Archaeologist Stephen Lekson, a professor emeritus in the Department of Anthropology, has taken a new look at an old site.
That site is Chaco Canyon, a region of the southwestern United States that was home to ancestral Pueblo peoples from about 850 to 1150 A.D. Over his long career as an archaeologist, Lekson has argued that Chaco wasn’t a provincial hub, as other researchers have suggested. Instead, he believes it was the capital city to a thriving civilization with a region that may have contained 100,000 people at its height.
Here, commoners toiled in corn fields while elites lived in great houses where they imported macaws from Mexico and drank cacao—all before the region’s entire population suddenly moved away.
“In any society, there are ups and downs and dead ends,” Lekson said.