THE CHACO EXPERIENCE LANSCAPE AND IDEOLOGY AT THE CENTER PLACE
by Ruth M. Van Dyke
2008 344 pp color & black-and-white illustrations, maps, tables, notes, references, index, 6×9
Paper, ISBN 978-1-930618-76-3, $34.95
Resident Scholar Series
In a remote canyon in northwest New Mexico, thousand-year-old sandstone walls shimmer in the sunlight, stretching like ancient vertebrai against a turuoise sky. This storied place – Chaco Canyon – carries multiple layers of meaning for Native Americans and archaeologists, writers and tourists, explorers and artist. Here, isolation, the arid climate, and dry-laid construction have preserved ruins that are monuments to prehistoric creativity and perrservance. Chaco Canyon draws its power not only from the ancient architecture sheltered beneath its walls but also from the ever-changing light and far-flung vistas of the Colorado Plateau. Light and shadow, stone and sky come together in the canyon. At the heart of this sky-filled lanscape lie twelve massive great houses. The Chacoan landscape, with its formally constructed, carefully situated architectural features, is charged with symbolism. In this volume, archaelogist Ruth M. Van Dyke analyzes the meanings and experience of moving through this landscape to illuminate Chacoa beliefs and social relationships.
“Van Dyke selects a phenomenological approach to landscape that direct her to visibility, movement, memory and cosmology. Her field methods included walking miles of ancient Chacoan roads … Van Dyke’s descriptions of these walks, what she noticed and felt, augmented by her color photographs, are fascinating.”- Linda Cordell, Journal of Field Archaeology.
“It has been difficult to suggest a good first book for those interested in driving into Chaco Canyon the place, the ancient phenomenon, and the object of archaeological scrutiny. Much of the literature on Chaco assumes substantial background knowledge, and many works are clearly written for those already initiated into chaco-arcana. In this context, Ruth Van Dyke’s concise, non-technical, and well-written book stands out as an exception. Van Dyke’s book is neither an introductory text nor a survey of the literature. The author has a definite perspective on Chaco and seeks to expand the range of evidence used to interpret the place. At the same time, the author presents a good summary of Chacoan archaeological record, takes few shortcuts in introducing the range of perspective on the Chaco phenomenon, and cites most of the relevant literature. The result is a book that works just as well as a first book on Chaco as it does a book with specific points to make about Chaco and about archaeological practive in general.”- Scott Ortman, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, H-Net Reviws.