chapter  17
48 Pages

The Chacoan Regional System: Interpreting the Evidence for Sociopolitical Complexity

WithJill Neitzel

One of the most complex sociopolitical systems that developed prehistorically in the American Southwest was centered around Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. The large towns were planned, multistory structures whose spectacular appearance and close proximity to one another attracted the first archaeologists to the area in the late nineteenth century. Archaeological investigations have been ongoing in Chaco Canyon ever since; this work has produced some of the most comprehensive evidence available for studying prehistoric social structure and organizational change in the American Southwest. Settlement patterns provide the best evidence for documenting how the organization of the Chacoan regional system changed through time. The development of the urban complex at Pueblo Bonito coincided with the founding and growth of numerous other habitation sites located throughout Chaco Canyon. The degree of integration within the Chacoan regional system can be examined with rank-size plots.