The cultural resources contained within the park include an estimated 4,000 archaeological sites (of which 3,614 have been recorded) an estimated 1.5 million artifacts and archival documents, a vast cultural landscape that can be subdivided into numerous smaller units, and hundreds of sacred and/or traditional cultural properties and ethnographic resources.
There has been more archaeological research conducted in Chaco and on the subject of Chaco than on any other prehistoric district in North America. In the entire New World, the amount of research on Chaco is comparable only to the Mayan and Aztec districts in central Mexico. This research includes fieldwork, archival studies, artifact analyses, and theoretical syntheses. While some of this work has been published, a great deal has not. There are numerous and often conflicting interpretations of the vast and complicated data sets managed by the park. The large volume of work continues to attract new researchers, which assures the growth and refinement of our knowledge of the resources.
Placement of Chaco on the World Heritage List has enabled the park to expand research into the fields of historic fabric preservation and other conservation treatment. This designation has prompted the park to develop collaborative partnerships with other institutions and governments who manage, research, and preserve similar World Heritage sites throughout the world.
The park has many constituencies interested in its cultural resources and their management. These include professional archaeologists and cultural anthropologists; students at all levels; Native American tribes; local state, county, city, and tribal governments; and the visiting public. In the past, the concerns of the archaeological community have largely guided the actions of the Cultural Resources division. Over the past ten years, the park's American Indian Consultation Committee has gradually taken the lead role in shaping park policy and practice. This has created a certain tension between the Native American and archaeological constituencies. Resolving this tension is the current challenge for the Cultural Resources division.
Did You Know?
Richard Wetherill came to Chaco Canyon in 1896 and worked with the American Museum of Natural History. He operated a ranch and trading post there until his death in 1910. To keep warm during the frigid Chaco winters, Richard burned low-grade coal from a mine he constructed.