The scientific tourist #61 — Pueblo Bonito

This week’s picture comes to you from Chaco Canyon, in northwestern New Mexico:

Pueblo Bonito development

This is another scanned slide from about 1980, here showing an overview of Pueblo Bonito and a chart of its construction timeline. Since the inhabitants of Chaco didn’t leave any writing behind, it’s left the interpretation of their architectural remains open to all sorts of supposition. One thing is certain, though — they liked monolithic architecture. Pueblo Bonito (“pretty town”) is the biggest and best-known of the Chaco “great houses,” as well as having been the first to be built — it was occupied from about 828 to 1126 AD. The odd thing about Pueblo Bonito is that in spite of its size, it shows little evidence of habitation — not much in the way of trash, or cooking / heating fires, or the like. As a result, it may have been used either as a ceremonial center, or possibly as some sort of palace / civic building. Or maybe both.

If you’re in an archaeological mood, you might also want to check out this earlier post on a different spot in the canyon.

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2 Responses to The scientific tourist #61 — Pueblo Bonito

  1. Eric Skopec says:

    Yes, the Ancestral Puebloans loved monolithic architecture, but at any time more than 90% of the people lived in smaller, scattered unit pueblos. The “small sites” in Chaco tell much more of the story as does my recent book, The Ancestral Puebloan Primer, available from,, and specialty book stores.

  2. Pingback: Sorting Out Science » Blog Archive » Scientific tourist #95 — Bandelier Longhouse

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