The Getty Conservation Institute Field Trip Report by jfm16066


									The Getty Conservation Institute
Field Trip Report
Case Study #2, Values Assessment and Site Management Project
Chaco Culture National Historic Park, New Mexico

Oct. 21-25, 2001
By: F. LeBlanc

Chaco Culture National Historical Park - Pueblo Bonito aerial view
During the past four years, under the stewardship of Marta de la Torre, the GCI has been carrying out
research on “values” in the field of heritage. A special focus was placed on the relationship between the
economic and the cultural values. Two reports on this work have been published, and a third, in
preparation, will focus on stakeholder consultation and the assessment of values, exploring methods in
ethnography, geography, economics, and environmental conservation.

As an extension of this effort, a series of case studies is being developed to serve as examples of how
values-driven site management has been interpreted, employed, and evaluated. This project is a
collaboration of the Australian Heritage Commission, English Heritage, Parks Canada, US national Park
Service, and the Getty Conservation Institute.

Case Study #1 was Grosse-Île in Quebec, Canada. Case Study #2 is Chaco Culture in New Mexico, USA.
Case Study #3 will be Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia (January 2002) and Case Study #4 will be
Hadrian`s Wall in the United Kingdom (April 2002).

Each case in this series will illustrate how values were identified, how they are enshrined in documents and
how they impact the day-to-day management.

The five partner organizations met at Chaco Culture National Historical Park from October 21 to 25.
Hosted warmly by C.T. Wilson, the Park Superintendent, they discussed the values associated with the
archaeological sites, structures, and landscape of Chaco Culture NHP with park staff and representatives
from local Native communities.

The partnership team to study the Chaco Culture case comprised:
Parks Canada: C. Cameron, G. Bennett
US National Park Service: F. McManamon
Australia Heritage Commission: J. Lenon
English Heritage: C. Young
Consultant: R. Mason
Observer: A. Cabeza from Chile
GCI : M. de la Torre, D. Myers, F. LeBlanc

From the Chaco Culture Historical Park we had discussions mainly with:
C.T. Wilson, Superintendent, Dabney Ford, Jim Ramakka, Brad Smattuck, G.B. Cornucopia, Richard
Friedman, Rachel Anderson, Wendy Bustard and Taft Blackhorse. Other Park staff and representative from
Native communities also joined us during discussions or visits.

Where is Chaco Culture National Historical Park?
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is located in northwestern New Mexico, close to the intersection of
the States of Arizona, Utah and Colorado. It is high desert country, with long winters, short growing
seasons, and marginal rainfall. It lies more than 6,000 feet above sea level near the center of the San Juan
Basin of New Mexico. This region has broad exposures of horizontal sedimentary layers that have eroded
into plateaus, mesas, buttes, and canyons. The rocks exposed in Chaco Canyon record an interval in the
Earth’s history during the Late Cretaceous Periods, approximately 75 to 80 million years ago.

What is Chaco Culture National Historical Park?
It is part of the National Park System, one of more than 370 parks that are important examples of the
United States natural and cultural heritage. It hosts an average of 90,000 visitors per year. No lodging,

gasoline, repair services, or food are available at the park. The nearest town is 60 miles away. The Park
operates a campground, one mile from the visitor center. Tables, fireplaces, and central toilets are provided.
Water is available only at the visitor center.
    • Chaco Canyon was designated a National Monument - March 11, 1907
    • Chaco Culture was designated a National Historic Park - December 19, 1980
    • Chaco Culture was designated a World Heritage Site – 1987

What is Chaco Culture?
It is a site where more than 10,000 years of human cultural development is preserved, including evidence of
a civilization which proliferated between the 9th and 13th centuries and attained remarkable achievements in
architecture, agriculture, social complexity, economic organization, engineering, and astronomy. The
quantity and quality of the archaeological remains left by the Chaco Anasazi civilization were among the
factors that led to the nomination of this site to Unesco’s World Heritage List in 1987. The name “Chaco”,
according to Taft Blackhorse, a Navajo park staff who accompanied us on our visits and participated in our
discussions, comes from the Navajo “Jiahzhaago” which means “special prepared bundled cemetery”.

The cultural flowering of the Chacoan people began in the mid-800s and lasted over three hundred years.
We can see it clearly in the grand scale of the architecture. Using masonry techniques unique for their time,
they constructed massive stone buildings (great houses) of multiple stories containing hundreds of rooms
much larger than any they had previously built. The buildings were planned from the start, in contrast to the
usual practice of adding rooms to existing structures as needed. Construction on some of these buildings
spanned decades and even centuries. Although each is unique, all great houses share architectural features
that make them recognizable as “Chacoan”.

These structures were often oriented precisely to solar, lunar, and cardinal directions. Lines of site between
the great houses allowed communication. Sophisticated astronomical markers, communication features,
water control devices, and formal earthen mounds surrounded them. The buildings were placed within a
landscape surrounded by sacred mountains, mesas, and shrines that still have deep spiritual meaning for
American Indian descendants.

By 1050, Chaco was well on the way to becoming the political, economic, and ceremonial center of the San
Juan Basin. Its sphere of influence was extensive. Roads to more than 150 great houses built throughout the
region connected dozens of great houses in Chaco Canyon. Some of these roads were well engineered,
oriented precisely to solar and cardinal directions but seemingly lead to nowhere in particular. They just
extend for miles in the open desert. What they were used for is still a mystery because it appears that the
Chacoans did not have chariots. Current thought is that the great houses were not traditional farming
villages occupied by large populations. They may instead have been impressive examples of “public

architecture” that were used only periodically during times of ceremony, commerce, and trading when
temporary populations arrived in the canyon for these events.

Pueblo Bonito - Artist conjectural sketch of Great House.
Why these “great houses”? What were they used for? What did people do there? What language did they
speak? Why did they leave? These are all questions for which there are no definite answers at this time.
Specialists can only speculate on possible answers.

After prevailing for 300 years, Chaco Canyon declined as a regional center during the middle 1100s, when
new construction ceased. Chacoan influence continued at Aztec Ruins and other centers to the north, south,
and west into the late 1100s and 1200s. In time, the people shifted away from Chacoan ways, migrated to
new areas, reorganized their world, and eventually interacted with foreign cultures. Their descendants are
the modern Southwest Indians. Many Southwest Indian people today look upon Chaco as an important stop
along their clans’ sacred migration paths – a spiritual place to be honored and respected.

Pueblo Bonito - Artist model showing activities.

                                                                  The Natives
                                                                  The land within the boundaries of Chaco
                                                                  Culture National Historical Park belongs
                                                                  to the government of the United States.
                                                                  But the immediate surrounding land
                                                                  belongs almost exclusively to the Navajos.

                                                                  The Navajo name for themselves is
                                                                  “Dine”, which means “The People”. They
                                                                  are not a Pueblo people. They live in
                                                                  isolated hogans with their families,
                                                                  scattered across the desert pastureland.

                                                                  Hundreds of years ago, when they and the
                                                                  Apache were still one people, they came
                                                                  down from Northwestern Canada and

                                                                  Some early Dine may have known the
  The Navajos                                                     Chacoans, but it is clear that the canyon
                                                                  was deserted for two to three hundred
                                                                  years before the Dine made this area their

Other Nations also claim a link to the Chacoan Anasazi such as the Hopi and the Zuni. Actually, 21 tribes
or pueblos have claimed affiliation to Chaco.

Site visit
During our stay at Chaco Canyon, we were lodged in several park compound buildings. We began our visit
by driving to the top of the mesa where Pueblo Alto is located. From there we could see pristine
undeveloped open land for almost 120 miles in all directions. It was spectacular cultural landscape. The
remains of many of the great roads built by the Chacoans were pointed out to us, as were the covered
remains of many of the great houses still discernable in the landscape. We continued to the edge of the cliff
to observe Pueblo Bonito remains. These are quite spectacular observed from this viewpoint. At first a
warm wind facing us from the southwest brought warmth and was pushing us away from the cliff’s edge,
but a bit later several gusts from the northwest made us realize that one should not venture too close to the
cliff’s edge which was a straight drop that appeared to be a hundred feet.

                                 After discussing issues concerning the conservation of the archaeological
                                 remains, site maintenance, the importance of the open vistas, tourism
                                 experience and management, the group was lead to a crevasse in the mesa
                                 steep side for the climb down to the valley. This proved to be quite
                                 challenging for several participants in our group but appeared to be quite
                                 normal for our colleagues from the park. It was a small bit of “adventure”
                                 for all of us.

                                 Back into the valley, we made a first visit at Pueblo Bonito, the largest of
                                 the “great houses”.

                                 There, we discussed conservation techniques used over the years to
                                 protect the ruins. The masonry work done by the Chaco Anasazi is of
                                 exceptional quality, considering that they did not have metal tools to cut
                                 stones. The soft building sandstone was broken into pieces with sharp and
 Coming down the cliff

neat edges by striking it with other stones of harder material. It should be noted that all the masonry was
originally covered by mud plaster to protect it from the harsh weather.

Masonry pointing: At the turn of the century, Portland cement mortars were used during the initial stages
of the conservation work. Wherever the masonry was exposed to severe weathering, the hard cement
mortars have resisted while the softer sandstones have deteriorated more rapidly. This is contrary to what is
supposed to happen. This is due to the egress of water and moisture that occurred through the stone itself as
opposed to through the mortar joints. Now, the NPS maintenance staff use soft earthen mortars for repairs
and maintenance.

                                                 Site burial: Initial archaeological excavations in the 1890s
                                                 and 1920s revealed rooms with intact, well-preserved
                                                 plasters on walls and floors, which were reburied after
                                                 examination. Rooms were re-excavated in 1992 during a
                                                 joint research project with the National Parks Service and
                                                 the Getty Conservation Institute, to determine their
                                                 condition after seventy to ninety years of burial, and to
                                                 demonstrate the benefits of site burial on building
                                                 components. Neville Agnew and Martha Demas were the
                                                 principal GCI professional staff participating to this project.
                                                 Comparisons were made of plaster preservation evident in
                                                 historic photographs with the plasters re-exposed in 1992.
                                                 Results of the project indicate that site burial can contribute
                                                 significantly to the preservation of earthen and other
                                                 components in archaeological ruins. New drainage systems
                                                 were designed for the excavated rooms that were to be
                                                 reburied. Basically, excavated rooms were filled with sand.
                                                 A few feet from the surface, a surface drain was installed.
                                                 The top of the fill was covered with a clay-type material
                                                 that is waterproof and that directed the surface water
                                                 towards the drain. The water was then drained away from
                                                 the structure through a hole in the wall. Whenever it was
  Reburial of excavations and drainage
  of surface water                               important not to perforate a wall, for instance in a kiva
                                                 (circular masonry structure), then a water reservoir was
placed in the center of the kiva. The surface water would drain into the reservoir and then be pumped or left
to evaporate. These techniques have worked very successfully and the park staff acknowledged the GCI’s
important contribution to resolving this conservation problem.

Re-burial is now used commonly as a protection technique by the park staff. It is not only a simple and
economical technique, but also one that meets the concerns of the Native people.

Site Values
The following text prepared by park staff outlines the Park’s purpose and significance. The values
expressed in this document are the ones that guide the day-to-day management activities at the site.

Park Purpose (Derived directly from enabling legislation & amendments):

Chaco Culture National Historical Park and a system of Chaco Culture Archaeological Protection Sites
(Chaco Protection Sites) were established for the purposes of:

    •    Recognizing and preserving the unique archaeological resources found within Chaco Canyon, the
         San Juan Basin, and surrounding area;
    •    Advancing our knowledge of the prehistoric Chacoan culture, and offering opportunities to
         interpret the archaeological resources and research results to the public;

    •    Assisting the Navajo Nation and other entities with managing the Chaco Protection Sites located
         within the San Juan Basin and surrounding area (including: site documentation, management
         planning, resource preservation, and interpretation).

In addition, the park must adhere to the broader purpose of the “Organic Act” of 1916, the congressional
legislation establishing the National Park Service and national park system “… to conserve the scenery and
the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein…unimpaired for the enjoyment of future

Park Significance:

     •   More than 10,000 years of human cultural development is preserved in Chaco Canyon, including
         evidence of a civilization which proliferated between the 9th and 13th centuries and attained
         remarkable achievements in architecture, agriculture, social complexity, economic organization,
         engineering, and astronomy.
     •   Chaco Canyon was once the cultural center for a system of communities linked by an extensive
         road and trading network within a 40,000 square mile region, all of which must be collaboratively
         protected and preserved by the national Park Service, tribal governments, and other agencies.
     •   The “Chacoan greathouse” structures located within the park are among the best preserved,
         largest, and most complex prehistoric architectural structures known in the Americas, and several
         sites are formally recognized as archaeological “type sites” by the scientific community.
     •   120 years of archaeological and anthropological research in the park have yielded a systematic
         record of the life ways and environment of the region’s former inhabitants, and resulted in the
         accumulation of more than two million artifacts and archival documents that are curated for
         purposes of furthering scientific inquiry and public education.
     •   Contemporary American Indians who are descended from the “Chacoans” often refer to Chaco
         Canyon and its features in their traditional oral histories, and the area continues to be highly
         valued for its intrinsic spirituality.
     •   The park offers outstanding opportunities to enjoy solitude, natural quiet, clear air, starlit
         nighttime skies, and the scenic sandstone rock outcrops into which Chaco Canyon is carved.
     •   The park is one of only two protected natural areas in the San Juan Basin, encompassing
         relatively undisturbed examples of floral and faunal communities within the Colorado Plateau
         ecosystem, and offering unique opportunities to conserve the region’s biodiversity and monitor its
         environmental quality.

Comments, Values and Issues
(The following are from my notes and do not represent a complete list nor are they articulated in their final

    • The Parks General Management Plan dates back to 1985. It identifies the basic natural and cultural
        values of the site but it needs to be updated.
    • Values at Chaco have expanded since 1985, such as biodiversity. Before becoming a national
        park, the area was grazed. Now, grazing is forbidden and diversity of vegetation has appeared and
        must be managed.
    • The view shed from the site has not been identified as a formal value.
    • Silence is a value.
    • The night sky is a value. Of all the resources the park has to offer, the one that has the least
        changed since the Chacoan times is the night sky. We can still look at that resource today and see
        virtually the same things that the Chacoans did. The park manages this value by ensuring that a
        minimum number of lights disturb the night and by organizing “night sky” interpretation sessions.
    • Native values. In concept, the Navajos do not dissociate the archaeological remains from the
        landscape. To them, they are both part of the same entity. For some tribes, human remains are

         sacred and must be reburied while for others, they don’t even want to discuss the subject of human
         remains as it is considered sacrilege to do so.

    • Land issues are important: There are unresolved land claim issues. The land surrounding the park
        is rich in coal and gas. The current cost-benefit ratio is not favorable to the exploitation of these
        natural resources, but who knows, this may change at any time and cause a major impact on the
        views from the site and the surrounding remains if mining is introduced to the area.
    • Most important threats: Harsh weather, potential increase in tourism and potential industrial
        development are signaled out by park staff as the major threats to the protection of the precious
        resources of this World Heritage Site.
    • Public consultations: they are mandatory, but it is felt that not much useful input is gained from
        the public hearings other than from issue-specific groups that want to influence the plan or project.
        The public tends to put its trust into the people hired to manage the site.
    • The stakeholders are not very well defined. Generally speaking, they are:
        - the local communities (Farmington, Bloomfield, Albuquerque etc.
        - the scientific community
        - Native Americans
        - the environmental community
        - the visitors and the tourism industry
        - some private sector individuals with interests in the area
    • How values are identified.
    • How values are enshrined into the official documentation.
    • How they affect the day-to-day management
    • Conservation policy for “sacrificial” sites i.e. the ones that are left to deteriorate because of lack of
        resources to protect them.
    • Conservation policy for reburial of sites.
    • Complexity and diversity of points of view for interpretation purposes.


       Gordon Bennett                  Angel Cabeza                      James Ramakka

Dabney Ford           Jane Lenon          David Myers               Navajo

     Park/GCI drainage of exposed ruins                        World Heritage Plaque

Fajada Butte in the morning sun              Morning sun against the mesa cliff behind the
                                             compound building

Kin Kletso          The Great Kiva at Pueblo Bonito

Pueblo del Arroyo            Chetro Ketl

Casa Chiquita               Unobstructed vista from Pueblo Alto


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