Ruins of a Chaco Great House.
Social hierarchies may have emerged within Southwestern Native American society as early as the 9th century. Researchers are using unpublished archival information and modern radiocarbon dating to do an updated archeological analysis on Pueblo mortuary sites within the Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico.
Chaco Canyon is famous for its unusual architecture and the dense packing of at least 15 multistory masonry pueblos, known as "great houses." The locale has long been considered a remarkable example of multifaceted culture in the prehistoric New World, but researchers remain divided over whether Chaco gave rise to chiefly societies, or if the society and buildings were cooperatively constructed.
Patterns of human remains and other artifacts found within the great house mortuaries suggests that the long-observed disparity in burial numbers between small houses and great houses in the canyon may be due to the presence of social hierarchies ~ suggesting that only Chaco elites were buried in great houses, where their status was legitimized through ritual links to ancestors and cosmological forces.
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