Book Review – The Pueblo Bonito Mounds of Chaco Canyon

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Book Cover- The Pueblo Bonito Mounds of Chaco Canyon: Material Culture and Fauna Edited by Patricia L. Crown (University of New Mexico Press, 2016; 296 pgs., illus., $85 cloth; www.unmpress.com)

The Pueblo Bonito Mounds of Chaco Canyon: Material Culture and Fauna

Edited by Patricia L. Crown

(University of New Mexico Press, 2016; 296 pgs., illus., $85 cloth; www.unmpress.com)

Pueblo Bonito is the largest and most famous of the great houses in Chaco Canyon, the great Native center in the desert of northwestern New Mexico.  In front of the 800-room, five-story great house are two large mounds that have variously been interpreted as ceremonial structures, trash mounds, or ritual architecture.  Pueblo Bonito was almost totally excavated in the 1890s and 1920s.  In the 1920s, Neil Judd dug three trenches through the mounds—one in each mound and one in the space between them.  He collected about 105 artifacts, which are now in the American Museum of Natural History, and the trenches were back filled with the material that came from them.

Between 2004 and 2007 the University of New Mexico, under the direction of archaeologist W.H. Wills, re-excavated Judd’s trenches during six field sessions.  They collected some 200,000 artifacts—ceramics, lithics, bones, and other materials.  This is the report of that research project.  Each of the contributors focuses on an artifact category and on basic research questions related to Chaco Canyon such as crafts production, long-distance exchange of goods, and feasting and ritual behavior.  The result is a great quantity of new data on a culture that continues to befuddle archaeologists and lay people alike.

Local politics makes new research in Chaco Culture National Historical Park extremely difficult, if not impossible, and this report provides important new information that students of Chaco Canyon are eagerly awaiting. —Mark Michel

Read our current Book Reviews online and in our Fall Issue of American Archaeology Magazine. Browse the table of contents for online article summaries for Fall 2016

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