• Discuss Chaco Canyon. Why were there so many large pueblos in such a marginal, seemingly uninviting area? Stone villages scattered throughout the arid canyon suggest a large population. The great four-story town of Pueblo Bonito could have housed up to a thousand people. More than  25 kivas were built within its walls. However, very few burials were found in the entire canyon. Perhaps the towns were only used periodically as a redistribution center for crops, wood, toolmaking stone, and other resources.
  • An abundance of turquoise found in the ruins suggests that Chaco was a "processing plant" for the stone, mined more than 100 miles to the east (near today's Santa Fe). Turquoise may have been important in religious practices, perhaps traded to be used in ceremonies to bring rain to the arid land. People might have made long distance pilgrimages to Chaco Canyon to obtain the valued turquoise, either in chunks or chipped and strung in necklace form.
  • Discuss the roads at Chaco Canyon. They were up to 39 feet wide (no wheeled vehicles back then, only foot travel). The roads did not detour around hills or mesas but went straight over them. They connected major towns with smaller ones.
  •  Why might the roads have been built so wide and straight? Some think for carrying large logs for house or kiva construction (log carriers likely walking side-by-side). Others believe they may have been symbolic roads over which spirits traveled after death. Perhaps they were the routes of ritual pilgrimages from outlying towns to obtain turquoise and other trade goods.
  • Discuss Aztec Ruins. The huge pueblo was named by early settlers who thought Aztecs lived there (Aztecs were a Mexican tribe whose culture thrived hundreds of miles south and centuries after this town was abandoned). Built next to the Animas River about 1115 A.D., the town boasted more than 400 rooms, 24 kivas, and an enormous Great Kiva which probably attracted people from miles away for communal meetings and ceremonies. It is the only Great Kiva in the Southwest that has been totally reconstructed. Architecture at Aztec shows strong influence from Chaco Canyon. However, after the original inhabitants left, a group from Mesa Verde moved in and stayed awhile, renovating rooms in their own style (craftsmanship not as fine as that at Chaco).
  • For those familiar with the area, which topographical feature is Rock Mountain in the story? Shiprock, a huge volcanic plug near Shiprock, New Mexico. What large river flows near Shiprock? The San Juan, a tributary of the Colorado. (Find it on a map.)
  • Discuss wilderness survival (such as what to do if one is bitten by a rattlesnake). Have an EMT visit the class and give examples of Wilderness First Aid (or research this).


  • Ambler, Richard
    1977, The Anasazi, Museum of Northern Arizona Press, Flagstaff, AZ.
  • Ferguson, William M. and Arthur H. Rohn
    1987, Anasazi Ruins of the Southwest in Color, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM.
  • Frazier, Kendrick
    1986,  People of Chaco: A Canyon and Its Culture, W.W. Norton, New York, NY.
  • Houk, Rose
    1992, Anasazi, Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, Tucson, AZ.
  • Lister, Robert H. and Florence C.
    1983,  Those Who Came Before,  University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ.
    1986, Chaco Canyon,  University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM.
  • Nobel, David Grant (Ed.)
    1984, New Light on Chaco Canyon, School of American Research, Santa Fe, NM and University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA.
    1991, Ancient Ruins of the Southwest, Northland Publishing Co., Flagstaff, AZ.