One Door Leads to Another
Looking through ancient doors to the light. Inside Pueblo Bonita at Chaco Culture Historical National Park, New Mexico.
The Story Behind the Photo
Deep inside the ancient ruin of Pueblo Bonita at Chaco Culture Historical National Park this view through the doorways of adjacent rooms stirred me. What was life here so long ago? The pueblo was constructed sometime between AD 850 to AD 1150 by ancestral Puebloan peoples (1,100 years ago). I first imagined a self-sustaining community living inside this large pueblo, working together to survive.
I am intrigued by the Chaco culture and how they aligned their construction with astronomical bodies and events. Being inside these ancient walls, carefully constructed, and still standing over a thousand years later, leaves me with the utmost respect for these intelligent humans of long ago. It also leaves me with a feeling of humility. Perhaps the ancient ones were smarter than we are today?
It seems to me that today we want to believe that the ancient ones were more peaceful and had stronger social systems than we do today. Why is that? Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part. We cannot go back and directly experience life here at Chaco. We can, however, learn from their architecture and the science of archeology and cultural anthropology findings on the Chaco culture.
One Door Closes, Another Opens…
“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. ”
— Alexander Graham Bell
Why Was Pueblo Bonita So Large?
The current thinking of archeologists is that the “Great Houses” at Chaco, like Pueblo Bonita, were not inhabited by many people. Estimates of approximately a 100 inhabitants, even though there were about 800 rooms in Pueblo Bonita alone! Why?
The experts think the Great Houses were more like the Vatican, or structures meant for the highest class in a societal structure where others lived in much smaller dwellings in the outlier areas. The Great Houses were also probably used a centers for trading goods.
The low population estimates are based on the relatively low number of fire pits needed for cooking and heating, low numbers of burial sites, and lack of biological waste in refuse mounds located by the Great Houses.
What was found in Chaco Canyon though were relics of goods that were traded. Turquoise, ceramics, wood, and other commodities. This evidence supports theories of Chaco being a hub for cultural trade and religious ceremony.