Casa Rinconada

Site Description:

Casa Rinconada is an isolated great kiva located on top of a ridge on the southern side of the canyon directly across from Pueblo Bonito.  It is located within a cluster of small house sites.  Two of the closest are Bc 58, 290 feet (85 m.) to the northeast, and Bc 50, 290 feet (85 m.) to the east.  Although the great kiva is not associated with a great house, there a group of masonry rooms attached to the perimeter, including a one-room antechamber to the south and an antechamber and three to six connected rooms to the north.  A few additional rooms also are attached on the east and west – possibly indicating a series of rooms that originally encircled the kiva (similar to the Great Kiva at Aztec West) . Vivian and Reiter (1960) suggest a PIII (1140-1200 A.D. – see Windes revised Chaco chronology) occupation for Casa Rinconada.

Casa Rinconada has an average interior diameter of 63 feet (19.2 m.).  It contains all features generally associated with great kivas including a firebox, an inner bench, four large seating pits that served as roof supports, two masonry vaults/foot drums, and 34 niches encircling the great kiva.  In addition, the kiva includes a 39-foot-long (12 m.) underground passage, three feet deep and almost three feet wide, entering the room from the northern antechamber.  The underground passage would have allowed Chacoans, perhaps ritual specialists, to enter the great kiva unseen and then suddenly emerge.

Gordon Vivian, Janet Woods, and the University of New Mexico/School of American Research field schools excavated the site, referred to as the “great bowl”, in 1931.  Their excavation uncovered a number of ornaments (beads and pendants) made of a variety of materials in the fill of the structure (Woods 1931, CRA Accession 001869).  Ceramics recovered during the excavation suggest use in the late-11th and early-12th centuries, while a single tree-ring date suggests construction may have begun in the mid-11th century.  Vivian undertook restorations of portions of Casa Rinconada in 1933.

Additional site numbers are 29SJ386, LA 841, and Bc 255.

Excavation History

  • 1931: Excavated by Gordon Vivian and the University of New Mexico/School of American Research field schools.

Size and Dates

  • A great kiva with two antechambers and a small number of additional, attached rooms
  • Construction of the great kiva may have begun in the middle-11th century and use likely ended in the early-12th century