Credit: National Park Service Chaco Canyon, a site that was once central to the lives of pre-colonial peoples called Anasazi, may not have been able to produce enough food to sustain thousands of residents, according to new research.
Located in Chaco Culture National Historic Park in New Mexico, Chaco Canyon hosts numerous small dwellings and a handful of multi-story buildings known as great houses.
In the recent study, he and Ohio State University archaeologist Deanna Grimstead pulled together a wide range of data to explore where Chaco Canyon residents might, conceivably, have grown maize, a staple food for most ancestral Pueblo peoples.
Chaco Canyon residents either imported most of their food from surrounding regions 60 to 100 miles away, or the dwellings in the canyon were never permanently occupied, instead serving as temporary shelters for people making regular pilgrimages.
Benson estimates that importing enough maize and meat to feed 2,300 people would have required porters to make as many as 18,000 trips in and out of Chaco Canyon, all on foot.
"Whether people are bringing in maize to feed 2,300 residents, or if several thousand visitors are bringing in their own maize to eat, they're not obtaining it from Chaco Canyon," Benson said.
information: Larry V. Benson et al, Prehistoric Chaco Canyon, New Mexico: Residential population implications of limited agricultural and mammal productivity, Journal of Archaeological Science (2019).