Catherine Cameron – “The Bluff Great House and the Chaco Phenomenon”

Feb ’11
7:30 pm

Jonathan Till and Vaughn Hadenfeldt expose one of the wide core-and-veneer walls in the east end of the great house. Photo by Ken Abbott, CU Public Relations

The Bluff great house site is located on the San Juan River in southeastern Utah.  It was the focus of research conducted by the University of Colorado (CU) between 1995 and 2004.  Bluff had some involvement with Chaco Canyon, the great Pueblo center of the 9th to 12th centuries and is one of the few Chacoan sites in this region to have been recently excavated. The location, in use since at least A.D. 500, saw the construction of a multi-storied Chacoan great house, great kiva, earthern “berm,” and prehistoric road segments in the late 11th or early 12th centuries. The great house continued to be used (perhaps most intensively) during the post-Chaco era until about A.D. 1250. Southeastern Utah contains a number of Chaco and post-Chaco great house communities and CU also conducted survey and test excavations at the Comb Wash community about 25 miles north of Bluff.   Our primary research questions focused on Bluff’s relation to the complex developments in Chaco Canyon and the nature of post-Chaco use of great houses both at Bluff and Comb Wash. This presentation highlights some of the remarkably Chaco-like aspects of the Bluff great house, and presents surprising continuities at the site after the Chaco region collapsed. In contrast, the post-Chaco great house at the Comb Wash community has a number of Chaco-like features, but others that recall typical construction throughout the northern San Juan region. Bluff and Comb Wash are used to explore and evaluate current models of the Chaco regional system.

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