Quirks & Quarks

Pueblo people lugged logs for leagues

The great houses of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, required a quarter of a million logs that had to be hand-carried 75 km from distant forested mountain ranges.

To construct huge buildings in New Mexico, logs were hand-carried 75 km

Ruins of Chetro Ketl, one of the largest great houses in Chaco canyon, New Mexico (US National Parks Service)
Chaco Canyon in New Mexico preserves the remains of the largest buildings made in North American prior to the 19th century. More than 800 years ago, Pueblo peoples constructed huge "great-houses" there, with hundreds of rooms made of stone and whole logs.

But the source of the logs has been something of a mystery. Now Chris Guiterman, a PhD student in the Laboratory for Tree Ring Research at the University of Arizona, and his colleagues, have traced the logs in the Chaco Canyon buildings to two forests on mountain ranges more than 75 kilometres away.

Since the Pueblo people had no beasts of burden or wheeled machines, that means these builders carried, by hand and foot, more than a quarter of a million logs from the mountains to the canyon.

Related Links

Paper in PNAS
- University of Arizona release 
Archaeology magazine story