Ancient stairs, such as the Jackson Staircase discovered by pioneer photographer W. H. Jackson in the 1860's, lead from the large pueblos on the canyon floor to the top of the mesa.
Pueblo Alto is located on top of the mesa due north of Pueblo Bonito. Excavations at Pueblo Alto suggested periodic episodes of occupancy and feasting. The work at Pueblo Alto indicated that instead of serving as redistribution points, the great houses were locations into which food and goods were carried. Food was apparently consumed and the remains of broken pots were dumped in its extensive middens. At the Pueblo Alto trash mound there is evidence for more than 150,000 broken ceramic vessels, far more than should have been produced by the normal, domestic activities of a resident population. Windes has estimated that only five of the 85 rooms at Pueblo Alto were constructed for permanent residents. A number of road-related units built at Pueblo Alto, Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, and the Talus Unit (and possibly Penasco Blanco and Kin Bineola) indicate formalized and periodic movement of people into the canyon along the road system.
New Alto, located just east of Pueblo Alto, is a multi-story ruin with twenty-eight rooms and one kiva. It is one of the latest constructions at Chaco and may have been built by immigrants from the Mesa Verde area.
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