Field School of the Ancient Southwest
with Mark Bixby
In about 850 C.E. significant modifications began on a small pueblo hamlet in the arid, high desert terrain of what is now northwestern New Mexico.
Three hundred years later, that same hamlet–under construction for almost the entire duration–had grown into a 4 story structure containing more than 700 rooms and 35 ceremonial kivas. This mega-structure, now called Pueblo Bonito, had become the centerpiece of Chaco Canyon, which from 1000-1120 C.E. exerted enormous influence throughout the desert southwest. Pueblo Bonito was one of 12 “Great Houses” built along a ten-mile stretch of the canyon, seemingly one of the least promising places for the birth of a great civilization. The Chacoans were sensitive mappers of the night sky, and they built architecture and roads in line with solar and lunar events. Additionally, the presence in some Great Houses of macaw feathers, cacao remains, turquoise and sea-shell remnants as well as copper bells suggests that the Chacoan world was involved with Mesoamerican trade and/or civilization.
But Chaco is riddled with questions: Why did the Chacoans choose this remote and difficult region? How did they obtain such masterful knowledge of architectural practice? How did they become such astute observers of the the sky and manage to build walls and roads perfectly in line with solstice, equinox and lunar standstill points? And most importantly, why did they leave so suddenly between 1100 and 1120 C.E., and where did they go?
Join Mark Bixby and southwest archaeologist Rob Weiner for an expedition to explore the history of the Anasazi by following their migration from Chaco Canyon to Aztec Ruins and other northern New Mexican sites (including the privately owned B Squared Ranch, where current excavations are being conducted). We’ll hear various accounts from professional archaeologists about the Puebloans’ departure and dispersal, and then we’ll visit some later Pueblo sites (at Bandelier National Monument and along the Rio Grande) that have relations to the people who inhabited Chaco.
In addition to being out in the field for about 2 days/1 night, we’ll also spend time in and around Santa Fe working with various scholars in the field from the School for Advanced Research and The Solstice Project. A diverse set of readings from archaeological and indigenous perspectives will provide an historical framework for our adventures. The class is fantastic for enthusiasts/teachers of science, history, religion/myth, literature, or for anyone with a hankering for some adventure in the breathtakingly spare landscape of northern New Mexico.
Here are some things Mark’s folks had to say last year:
- Wow, not only was I able to experience and participate in a workshop but I feel blessed to have selected the workshop I did!
- Mark was an exceptional guide. Sensitive to individual needs and very knowledgeable. I would give this course a 5 out of 5 and would gladly take it again.
- Mark is a top-notch guy who did a wonderful job on this course!
- Also, take a look at this article written by a previous participant Franz Nicolay