Robert Weiner – “Gambling Dice and Speaking Birds: New Approaches to Ritual Power at Chaco Canyon “
Chaco Canyon has been the focus of a century’s worth of archaeological research, but fundamental questions remain about the site’s status as the center of the Ancestral Puebloan world in the 11th century. What gave Chaco the power to draw the labor necessary to construct monumental Great Houses and roads within the canyon, and to exert influence over a vast region twice the size of Ireland? Recent research has used two lines of evidence – oral traditions of the Pueblo and Navajo people that describe large-scale gambling in the canyon, and the striking sensory properties of exotic goods of Mesoamerican origin found at Chaco such as macaws and cacao – to shed light on the compelling ceremonialism and ideology that may have fueled Chaco’s regional influence. In this talk, I will describe how gambling that brought together groups from across the Chaco world, in tandem with stimulating sensory rituals of sound, taste, and sight, offer new insight into the power underlying Chaco’s regional influence across the American Southwest.