Encore class focuses on Chaco Canyon

San Juan College Community Learning Center
Special to The Daily Times
This undated courtesy image looks north down the Chacoan North Road at Pueblo Alto.

Even for residents who have lived all of their lives in the Four Corners, Chaco Canyon can surprise and delight.

"Chaco Canyon’s amazing Puebloan sites are well-known to fans of the ancient past," said archaeologist Paul Reed. "Less well-known are sites along the Great North Road, between Chaco and the Middle San Juan. The sites of Pierres, Halfway House and Twin Angels are important outposts on the Road, along with numerous other, smaller pueblos.”

Reed will share his extensive knowledge of Chacoan culture in San Juan College’s Encore class, "Chacoan Archaeology of Great North Road and Beyond,"  on May 21 and 22.

"We’ll visit these remote places and learn more about how Chacoan society expanded northward in the late 11th century, eventually reaching the great houses at Aztec and Salmon," Reed said.

Archaeologist Paul Reed speaks about Chacoan culture in this undated courtesy image. Reed will teach "Chacoan Archaeology of Great North Road and Beyond," a San Juan College’s Encore class on May 21 and 22.

The Chacoan laid out and built this roadway for a distance of more than 30 miles to the edge of Kutz Canyon, southeast of Salmon Pueblo. The road is straight and wide, with an average span of 30 feet. Clearly, the builders went well beyond the basic need to travel from north to south (or south to north) across the Chacoan landscape. The Great North Road and the other roads in the network, comprising several hundred miles, are best seen as landscape-level monuments to the social and ritual power of the Chacoan World.

In this perspective, then, the Great North Road was built as the Chacoans began to look north, and ultimately, refocused much of their attention to the Middle San Juan region and the massive great houses at Salmon, Aztec and other locations. So, in addition to serving as a massive landscape monument, the Great North Road can also be viewed as the gateway through which the Chacoans accessed and ultimately colonized parts of the Middle San Juan region.

Another aspect of the Great North Road is its importance for understanding the nature of the Greater Chaco landscape. The area influenced by Chaco Canyon was large, extending across all four states of the Four Corners and matching roughly the country of Ireland in size. The best understanding of the Chacoan World comes from a deep appreciation of the landscape in all of its forms. Protecting and preserving this landscape for future generations is clearly critical in this process.

Paul Reed has a master's degree in anthropology/archaeology from New Mexico State University and has studied Chaco and Chacoan-related sites for 25 years. His 2004 book, "The Puebloan Society of Chaco Canyon," provides a comprehensive overview of Chaco for a public audience.

Students will need to register for Reed’s class by May 16. To find out more about this and other Encore classes, call 505-566-3214 or visit Encore classes are designed for learners 50 and older but are open to all students 18 and older.