Craft, Subsistence, and Political Change: an Archeological Investigation of Power and Economy in Prehistoric Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, 850 to 1200 CE

Watson, Adam Stewart, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Plog, Stephan, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

This research examines the development of sociopolitical and economic
differentiation among the Ancestral Pueblo communities of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico by exploring trends in faunal procurement and craft production in relation to the sweeping political changes of the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries CE. I hypothesize that with increasing political centralization, the animal remains from two Chacoan small sites will exhibit evidence of social differentiation, reflected in patterns of differential access and subsistence intensification. Further, I predict that intensification in the manufacture and use of bone tools and ornaments will covary with evidence for political centralization. By drawing on these separate and largely under-utilized data sets, this project moves beyond the dominant theoretical models that privilege the role of elites and great house-centered communal ritual in Chacoan political developments. Study of the faunal remains from sites Bc 57 and Bc 58 revealed a temporal trend toward increasing dependence on large game, ultimately achieving levels well-beyond that of contemporaneous sites. Analysis of skeletal part frequencies indicated that large game procurement consistently entailed the transport of whole carcasses, rather than only high utility carcass parts. This strategy of subsistence intensification involving large game procurement implies redistribution and/or feasting behavior.

Study of Chacoan bone artifacts from fourteen sites throughout the canyon shed light on two temporal trends in the Chacoan worked bone industry. Species variation was characterized by a gradual increase in reliance on artiodactyls from Basketmaker III through the Early and Classic Bonito subphases, followed by a Late Bonito shift toward the use of bird elements in the manufacture of bone tubes. Raw material choice in awl manufacture became increasingly standardized during the Early and Classic Bonito subphases before a marked shift during Late Bonito wherein previous standards of awl manufacture were disregarded. Thus bone tool manufacture and use appears to have reached its apex during the Early and Classic Bonito subphases and was subsequently surpassed by a growing demand for bone tubes and ornaments during the Late Bonito period.

As an important test case in the study of societal complexity, this research
illustrates that well-documented shifts in the Chacoan political landscape are reflected in changing subsistence and production strategies.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
power, economy, Prehistoric Chaco Canyon
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