Long-distance wood procurement and the Chaco florescence
First documented during a military reconnaissance in 1849, Chaco Canyon and the Ancestral Pueblo society that flourished therein [850–1140 Common Era (CE)] have been the focus of archaeological investigation for more than a century. Beginning in the early ninth century CE, the inhabitants of farming communities lining a 14-km stretch of the lower canyon in present-day northwest New Mexico erected massive free-standing masonry pueblos, or “great houses.” Great houses are monumental in scale and are among the most iconic and remarkable feats associated with Chacoan societal development. The construction of one multistory great house, Pueblo Bonito, with at least 650 masonry rooms, required the Chacoan people to quarry 50,000 tons of sandstone and harvest and transport more than 50,000 pine (Pinus sp.), fir (Abies sp.), and spruce (Picea sp.) trees from distant (60−80 km) montane forests (Fig. 1). Guiterman et al.’s (1) analysis of a spatially broad sample of construction timbers from 7 of 11 great houses in Chaco Canyon documents the chronology and spatial extent of wood harvesting strategies and reveals a significant and previously unknown wood source.