Text by Stephen H. Lekson, University of Colorado, Boulder, June 19, 2006

Chaco Timeline created by Lynne Sebastian, Carla Van West, R Gwinn Vivian, and Cindy Elsner Hayward

The last major excavation at Chaco Canyon was the National Park Service’s “Chaco Project,” from 1971 to 1982. Twenty-five sites were tested or partially excavated, culminating in three years’ work at Pueblo Alto. The “Chaco Project” produced over 20 monographs and scores of articles, chapters, and shorter contributions; but there was no accessible summary or synthesis which brought all these data and ideas together. In 1997, the National Park Service and the University of Colorado began a program to revisit the data collected by the Chaco Project. The CU-NPS “Chaco Synthesis” centered on several working meetings held between March 1999 and October 2000. The first five working meetings paired Chaco Project staff and Chaco experts with scholars from other areas, re-examining Chaco Project data. Meeting themes included “Economy and Ecology,” “Organization of Production,” “Architecture,” “Society and Polity,” and “The Chaco World.” The thematic, working meetings were followed by a large “Capstone” conference at the University of New Mexico (October 2002) and a final seminar at the School of American Research (May 2004).

Chaco archaeology is remarkable for large numbers of absolute dates – mainly tree-ring dates – available for researchers. There are literally thousands of tree-ring dates from scores of sites at Chaco. A timeline of Chaco archaeology, based on dendrochronology, was begun by Gwinn Vivian and Carla Van West at the “Economy and Ecology” meeting. Lynne Sebastian (who chaired the “Capstone” conference) gathered additional data from Chaco Synthesis scholars, and constructed the “Chaco Timeline” with the assistance of Carla Van West and Cindy Elsner Hayward. The timeline structured discussions at both the Capstone and SAR meetings.

The results of the working meetings and conferences were published in several books and journals, and summarized in The Archaeology of Chaco Canyon (edited by S.H. Lekson, School of American Research Press, 2006).

(compiled by Joan Mathien & Steve Lekson)