Rethinking Chaco

Paper presented to the symposium titled
"Diversity of Complexity in the North American Southwest"
26th Chacmool Conference, University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta, Canada, November 13, 1993

(Slightly revised for Web publication, February 2002)


This essay was never published and had no impact. It is presented as a minor foonote in the history of Chaco research: one person's sense, as of 1993, that the theoretical winds were shifting.


Chaco is a paradox: a complex agricultural society in a marginal environment. For years, proponents of the functionalist "ruling" model argued that Chaco emerged to provide a buffering mechanism in the face of agricultural uncertainty. This model is now being challenged, but no new model has become predominant. The most promising alternatives reject functionalist thinking in favor of a historical approach focusing on the dynamic relationships between groups within a society. These approaches, though focused on Chaco data, have implications for North American archaeology as a whole.

To read the essay, please use the links to the left.

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