Destinations, Events

Visit the Ancient Dwellings of Chaco, New Mexico

November 17, 2014 by


The collection of ancient dwellings at Chaco, New Mexico, date back to 850 A.D. Located within the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, this site was once a major cultural center between 900 and 1150 A.D.

However, the 50-year drought which arrived in 1130 A.D. let to a migration out of the canyon. The Chacoans left behind the densest collection of ancient pueblos and they showcase engineering and masonry skills well ahead of their time.


Chaco Guided Tours

Chaco guided tours offer a chance to learn more about the massive buildings left behind by the Pueblo peoples. Tours offer a chance to see two types of ancient kivas: Great kivas and clan kivas.

These round dwellings were used for community or regional gatherings and could accommodate hundreds of participants, however kivas served multi purposes by men and women for a number of ceremonies and social events.

Tours also shine a light on the history of the other Chacoan dwellings and answers questions like, “Why are the doors so short.” It turns out that even though the average Chacoan male of the time was around 5′ 5″, the doorways were crafted shorter to retain heat and for defensive purposes.


Chacoan People

Tours delve into how the Chacoans survived, where they found water, and how they modified natural drainage areas into canals to irrigate their fields. These ancient peoples also took advantage of native plants like beeweed, pinon nuts, rice grass, cactus fruit, and more. Plus they planted crops including corn, beans and squash, and lived off of small and large game.

Night Sky Programs

Along with the guided tour, visitors can take advantage of the park’s Night Sky Programs, to view the same night sky the Chacoan people looked at a thousand years ago. The Chaco Observatory presents programs on Chacoan connections and hands-on use of a telescope. The Chaco’s night sky programs are typically offered April through October on Friday and Saturday nights.

Guided tours include hiking and biking trails, time to talk around the campfire in the evening and the night sky programs. It’s a perfect opportunity to ponder the greatness of the Chacoan world with a first-hand perspective.

Photo credits: Robert Wilson, Robert Wilson, Robert Wilson

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