Chaco Civilization Insights Prove Maternal Dynasty In The Americas

First Posted: Feb 24, 2017 04:27 AM EST

Pueblo Bonito was a 650-room, multistory brick building in the northwestern area of New Mexico's Chaco Canyon. In 1896, archaeologists found the remains of 14 people in a burial crypt, with artifacts showing that they are elite members of the ancient Chaco tribes.

Among those found with the bones, as listed by Scientific Amercian, included necklaces, bracelets and other jewelries prominently detailed with thousands of turquiose and shell beads. The excavations revealed details of the Chaco culture's splendor, which was said to have flourished between 800 and 1250 AD.

The excavations themselves showed the splendors of the Chaco culture, with at least a dozen great houses found to have been built during its heyday. Aside from these were dozens of other Chacoan settlements in what is now said to be the Four Corners region, where the four states of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah meet.

Over the years, studies suggested that most of the people in the Chaco civilization live in smaller adobe residences that surround the great houses. This leads researchers to think that the society had a heirarchy where elite groups dominated over the cultural ones, and those with religious and political families enjoyed special privileges.

In a new study published on Nature Communications, it seemed that the elites belonged to a single maternal line that lasted for centuries. The so-called "matrilineal dynasty" was thought to have ruled Pueblo Bonito from its earliest days in 800 AD, with the power and control of its ritual practices as evidenced by the objects discovered in the burial crypt.

Still, such interpretation of the genetic results makes no sense to outside researchers. Jill Neitzel of the University of Delaware argued that a group of related women, and some men, may have been persistent leaders of Pueblo Bonito for more than 300 years. However, it is not necessarily a matrilinear society as proposed.

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