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Rob Weiner – Monumental Avenues of the Chaco World: New Research at the Crossroads of Infrastructure, Ontology, and Power

December 20, 2021 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm MST


Researchers have puzzled over wide roadways associated with Chaco-style Great Houses in the U.S. Southwest for over a century. Despite frequent references to roads in Chaco scholarship, there has been relatively little on-the-ground assessment of how roads were used, where they led, and, more broadly, how they were implicated in the rise and fall of ancient Four Corners society. In this talk, I will present recent documentation of monumental roads throughout the Chaco World, with particular attention to small-scale, road-related architectural features and exploring evidence for practices of offerings, processions, and races. Interpreted in light of Pueblo and Navajo traditional knowledge, cross-cultural examples, and perspectives from cognitive science, I argue that roads—and the ritual practices carried out along them—were key to the emergence of both regional integration and burgeoning inequality during the Chaco era, serving as tangible manifestations of identity, hierarchy, and cosmography inscribed on the landscape.


Robert Weiner is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder, Research Fellow with the Solstice Project, and Staff Archaeologist for Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions. His dissertation research explores the history, use, and meaning of monumental roads associated with Chaco Canyon and its regional polity during the 11th-12th centuries in the U.S. Southwest. More broadly, he is interested in the role of religion in the big picture of human history. 

Robert earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Brown University, where his MA thesis explored gambling at Chaco Canyon through Navajo and Pueblo oral traditions and artifacts held in the American Museum of Natural History and Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History collections. His research has been published in numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and he has conducted fieldwork for academic and CRM projects in all Four Corners states and Turkey. 

Further Reading

Friedman, Richard A., Anna Sofaer, and Robert S. Weiner
2017 Remote Sensing of Chaco Roads Revisited: LiDAR Documentation of the Great North Road and Aztec Airport Mesa Road. Advances in Archaeological Practice 5(4):365-381

Marshall, Michael P.
1997 The Chacoan Roads: A Cosmological Interpretation. In Anasazi Architecture and American Design, edited by Baker H. Morrow and V. B. Price, pp. 62–74. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

Roney, John R.
1992 Prehistoric Roads and Regional Integration in the Chacoan System. In Anasazi Regional Organization and the Chaco System, edited by David E. Doyel, pp.123-32. Anthropological Papers No. 5. Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sofaer, Anna, Michael P. Marshall, and Rolf M. Sinclair
1989 The Great North Road: A Cosmographic Expression of the Chaco Culture of New Mexico. In World Archaeoastronomy, edited by Anthony F. Aveni, pp. 365-376. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Stein, John R.
1989 The Chaco Roads—Clues to an Ancient Riddle? El Palacio 94(3):4-17.

Weiner, Robert S.
2021 Four Apophatic Theses on Chacoan Roads. In A Friend of Kuaua: Collected Papers in Honor of James Conder, edited by Emily Brown, Matthew Barbour, and Genevie Head, pp. 301-317. Papers of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico 47. Archaeological Society of New Mexico, Albuquerque.


December 20, 2021
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm MST
Event Category:


Paul Minnis