On the site of a former auto-repair shop here, broken stone walls mark the site of a 900-year-old village that may yield new insights into an ancient desert culture.
The ruins are what remains of two “great houses” — apartment buildings, essentially — that formed a northern outpost of a civilization based at Chaco Canyon, about 100 miles away in northwestern New Mexico.
Archaeologists from the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, in nearby Cortez, have just begun the first systematic excavation of this site in an effort to learn how its residents lived in the early 1100s, and how they related to the wider Chaco culture.
In particular, the Northern Chaco Outliers Project aims to determine when the village was occupied, how many people lived there, and whether they did so during an extended drought of 1130-1180, which may have accelerated a northward movement of people from Chaco.
The project is the first in many years to systematically excavate any of about 250 great houses that were built in the region known as Four Corners, said John Kantner, an archaeologist at the University of North Florida.
“We have so little understanding of the role of great houses and the relationship between others and Chaco Canyon itself,” said Dr. Kantner, who excavated Blue J, another Chaco-related site in New Mexico.
The project here has the potential to “fill in the gaps about the outlying great houses,” he said.
Susan Ryan, director of archaeology at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, leads the Haynie Site project. Credit Nick Cote for The New York Times
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