Archaeotrek—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, April 2016
The Great North Road ~ part 1
by: Jeanne Gripp
The American Southwest has many mysteries, some ephemeral but many others are very physical. Some of these physical mysteries are in the form of pueblo ruins built by the peoples who lived in the region long ago. While other physical mysteries appear in the form of lines carved into the surface of the earth.
Chaco Canyon is one of the largest ruin complexes and can be found in the northwestern region of New Mexico in the San Juan River Basin. The Chacoan culture has been the subject of speculation for centuries. Who were they and why was such a large and complex series of structures built in such an inhospitable land?
Scientists and those involved in academic studies theorize that the Chaco Complex was built as a religious center or even as a center for trade. With the many outlying or satellite communities serving as way-stations or providing confirmation of the many astronomical alignments which can be found at Chaco Canyon. And, in part, I feel that these theories are correct. But the origin of Chaco was probably much simpler. And much older.
Chaco Canyon has numerous satellite communities; Salmon Ruins, Aztec Ruins, Mesa Verde, Chimney Rock and numerous smaller un-named pueblos. In the October issue of AP magazine, I wrote about Chimney Rock in Colorado and how it was utilized as an astronomical outpost for Chaco. The same astronomical relevance can be applied to the main structures at Chaco with moon rises, sunrises, and other important celestial events being the focal point for windows, doorways, and even entire buildings. Even the cardinal directions were taken into consideration with building placement.
The complexity of the construction of this region has been a perplexing puzzle for decades. It is generally thought that only civilizations much further south were capable of such well thought out designs and alignments. Could the peoples who had this knowledge have migrated to the San Juan River Basin from another land? Or even another continent? To add to the mystery, is the roadway which leads north from Chaco Canyon. This road is known as The Great North Road or The Great North Road of the Anasazi.
The Great North Road runs predominately north from the Chaco Complex. There are roughly 180 miles of roadway which have been found so far. Further investigations through aerial photography and on the ground exploration may result in the discovery of an extensive and possibly complex road system. Interestingly, the majority of the building complexes which belonged to the Chaco Complex lie to the east, west and south of Chaco. Very few, if any, ruins are found along the Great North Road.
An important fact to remember, there is no evidence that the Chacoan Culture had carts, wagons or even the animals to pull them. And yet, a large roadway was built by the removal of much dirt and vegetation. For the most part, The Great North Road follows the terrain but slopes were constructed to allow for ease of ascent or descent. Occasionally, when the road crossed an elevated section of land, the land would be cut away to allow for an easier climb. Stonework and masonry work can still be seen in areas along the roadway. For a good portion of its length, the roadway is actually two parallel roadways. Four parallel roadways have been located in a roughly mile long section via aerial photography. The width of the roadway is close to 30 feet, wider than most of our modern roads. The construction of the road was a major undertaking which proves it was an important element for the Chacoan People.
The Great North Road begins at Pueblo Alta, a large structure which is located on the north rim of Chaco Canyon. It runs within a few degrees of north throughout its length, making only slight alterations to this route to include a unique geologic complex called Pierre's Complex. This particular area has many small buttes and cones with the remnants of two great houses and several smaller buildings to be found on the tops of these naturally formed lookout points. Pierre's Complex (a.k.a. Pierre's Ruins) are roughly a day's walk north from Pueblo Alto. Another day's walk to the north of Pierre's Complex is Halfway House, a block building with numerous rooms.
From Halfway House, The Road continues north at this point - or rather only two degrees off true north. It continues on this heading to terminate at Kutz Canyon, near Twin Angels Mound where a shrine can be found. So far, no evidence has been found of the road continuing northward to Salmon Ruins or Aztec Ruins which are thought to be part of the Chacoan Culture. It was at this point that researchers believed the road came to an end, adding to the mystery of why The Great North Road was built. But in recent years, the ruins of a stairway were discovered leading from Upper Twin Angels Mound down into the canyon below. Long, straight pieces of wood have been found near where the stairway may have existed. Broken pottery has also been found along the stairway route. Initial reports state that the timbers found near the stairway, pre-date the habitation of Chaco Canyon.
If the road continued on from here, no evidence has been found as yet. But the torrential downpours and flash floods common to this region, can quickly obliterate any trace of Man. There are the ruins of two roomblock buildings nearby. One of the buildings was large with 17 rooms and two enclosed kivas. While the other roomblock was small. Upper Twin Angels Mound and El Faro are both symmetrical mounds which dominate the horizon when viewed from the south. There was once a shrine located on top of Upper Twin Angels Mound, its ruins can still be seen. Quite probably the point to which travelers on The Road were headed for.
Chaco Canyon is considered a trade center by many researchers. Evidence of chocolate has been found in ceramics unearthed at Pueblo Bonito. Pueblo Bonito was a 5 story building with 500 rooms. It is thought to be the foremost ceremonial structure in the Chaco Complex. The chocolate evidence proves that trade with Central America occurred, since the nearest cacao plantation was more than 1000 miles away. Cacao beans were considered so valuable, the Maya deemed them a form of currency. Besides chocolate, macaw feathers and pottery similar to that which has been found in Meso-American cultures have also been found at Chaco Complex.
Found along The Great North Road, are potsherds (broken pottery pieces). And while this is not that unusual of a thing to find along a trade route, the amount of potsherds found and the lack of any sort of human habitation along the road leads one to believe that the roadway was ceremonial or sacred. And perhaps the pots carried offerings for the gods. But what else could they have held? Water would be an obvious, and sensible, consideration especially in such an arid environment. But the pots found were never meant to carry water. Those that have been reconstructed appear to be of ceremonial design.
Was Chaco Canyon simply a hub where merchants met to buy and sell goods? Or did the Chaco elite have a commodity themselves? Something so precious people would travel from faraway lands and bring their most precious commodities to obtain it. In the next issue of Alternate Perception magazine, I shall theorize about what the Chacoan Culture really controlled and how they came into such wealth.
Jeanne Gripp is a freelance writer, dowser and subtle energy worker who lives in the shadow of Pikes Peak. A Colorado native, Jeanne explores the connection between unknown lights, strange creatures, ancient legends, and earth energy lines. Jeanne has spent a lifetime of searching for answers. Only to find more questions. Her articles and books are an attempt to compile and explain the relationship between many of the anomalies that she has experienced over time.