Sunday, September 7, 2008

Chetro Ketl Trail at Chaco Canyon

The Chetro Ketl and Pueblo Bonito Trails start at the same place and branch away from each other. These are the two largest complexes at Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico are nearly side by side.

These two sites are about four miles west of the visitor center along the canyon loop road. The Chetro Ketl Trail is about 0.5 miles.

Chetro Ketl was built starting about 1000 AD and over the next 100 years grew to about 500 rooms covering 3 acres. The site is D shaped and has a large plaza area in front of the room blocks. The trail cuts through the plaza from west to east before circling around the back.

The rooms along the front wall show some evidence that there were influences from Toltec Mexico here. In the front there were originally colonnade structures, square masonry columns along the wall of a long narrow room. Later renovation appears to have filled in between the columns and then subdivided the long narrow room.

The trail continues in front of the long wall of room blocks and circles around to the subterranean Great Kiva. From the angle looking back at the main room blocks, the entry way to the kiva is visible and some of the internal features including the well like foundations for the columns that supported the roof.

Four sandstone disks were found in the foundation pit and oddly, a bag of powdered turquoise was found at the bottom.
On the east side of the plaza is a series of circular structures. One of them had an odd figure eight shape. The other circular structures have some of the features of small kivas but the figure eight appears to be featureless inside.
Passing along the back wall the stone work can be examined closely. These walls were originally covered with a plaster that has worn away.

There is evidence that along the back wall there were once small balconies on the second and third stories. The cross sections of the walls shows the somewhat jumbled core with the smooth outer veneer placement of stones.
The last part of the trail passes a structure called the Talus Unit for its location near a pile of fallen rock debris. This group of rooms is separate from the main room blocks but is thought to have been part of the system.
This area is only a few steps away from the main structures, but perhaps it had a slightly different function. Behind the Talus Unit is a stairway that connected to the roads and structures on top of the sandstone cliffs.

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