Ritual Fauna and Social Organization at Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon

Katelyn J. Bishop, Samantha G. Fladd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chaco Canyon served as a regional center for the Northern U.S. Southwest from AD 850–1130. Reconstructions of the social organization of great houses within the canyon have varied, with models alternately drawing on ethnographically described “Eastern” (predominantly moiety-based) or “Western” (predominantly clan-based) Pueblo organizational systems. Ethnographic research demonstrates the significance of animals in Pueblo social and ritual life, and associations between social groups and certain animals remain important today. Whole animals, skulls, and claws are heavily involved in ritual practice, the organization of which is intricately intertwined with social organization. In this paper, we examine spatial and contextual patterns in the deposition of these remains to understand social organization at the best-studied Chaco great house, Pueblo Bonito. Two central patterns emerge: distinctions in the taxa deposited within the eastern and western halves of the pueblo, and the long-term significance and restricted use of macaws in the foundational northern arc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-316
Number of pages24
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Ceremonial organization
  • Chaco Canyon
  • Fauna
  • Pueblo Bonito
  • Pueblo Southwest
  • Ritual
  • Social organization
  • Southwest United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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