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Discover Chaco Canyon

One of the largest single prehistoric buildings constructed by the Anasazi still stands today, reminding us of the First American’s amazing engineering skills. This structure is called Pueblo Bonito and is now protected in the Chaco Cultural National Historic Park in New Mexico, standing as a lasting example of Anasazi engineering, religious, and trade practices.

 

This huge D-shaped building stands in Chaco Canyon, a sandstone-lined wash with a small creek that seems so dry and remote today that it would be impossible to support the large population suggested by the size of this ruin. Built and rebuilt in several phases over three generations, Pueblo Bonito covers three acres, has 600 rooms and once rose five stories in height. Inside the arcing back wall of the pueblo, a cluster of stepped levels from one story in the front to five stories in the back, held the 600 rooms. Also inside the D-shaped pueblo were three great kivas, and 30 small kivas. This was not an easy structure to build. Sources for the wood may have come from over 60 miles away, and the labor to cut, carry, and place the millions of tons of local rock still amazes visitors today.

Who lived here? Why did they build this amazing city?

Was it really a city – or was it something else?

How did they build it? And where did they go?

 

Who Lived Here and How Did They Build It?

Archeologists once thought that up to 6,000 people might have lived here, but recent discoveries are changing our understanding of this beautiful and mysterious place. Inside Pueblo Bonito, several generations of stonemasons built, tore down, and rebuilt the thick stone and mortar walls.

Their engineers understood how to build a double walled foundation, how to fill the two three-foot-apart walls with stone rubble and mortar, and that such a solid lower wall was the only way to be able to build vertically up to five stories in height. From these thick lower walls, the building rose up with tapering walls they grew narrower towards the top, to help lessen the weight of the upper stories on the lower story.

They built the 600 rooms and 33 kivas from stone using different masonry styles in different generations, learning and improving each generation. They doorways between rooms, the rafters of Douglas fir and pinewood brought from up to 60 miles away, are still visible today.

Inhabited by the Anasazi, who were the Ancestral Puebloans, Pueblo Bonito reminds is of the great knowledge and abilities of the First Americans.

Why was Pueblo Bonito Built?

Earliest Origins

Clue #1 – The Great Kiva Mystery

Casa Rinconada

Envision a Kiva Ceremony

Clue #2 – The Chacoan Road System

Clue #3 – Fajada Butte

Cultural Unity

Chaco Image Gallery

GIS and Chaco Canyon