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NMAC 2012 Fall Conference - “Chuska and Chaco: Puebloan Relationships Across the San Juan Basin”

Discover the Secrets of Ancient Pueblo Pottery and Social Dynamics! Insights from the NMAC 2012 Fall Conference, exploring the unique ceramics, rituals, and social landscapes of the Chuska and Chaco regions.

The NMAC 2012 Fall Conference – "Chuska and Chaco: Puebloan Relationships Across the San Juan Basin" – shed new light on the ancient Pueblo communities in the Chuska Valley and Chaco region. Themed around Chuska-Chaco relationships in the San Juan Basin, the conference highlighted how these played a crucial role in forming the area's cultural landscape.

“A New Look at the Old Data: Ceramic Trends in the Chuska Valley”

Presented by Lori Stephens Reed.

A lot of pottery in Chaco Canyon uses trachyte temper, a rock only found in the Chuska Mountains. It was adopted rapidly in the valley and spread across the surrounding region. Trachyte is a better temper than sand because quartz weakens ceramics when they are fired.

For a deeper dive into the topic, read the archived paper "Tracking the Trachyte: Origins and Development of Chuska Pottery Technology" by Kathy Niles Hensler, Lori Stephens Reed, and Andrea J. Carpenter.

“Chuska Grayware from the Pueblo Bonito Middens: Implications for Site Function and Interaction”

Presented by Hannah V. Mattson.

Large quantities of broken ceramic vessels seems to suggest that a ritual “pot breaking” event was happening in Chaco Canyon. An interesting fact about ceramics is that based on the pinching of coils, an archaeologist can determine whether the coils were pinched together with the right or left hand of the ceramicist. Clockwise coils are pinched with the left hand and counter clockwise coils are pinched with the right.

“Social Landscape and Ecology in the Southern Chuska Valley”

Presented by Bradley J. Viera.

This contract archaeologist has been rapidly excavating sites that will be destroyed by the widening of US Highway 491. There are tons of Basketmaker and Pueblo sites. Basketmaker people were flowing into the area and were not getting along: there are signs of burning and stockades. Also many of the sites began as Basketmaker II or III and then subsequent Pueblo I, II and III structures were built on top of them.

“Chuskan Connections and the Rise of Chaco”

Presented by Ruth Van Dyke.

Using a Marxist perspective, Dyke’s research shows how Chaco may have reached a tipping point around 1000 CE. People migrated into Chuska and Chaco and were from matrilineal societies. Men may have transformed pit houses as a meeting place. With villages torn between the two centers, people were probably travelling often back and forth to visit family. According to this point of view, Chaco may have finally convinced the Chuskans to bring their temper, wood, and chert to the canyon so they could all partake in rituals together.

“The Chuska Valley: Chacoan Colony or Ancient Puebloan Heartland?”

Presented by Paul F. Reed.

Chuska Valley was an early and persistent ancient Pueblo heartland and core area that deserves equal status as Chaco, Mesa Verde, Kayenta, and others. The valley shared cultural beliefs with many of the sites located in the Colorado Plateau.

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