson is a pair of ancestral Puebloan cliff cut steps of Chaco Canyon

The Jackson Staircase is a pair of Ancestral Puebloan steps cut into the cliff of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Located north of Chetro Ketl and east of Pueblo Alto, the stairs gave Chacoans access to the Great North Road. The feature is named after William Henry Jackson, who discovered the stairs in 1877.

The Roads of Chaco stretch all over the Chaco Canyon. These roads have many theorized uses ranging from economic, military, and a total unification effort of the canyon as a whole.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Fagan, Brian M. (2005). Chaco Canyon. Oxford University Press. ISBN   0-19-517043-1
  2. Kohler, Timothy A. Sebastian, Lynne. (July 1996). "Population aggregation in the prehistoric North American Southwest." American Antiquity v61.n3 : pp597(6).
  3. The Chaco World Great House Database Archived 2006-12-30 at the Wayback Machine
  4. 1 2 Durand, Stephen R. (Jan 2004). "Relation of "Bonito" Paleo-channels and Base-level Variations to Anasazi Occupation, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico." American Antiquity 69.1: 191(1).
  5. 1 2 Jorgensen, Joseph G. (Winter 2005). "Archaeological sociology in America's Southwest". Journal of the Southwest 47.4: 637(28).
  6. "Chocolate Drink Used In Rituals In New Mexico 1,000 Years Ago". ScienceDaily. 5 February 2009. Retrieved 6 February 2009.
  7. Greening, Dan. "1054 Supernova Petrograph" . Retrieved 2009-02-06.
  8. 1 2 Lekson 1999
  9. Neitzel, 2003
  10. Diamond, 2001