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Benjamin A. Bellorado- Road Signs and Walking Shoes: Sandal Imagery as Part and Parcel of the Chaco Road System

February 19 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm MST


CHOOSE HOW YOU WILL ATTEND Join us in person at the University of Arizona Environmental Resources Bldg. # 2  Room 107, Agnese Nelms Haury Lecture Hall, 1064 E Lowell St, Tucson, AZ 85719  No registration is required 

Parking is easy!  The 6th Street Parking Garage is right next to ENR2 on the east. There is also a surface lot just across 6th Street from ENR2.

Join By Zoom Registration is Required through the following link:  https://bit.ly/2024FebBellorado_REG

The roads that crisscross the Chaco landscape have fascinated archaeologists and the public for over a century. Scholars have investigated these features within Chaco Canyon and more broadly across the Chaco World. Using newly developed technologies and ethnographic insights to inform their interpretations, they have proposed that roads served several potential purposes, such as aiding resource procurement, facilitating exchange networks, or projecting religious power. However, even when using the most revealing techniques, archaeologists often come to dead ends when trying to trace road alignments across rocky surfaces. Definitive interpretations of their meaning and use also remain largely elusive. In this presentation, I argue that roads were a unique kind of performance space, and I present new research on roads, rock art, and footwear, using communication theory that provides clues to how these perplexing avenues were used and who used them. Rock art panels associated with great houses and roads exhibit imagery of twined sandals, indicating that this footwear was closely tied to the passage of people along these enigmatic routes of travel. Actual twined sandals exhibit use-wear indicative of usage on road-like surfaces, and they served as important icons of Chaco identities—as their wearers walked and danced across rough terrain, they simultaneously stamped their identity for others to see. Drawing on these lines of evidence, sandal imagery in rock art appears to have functioned as signs along Chaco roads, revealing that these thoroughfares were an important venue for the display and negotiation of social identity throughout the Chaco World.

Benjamin A. Bellorado, Ph.D. is the Assistant Curator of Archaeology at the Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona. For over 25 years, Dr. Bellorado has conducted research as an anthropological archaeologist specializing in studying the ancient cultures of the Four Corners area in the US Southwest. His interests include textile analysis, ceramic and rock art studies, tribal collaboration and ethnography, cross-media stylistic analyses, and dendroarchaeology in the northern US Southwest. His work focuses on understanding the ways that ancient cultures interacted with the social and natural worlds and how identities are expressed through clothing and other decorated media. Through collaborative research with descendant communities, archaeological fieldwork, and collections-based research, Dr. Bellorado uses archaeological methods to reinforce and strengthen Indigenous ties to landscapes and advocate for preserving cultural resources in the Bears Ears National Monument and across the northern US Southwest.

Suggested Readings:

Bellorado, Benjamin A.
2018  Sandals and Sandal Symbolism in Greater Bears Ears and Beyond. Edited by R.E. Burrillo and Benjamin A. Bellorado. Archaeology Southwest Magazine 32(1):39–41.

2020  Leaving Footprints in the Ancient Southwest: Visible Indicators of Group Affiliation and Social Position in the Chaco and Post-Chaco Eras (AD 850–1300). Unpublished PhD Dissertation, University of Arizona, Tucson.

2023  Pushing the Boundaries of Clothing Research: A Preliminary Look at Twined Sandals in Relation to Social Identities in the Chaco and Post-Chaco Eras. In Pushing Boundaries, Proceedings of the 16th Biennial Southwest Symposium, edited by Stephen E. Nash and Erin L. Baxter. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

Hays-Gilpin, Kelley, Ann Cordy Deegan, and Elizabeth Ann Morris (editors)
1998  Prehistoric Sandals from Northeastern Arizona: The Earl H. Morris and Ann Axtell Morris Research. Anthropological papers of the University of Arizona No. 62. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Hurst, Winston B., and Jonathan D. Till
2009  A Brief Survey of Great Houses and Related Features in Southeastern Utah. In Chaco and After in the Northern San Juan: Excavations at the Bluff Great House, edited by Catherine M. Cameron, pp. 44–80. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Till, Jonathan D.
2001  Chacoan Roads and Road-associated Sites in the Lower Sand Juan Region: Assessing the Role of Chacoan Influences in the Northwestern Periphery. Unpublished Master’s Thesis on file, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder.


February 19
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm MST
Event Category:


Susan Bierer


University of Arizona ENR2 Room 107, 1064 E Lowell St, Tucson
1064 E Lowell St.
Tucson, AZ United States
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