Mysteries of Chaco Canyon

There are many mysteries surrounding Chaco Canyon and its inhabitants. Many of these we will never know the answer to. Here are some of them.

Why choose Chaco Canyon to settle?
Inhospitable terrain, not near any resources, little water. This is the most common, unanswerable question.

What was the purpose of the Great Houses?
Very large, multi-story buildings, with very little evidence of habitation, very few hearths. Were they designed to impress or intimidate, and house only a few elites, similar to the Vatican? Were they trade facilities, used for storage?

Why so many kivas?
Did each clan or influential family have their own kiva? Were they learning centers, work rooms, storage facilities, ceremonial centers? Great Kivas could hold up to 400 people at one time. Were these arenas, community centers, feasting or ceremonial structures?

Who was buried in room 33, what was their status?
Now, we know the burials showed a matrilineal heritage. These were obviously someone of a different class. Taller, richer, buried with incalculable wealth for the time. Was this “Turquoise King” Anasazi, or did he come from another culture?

Why did they leave, and seal the doors, windows, burn kivas when they left?
A slow sealing up of Chaco occurred over more than a generation. They took great care to seal doors and windows, disassemble and burn the kivas. Was this a ritual designed to capture and seal an evil presence, or did environmental factors like drought or agricultural failure cause them to move on, and if so, why hang around and spend the time and resources to seal everything? We do know a massive, crippling drought occurred in 1130-1180, which probably hastened any decision.

How did trade with Mesoamerica work?
The Chacoans had scarlet macaws from central America, chocolate (nearest cocoa tree is 1200 miles away, copper bells, and seashells from the coast of Mexico. Goods obviously flowed into Chaco, were there regular trading caravans and outposts? What goods went back to Mesoamerica? 

What was the organizational structure of Chacoan society?
Was it peaceful and egalitarian, like the modern Puebloans? Or were the Anasazi living there enslaved and forced to build the massive structures? Or were the great houses and great kivas public works projects like Hoover dam?

Was there outside influence that led to the fluorescence?
How did the Chacoans go from pit house and small pueblo living to building the biggest structures in North America until the invention of steel? A major influx of technology and engineering talent was either imported or there was massive, organic development of skills.

Why was the east side of pueblo bonito built ever closer to threatening rock?
They built under a massive, dangerous slab of sandstone they knew was going to fall, they tried propping it up and reinforcing it. It eventually fell in 1941, destroying the Northeast quadrant of Pueblo Bonito. Was it an act of faith to live under the threat?

Why track the 18.6 year cycle of the moon?
The Sun Dagger on Fajaja Butte was capable of tracking the solstices and equinoxes, key to timing agriculture planting and harvesting. But why did it also track the 18.6 year cycle of lunar standstills? Were they searching for some key to predicting climate or weather cycles?

All Roads lead to Chaco? 30 feet wide, hundreds of miles, connecting? 
The roads required massive effort to build, were over-engineered, and underused. Did they serve a ritual or ceremonial function? Were they trying to communicate with gods?

Why so few burials present?
Just over 300 burials have been found in the canyon that was occupied by Chacoans for over 200 years. Where are the dead? Advanced ground penetrating radar reveals no clues to any undiscovered graveyard. No funeral pyres or cremation sites have been discovered.

How did they cut down, trim, and transfer 240,000 logs by hand?
The nearest forest of Ponderosa pine trees is over 50 miles from Chaco. The building of the Great Houses and Great Kivas demanded logs of uniform size. Without draft animals or the wheel, these logs were felled, trimmed, dried, and carried by hand across very unforgiving, difficult terrain. They did not have metal tools, everything was accomplished with stone tools.

Why are some buildings perfectly aligned with sun / moon?
Many buildings in Chaco Canyon have obvious solar and lunar alignments, and some buildings have alignments with each other. There are likely many alignments we don’t know about. Most famous of the alignments is the North/South wall in Chaco, whose shadow disappears uniformly at high noon each day. Why such strict adherence to these alignments?

Why did they not learn or choose not to use the wheel?
The Anasazi of Chaco Canyon were obviously incredibly talented and brilliant engineers. Why did they never discover the wheel? Or did they, and view it as not very useful in the terrain in which they lived?

Why did they not develop a written language, despite the use of petroglyphs
They obviously used symbols, pecked into the rocks or painted onto the sandstone cliffs. Why did they never apply this to moveable stones, plates, or write on plant leaves, cloth, etc?

What was the role of cacao / chocolate?
The nearest cocao tree is 1200 miles from Chaco. But chocolate residue has been found in cylinder mugs. Was chocolate a ceremonial drink? Or for the elite class only?

Were sun dagger slabs already in place, or did Chacoans arrange them?
Three massive sandstone slabs on Fajada Butte create slivers of light that penetrate and mark the seasons on petroglyphs pecked into the cliff wall. Were these three stones shaped and placed to create the Sun Dagger effect, or did they already exist, and did generations of Sun Priests watch closely, and peck the petroglyph to match?

What was function of stone circles on north canyon rim?
Mysterious man made circles, without a known purpose.

Does the supernova panel represent crab nebula supernova of july 4, 1054?
Near Penasco Blanco, a pictograph suggests a bright light in the sky, near a moon in correct phase for the date. Did they record the supernova, if so, why?

Does pictograph on supernova panel represent haley’s comet?
Just below the supernova pictograph, the faint remains of what looks like a comet. Haley’s comet appear just a few years after the 1054 Supernova. Did they record this as well, in the same spot?

Pueblo Alto “mound of pottery”, What was the purpose?
Near Pueblo Alto, there is a huge refuse mound that contains massive amounts of broken pottery, most of which appears to have been intentionally broken. Was this part of a ritual, for example at the conclusion of a feast, where pots, intentionally broken, were given to relatives already in the afterworld?