The Chaco Meridian Centers of Political Power in the Ancient Southwest Synopsis
Southwestern archaeologists have long pondered the meaning and importance of the monumental 11th-century structures in Chaco Canyon. Now, Stephen H. Lekson offers a lively, provocative thesis, which attempts to reconceptualize the meaning of Chaco and its importance to the understanding of the entire Southwest. Chaco was not alone, according to Lekson, but only one of three capitals of a vast politically and economically integrated region, a network that incorporated most of the Pueblo world and that had contact as far away as Central America. A sophisticated astronomical tradition allowed for astrally aligned monumental structures, great ceremonial roads and-upon the abandonment of Chaco Canyon in the 12th century-the shift of the regional capital first to the Aztec site, then Paquime, all located on precisely the same longitudinal meridian. Lekson's ground-breaking synthesis of 500 years of Southwestern prehistory-with its explanation of phenomena as diverse as the Great North Road, macaw feathers, Pueblo mythology, and the rise of kachina ceremonies-will be of great interest to all those concerned with the prehistory and history of the American Southwest.
The Chaco Meridian Centers of Political Power in the Ancient Southwest Press Reviews
Lekson is one of the few archaeologists who writes with a distinctive voice, one of the few who prefers to work without a net... His account of political history of the ancient Southwest ... is a reconstruction that cannot be ignored by those interested in ancient Pueblo history and in the development of political complexity and social inequality. -- Mark D. Varien American Anthropologist Once every generation or so a new work appears that radically changes how we perceive some aspect of the world. [The Chaco Meridian] is one of those 'paradigm-shifting' events in archaeology...It is a fun yet thought-provoking book, a must-read for anyone interested in modern archaeology. -- David Anderson, National Park Service Chaco ... Why would such a thriving civilization grow in such an inhospitable environment? Why would it suddenly disappear? What was its relation to other flourishing areas of the 11th, 12th, 13th centuries? In this remarkable book Lekson overwhelms readers with his answers to these questions. Why are Chaco, Paquime (in Mexico), and Aztec on almost the same 'meridian?' Why were the objects of trade and symbolism in all three similar? <...The author presents his hypothetical answers convincingly... -- N. C. Greenberg, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture Anthropology It's a fascinating theory, but even if you don't agree with it, the book is a good source of the most up-to-date information on Southwestern cultures... Lekson details the latest research and theories in a highly readable narrative spiked with humor. -- Mark Michel, President of The Archaeological Conservancy Not only does Dr. Lekson's scheme imply a degree of regional unity unsuspected heretofore but it casts a new light on several archaeological features... and also, perhaps, on the lore of the region at the time of contact with the Spanish. Antiquity Lekson is one of a few active archaeologists who have the experience, perspective and creativity to think this big. Because the book has so many interesting ideas, it may well play a significant role in changing people's thinking and setting research agendas over the next decade. A truly significant book. -- Keith W. Kintigh, Arizona State University Lekson has given us a new view of the Southwest from a very high-flying trial balloon. The scenario he describes is just plausible enough to be both tremendously unsettling and tremendously stimulating to our thinking about the sources of Puebloan demographic and cultural change in the period 1050-1450. -- William Lipe, Washington State University Chaco ... Why would such a thriving civilization grow in such an inhospitable environment? Why would it suddenly disappear? What was its relation to other flourishing areas of the 11th, 12th, 13th centuries? In this remarkable book Lekson overwhelms readers with his answers to these questions. Why are Chaco, Paquime (in Mexico), and Aztec on almost the same 'meridian?' Why were the objects of trade and symbolism in all three similar? The author presents his hypothetical answers convincingly. -- N. C. Greenberg, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture Anthropology Exciting reading if one is at all interested in Southwestern prehistory and archaeology... The author presents a raft of compelling arguments, data and facts that seemingly support his arguable theory...Read this book and decide for yourself. New Mexico Magazine Provocative and challenging new book... The book is well-written; the tone is casual and readable. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the American southwest; it is an exciting exercise in the possible. -- K. Kris Holt About.Com Americans do not have the great ruins of Western civilization but we do have the Anasazi and the ruins of Chaco Canyon-especially Pueblo Bonito. Looking down from the sandstone cliffs one is impressed by the massive 'D'-shaped three-story structure with approximately 800 rooms and kivas. The magnificently constructed walls of flat sandstone, of all sizes, create a smooth geometrically designed surface. This architectural wonder was recently featured in the 1999 summer issue of Plateau magazine from the Museum of Northern Arizona. Why would such a thriving civilization grow in such an inhospitable environment? Why would it suddenly disappear? What was its relation to other flourishing areas of the 11th, 12th, 13th centuries? In this remarkable book Lekson overwhelms readers with his answers to these questions. Why are Chaco, Paquime (in Mexico), and Aztec on almost the same 'meridian?' Why were the objects of trade and symbolism in all three similar? Why was Chaco the dominant regional influence? What was the historical relationship of these organized people to the pueblos of today? The author presents his hypothetical answers convincingly. Maps, diagrams, and plates abound, along with a remarkable bibliography of 408 references. All levels. -- N.C. Greenberg, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture CHOICE Steve Lekson is stirring the pot...A new and controversial analysis... Lekson presents a unique perspective on the Southwest... [His own] work is well-published, and it is the lesser-known information about Aztec and Casas Grandes that makes the book worth reading and the meridian question worth pondering...Lekson has huge personal knowledge of the Southwest...What is different about his presentation of data is that Lekson tries to convey some of the ideas that go through his head when he visits a site, a boon for those who have not had the chance to stand on a hillside overlooking some of the places he describes...Lekson diverges from the mainstream in several ways. His prose is distinctive and his allusions multifarious... Among the positive aspects of the book is Lekson's effort to bring intentionality to the interpretation of Southwest archaeology...this book is worth reading for its effort to look at old data in new ways and to incorporate new data in looking at old questions...The Chaco Meridian is a highly personal exploration of Southwestern archaeological data that will motivate a new level of discussion...In the long run, this book will be deemed either a potboiler or a classic, but now is the time to read it. -- Winifred Creamer, Northern Illinois University Journal of Anthropological Research His proposed political history of a significantly expanded Pueblo world...is intended to make us think globally and escape the confines of 'feeble provincialism.' -- R. Grinn Vivian, Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona Cambridge Archaeological Journal The Chaco Meridian effectively addresses some questions and spawns others, as seminal works are inclined to do. Lekson provides a compelling argument, meticulously laid out with some fun terminology and observations. -- Kevin S. Blake, University of Wyoming The Geographical Review Lekson's narrative style is clearly a refreshing departure from the typical archaeological discourse of careerist gravitas and pretentious sanctimony. Lekson, in his own way and language, is surely seeking converts to his Chaco Meridian, but he is also challenging others to test his model and come up with a better one. To do either or more, one must first read this book. -- J. Jefferson Reid, University of Arizona Journal Of Arizona History The pages (and particularly the chapter notes) crackle with ideas. Lekson writes with energy and wit, and the careful reader will find a few delightful gems. -- Jonathan C. Driver, Simon Fraser University Canadian Journal of Archaeology The Chaco Meridian gives me hope for the survival of archaeology in this postmodern, new millennial world. It vindicates the approach of the lone scholar and harks back to the great strides made by the independent foundations and scholars of bygone years. Let there be more books like it... If others will be inspired to follow Lekson's lead and tackle the unknown and unpopular, the profession, the public, and all of us will be the better for it. -- Stephanie M. Whittlesey, Statistical Research, Inc. Journal Of Field Archaeology, Vol. 27, 2002