Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pueblo del Arroyo Trail at Chaco Canyon

The Pueblo del Arroyo is an unusual Great House in the Chaco Canyon National Historic Park in northwest New Mexico in that it is sited along the banks of the Chaco Wash rather than against the steep sandstone cliffs. It also has an unusual orientation, the flat side of the D shape faces west rather than south.

Pueblo del Arroyo used more larger loaf shaped softer tan colored sandstone from the base of the cliffs than the older sites that used a harder sheet like rock material from the top of the mesas.
On the east side near the Chaco Wash is an unusual Triple Walled circular structure. Only about a dozen similar structures have been found in the Four Corners region. Aztec Ruins, about 70 miles north, has one that the public can view. This one was built using the softer loaf shaped sandstone. The use of the triple walled rooms is not known but we usually guess ceremonial.

There is a glimpse of the Chaco Wash here. It is thought that the wash is more eroded than it was during the era when several thousand people lived here. It was a source of water as well as sand used for building.

Circling around to the east side, there is a view of the South Gap break in the mesa walls. Chaco roads entered the canyon through the Gap, connecting with farming communities and timber gathering sites. Pilgrims to Chaco also would have traveled along the Chaco road system.

Along the north side are detailed views of the kiva and room blocks of the central part of the site. In the foreground is a keyhole shaped kiva which is more typical of kivas in the Mesa Verde area, and indicates a sharing of ideas.

Around 1200 AD the Chaco area faded as the center of Ancestral Pueblo culture and the center shifted north to the Mesa Verde area. Eventually, Mesa Verde was also abandoned, with the population shifting to the Rio Grande area in central New Mexico and the Hopi Mesas in northern Arizona.

The short loop trail starts around the west wall. This site was constructed later than the nearby Pueblo Bonito, with two phases from about 1025 AD to 1125 AD.

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