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Semester at Chaco











CHACO CANYON , located in the remote center of the San Juan Basin of northwest New Mexico , is one of the most spectacular archaeological places in North America . Between A.D. 900 and 1100, a stunning cultural transformation occurred as small farming villages coalesced into dense communities surrounding massive communal buildings called Great Houses. But despite more than 100 years of archaeological research, the reasons for this remarkable period of social dynamism remain enigmatic and mysterious.

The Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico is conducting new research at Chaco Culture National Historical Park and invites applications for places in the first undergraduate field school in Chaco since the 1940s. The field course will be held during the Fall Semester, 2008, and all participants must enroll in an integrated cluster of three courses.




Think of this integrated course as an intensive immersion in Chaco studies and the latest developments in archaeological methods and theory. For the first four weeks of the semester, students attend classes on UNM's main campus, utilizing the laboratories and collections of the Department of Anthropology and the Maxwell Museum of Anthroplogy as they are introduced to the fundamentals of archaeological data analysis, field research, and Chaco prehistory. Then for five weeks, Monday through Thursday, students will live at Chaco Canyon where they will participate in excavations at Pueblo Bonito during the day and work in the lab or attend lectures in the evening. In November the students return to the main campus where they will analyze material from the field session and continue to explore Chaco issues in seminar settings.


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The course is co-taught by Professors W. H. Wills and Patricia L. Crown, who have extensive field and lab experience in Southwest archaeology. Guest lectures and field tours will be given by adjunct faculty, including Dr. Wendy Bustard and Thomas Windes of the National Park Service, and research collaborators with specialties in bioarchaeology, ethnobiology, geology and paleontology.

The cool temperatures and clear days make Spring the ideal time to conduct field work in Chaco . Students can ride their bikes to the field site, an easy 5 miles along a paved road that winds past millennium old ruins, hike to remote sites on scenic trails, participate in archaeoastronomy programs offered by the Park Service, and join in traditional evening volleyball games. The field and lab work will be demanding but living at Chaco has rewards found nowhere else.


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