Chaco Culture

 United States of America
New Mexico
N36 3 49.6 W107 58 15
Date of Inscription: 1987
Criteria: (iii)
Property : 14,261 ha
Ref: 353rev
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For over 2,000 years, Pueblo peoples occupied a vast region of the south-western United States. Chaco Canyon, a major centre of ancestral Pueblo culture between 850 and 1250, was a focus for ceremonials, trade and political activity for the prehistoric Four Corners area. Chaco is remarkable for its monumental public and ceremonial buildings and its distinctive architecture – it has an ancient urban ceremonial centre that is unlike anything constructed before or since. In addition to the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, the World Heritage property includes the Aztec Ruins National Monument and several smaller Chaco sites managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Chaco Culture is a network of archaeological sites in northwestern New Mexico which preserves outstanding elements of a vast pre-Columbian cultural complex that dominated much of what is now the southwestern United States from the mid-9th to early 13th centuries. It includes Chaco Culture National Historical Park, the associated sites at Aztec Ruins National Monument, and five additional protected archaeological areas. The Chacoan society reached its height between about 1020 and 1110.These sites were a focus for ceremonies, trade, and political activity and they are remarkable for their monumental public and ceremonial buildings and distinctive multi-storey “great houses.” The sites were linked by an elaborate system of carefully engineered and constructed roads, many of which can still be traced. These achievements are particularly remarkable given the harsh environment of the region.

The highly organized large-scale structures, featuring multi-storey construction and sophisticated coursed masonry, illustrate the increasing complexity of Chaco social structure, which distinguished itself within the regional culture of the ancestral Pueblo and dominated the area for more than four centuries. The high incidence of storage areas indicate the probability that the Chacoans played a central economic role, and the great size and unusual features of the ceremonial kivas suggest that complex religious ceremony may have been significant in their lives.

Criterion (iii): The Chaco Canyon sites graphically illustrate the architectural and engineering achievements of the Chacoan people, who overcame the harshness of the environment of the southwestern United States to found a culture that dominated the area for more than four centuries.

Suggested Bases:

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