Chaco Canyon

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Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, has been called the Stonehenge of North America. Its spectacular pueblos, or great houses, are world famous and have attracted the attention of archaeologists for more than a century.
Beautifully illustrated with color and black-and-white photographs, Chaco Canyon draws on the very latest research on Chaco and its environs to tell the remarkable story of the people of the canyon, from foraging bands and humble farmers to the elaborate society that flourished between the tenth and twelfth centuries A.D. Brian Fagan is a master story teller, and he weaves the latest discoveries into a compelling narrative of people living in a harsh, unpredictable environment. Indeed, this is not a story about artifacts and dusty digs, but a riveting narrative of people in the distant past, going about their daily business, living and dying, loving, raising children, living in plenty and in hunger, pondering the cosmos, and facing the unpredictable challenges of the environment. Drawing on rare access to the records of the Chaco Synthesis Project, Fagan reveals a society where agriculture and religion went hand-in-hand, where the ritual power of Chaco's leaders drew pilgrims from distant communities bearing gifts. He describes the lavish burials in the heart of Pueblo Bonito, which offer clues about the identity of Chaco's shadowy leaders. And he explores the enduring mystery of Chaco's sudden decline in the face of savage drought and shows how its legacy survives into modern times.
Here then is the first authoritative account of the Chaco people written for a general audience, lending a fascinating human face to one of America's most famous archaeological sites.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Everything you need to know about the first residents of America's desert Southwest, and what happened to them."—John Monaghan, Providence Journal (Selected as a Favorite Book of 2005)

"Fagan's evocative prose gives readers a sense of the environment of the San Juan Basin and Chaco today, from the remains of great houses such as Pueblo Bonito, to the small settlements, which he stresses need more investigation. Readers obtain a feeling for Chaco life from its earliest habitation by nomadic foragers 11,000 years ago through the flourishing of the Ancestral Pueblos.... Draws together a massive amount of material into a graceful, thoughtful work, well documented with annotated references."—Library Journal

"Brian Fagan has captured the essence of the lives of the ancient puebloan peoples of Chaco Canyon in his detailed account of their successful creation of a complex society in a harsh environment. His skillful handling of opposing scholarly views on the evolution of this society makes his book an especially valuable contribution to our understanding of the Chaco Phenomenon." —R. Gwinn Vivian, Curator Emeritus, Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson

"In this insightful and accessible narrative, Brian Fagan has walked with us through the streets, outcroppings, and ruins of Chaco Canyon, gathering information from those who actually lived there in the years past and as well from those of present-day informed opinion. The result is an agreeable blend of science, speculation, and story, set forth with a captivating narrative grace. This has become and will remain the definitive Chaco for some considerable time to come." —Shelly Lowenkopf, author of The Fiction Writers' Tool Kit

"Fagan offers interpretations to perplexing puzzles. He examines how many people might have lived and worked here, why they chose this place and eventually left, how they might have governed, conducted trade and observed religious rites, as well as why the builders also made wide, straight roads that now fade into empty desert."—Los Angeles Times

"Brian Fagan has a special talent for taking a voluminous archaeological literature, like that of the Chaco culture, and distilling it into a single, readable volume accessible to the interested layperson. What is remarkable is his ability to do this without sacrificing the richness of archaeological debate and interpretation." —Lynn Sebastian, author of The Chaco Anasazi

Library Journal
In a book addressing general readers, Fagan (anthropology, emeritus, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850) aims to tell the story of New Mexico's famed Chaco Canyon as a "historical narrative based on archaeological research." He does so by drawing on the work of dozens of archaeologists associated with the Chaco Synthesis Project, which has collected material on the canyon for over 100 years. In addition, he publishes, for the first time, the Chaco photography of George A. Grant, National Park Service photographer during the 1920s and 1930s. Fagan's evocative prose gives readers a sense of the environment of the San Juan Basin and Chaco today, from the remains of great houses such as Pueblo Bonito, to the small settlements, which he stresses need more investigation. Readers obtain a feeling for Chaco life from its earliest habitation by nomadic foragers 11,000 years ago through the flourishing of the Ancestral Pueblos (the designation now used instead of Anastazi) and their subsequent move away in the face of drought. Fagan underlines the adaptability of these people as they migrate when faced with insurmountable factors in their harsh environment. Re-creating the history and ethos of the site through archaeological evidence, new technologies, and the research at his disposal, he affirms that Chaco's social, political, and spiritual worlds revolved around agriculture and religion while deftly pointing out the mysteries and controversies that still remain. Fagan draws together a massive amount of material into a graceful, thoughtful work, well documented with annotated references. For history, travel, and archaeology collections in public and academic libraries.-Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195170436
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 289,490
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Fagan is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. One of the world's leading archaeological writers and an internationally recognized authority on world prehistory, his many books include The Rape of the Nile, The Adventure of Archaeology, The Great Journey, and The Little Ice Age.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2010

    Review for Chaco Canyon by Brian Fagan

    Enjoyed the book, which helped me appreciate the history of the people that lived in Chaco Canyon, as well as surrounding areas. Good job at taking what could be a very dry subject and making it enjoyable.

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    Posted January 19, 2010

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    Posted November 7, 2009

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