Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Chaco's Far-Flung Corn Fields Come to Light Volume 57 Number 1, January/February 2004
by Jennifer Pinkowski


Pueblo ruin in Chaco Canyon (Courtesy [LARGER IMAGE]

Chemical analysis of ancient corncobs found in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, produced more evidence that the Anasazi town there was the economic, ceremonial, and administrative powerhouse of a widespread Anasazi culture between the ninth and twelfth centuries A.D.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that corn consumed at Chaco originated more than 50 miles away.

Chaco Canyon's meager annual rainfall and short growing season made raising crops difficult, so food-gathering trips were necessary. Scientists suspect the corn may have been imported to support the laborers that built the architecturally astonishing great houses, which eventually housed from 6,000 to 10,000 people.

An earlier study found that much of the wood used to build the great houses came from mountains at least 50 miles away--and from the same regions where some of the corn was harvested. Equally close sources for timber were never tapped, suggesting ties between the regional center and its outlying communities were about more than mere lumber.--JENNIFER PINKOWSKI

© 2004 by the Archaeological Institute of America