The Chaco World: Great Houses, Outliers, and Ancient Roads

The Chaco world extended far beyond the confines of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Sites located throughout the northern Southwest were connected by a vast network of roads. The photographs below show a great house in Chaco Canyon; a Chaco outlier located in the central Mesa Verde region, not far from the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center; and two remarkable NASA satellite images of Chaco roads.

Pueblo Bonito. Large photo by Sam Fee, inset by Dan Mooney; copyright Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.

Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, is perhaps the most well known of all the Chaco great houses. Built in stages beginning in the A.D. 800s, Pueblo Bonito contained between 600 and 800 rooms and in places stood five stories tall.


Escalante Pueblo. Photos by Shirley Powell; copyright Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.

Escalante Pueblo, a Chacoan outlier built in A.D. 1129, is located on a hill overlooking the Dolores River in the central Mesa Verde region.


Chaco roads. NASA photograph and model at (Web page by Tom Sever).

Using special thermal infrared imaging technology, NASA scientists identified these ancient roads that begin at Chaco and head north, toward the Mesa Verde region. As can been seen in this NASA satellite image and three-dimensional model, one hallmark of Chaco roads is their very linear trajectory (the curved lines in the photograph on the left are modern roadways).