All Anasazi roads led to Chaco Canyon, an irregular gash cut deep into the surrounding desert plateau. Down the center of the canyon runs an arroyo, a
thin stream of water, which made life possible for the settlers of this dry land. The Anasazi built huge, inaccessible stone apartment houses high against the walls of the canyon. They survived the arid land by digging canals and irrigating small desert farms, where they raised corn, squash, beans, and cotton.
There are thirteen major towns, known as Great Houses, scattered along the
thirty-mile long canyon. Each town consists of a massive apartment complex
with hundreds of stone rooms stacked upon each other; each complex was capable of housing thousands of people. We know little about the relations between these towns, only that they shared a style of architecture and of pottery. What we do know is that each town was like a small fortress with high stone walls and no windows or entrances on the ground level. You had to enter the town by climbing a ladder over a high, heavily defended wall. Did the Anasazi fear an enemy or did they fear each other? We may never know.
Chaco canyon, despite its great power and beauty, was a place of hideous evil, according to Navajo legends. It is said that the Chaco people abused sacred ceremonies, practiced witchcraft and cannibalism, and made a dreaded
substance called corpse powder by cooking and grinding up the flesh and
bones of the dead. Their evil threw the world out of balance, and they were
destroyed in a great earthquake and fire.
Chetro Ketl: This site lies a quarter mile east of
Pueblo Bonito. It has not been fully excavated, but it may be the largest
ruin in the canyon. The exterior walls are 1,500 feet around. This ruin
consists of a Great House, as well as of a series of smaller villages built
against the cliffs. It was built in A.D. 1036
Pueblo del Arroyo: This is a small ruin and the nearest neighbor to Pueblo Bonito which is about five hundred yards away. It stands on the banks of the arroyo. It was built between 1053 and 1103.
Pueblo Alto: This ruin is located on the mesa north
of Chaco canyon about one mile from the rim. It can only be reached by an
ancient staircase. The site consists of two main buildings and is known today as the "house of the great chief" because of its commanding location.
Kin Kletzo: This small ruin lies on a mesa about one mile
south of Pueblo Bonito and contains fifty-five rooms and four Kivas. Eleven of the main Chaco settlements can be seen from this point, and archaeologists
speculate that this place may have served as a ancient signal station.
Penasco Blanco: Three miles below Pueblo Bonito, on a high point south of the canyon, lies one of the greatest ruins in the canyon. This ruin shows signs of having been violently overthrown, perhaps in some ancient battle.
Hungo Pavi: At the eastern end of the canyon, about two miles from Pueblo Bonito, there is a small reddish-brown ruin. One wall still stands almost thirty feet high, and there is a broad, well-preserved staircase leading up the canyon wall to the town.
Una Vida: This small ruin is located about four miles
east of Pueblo Bonito and is surrounded by a large plot of fertile land. It may have supplied food for much of the canyon.
Wijiji: This small ruin lies at the far eastern end of the canyon, about six miles from Pueblo Bonito. On the second story of the main wall, there are many round windows that may have been built so that archers could defend the town.