The Puebloan Society of Chaco Canyon, by Paul F. Reed, Reviewed by Mark D. Walker

A librarian friend found this book for me in preparation for our first visit to the Chaco Canyon. As we drove down the rocky, dusty road of the south entrance, we could only be impressed by the tremendous vistas and the apparent inhospitable nature.

This book places the Puebloan society in a historical perspective as part of a Medieval Historical series, the “Greenwood Guides to Historic Events of the Medieval World,” defined as a period from 500 to 1500 A.D. Chaco would peak in the mislabeled “Dark Ages,” beginning with the fall of the Roman Empire and continuing until the advent of the Italian and English renaissance.

This book by Paul Reed differs from the other series segments, whose historical events are based on long-established historical records. In contrast, Reed’s study of a pre-literate society is based on the original reconstruction of the Puebloan Indian society of Chaco. He focuses on its leaders, rituals, craft specialists, and commoners during its flourishing in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

The titles of the other books in the series reveal what was going on in the world during the ascension of the Puebloan society:

The Black Death

The Crusades

Genghis Khan and Mongol Rule

Magna Carta

Medieval Cathedrals

The Rise of Islam

The author deals with the challenge that the absence of written aboriginal languages in the Americas means that written chronologies of people’s events, processes, and lives do not exist, making understanding America’s pre-European past difficult. Thematic chapters guide the reader to the emergence of Puebloan society, its cultural and environmental settings, and the Pueblo people—other chapters detail how the area was settled and where the people eventually dispersed.

An annotated timeline provides references to critical dates and events. Biographical sketches reveal the lives of those who studied and formed what we know about Puebloan Society, and twenty annotated primary and secondary documents guide the reader through the Chacoan-related material. A glossary of terms is helpful, as are the illustrations and several maps. The author also recommends sources for future inquiry, websites, videos, and print.

The biography of Neil Judd was fascinating, as his name came up many times during our visit. He brought a detailed analytical, organized approach to Chaco Canyon fieldwork in the 1920s, and his reports still serve as the primary source documents for the Pueblo Bonito and Pueblo del Arroyo.  After the National Geographic-sponsored fieldwork at Chaco ended in 1927, he returned to Washington. He was caught up in other projects, so the first comprehensive report on Chaco was not published until 1954, almost thirty years after his fieldwork ended.

This book provided an invaluable overview of the Puebloan Society with multiple materials and resources, making our visit to the Chaco Canyon much more insightful and productive.
About the Author

 PAUL F. REED is a Preservation Archaeologist with the Center for Desert Archaeology, Tucson, Arizona, and currently works as the Chaco Scholar at Salmon Ruins, New Mexico.

Product details

5.0 5.0 out of 5 stars    3 ratings

About the Reviewer

Mark Walker was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala and spent over forty years helping disadvantaged people in the developing world. He’s worked with groups like CARE and MAP International, Food for the Hungry, and Make-A-Wish International and was the CEO of Hagar USA.

His book, Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond, was recognized by the Arizona Literary Association. According to the Midwest Review, it “…is more than just another travel memoir. It is an engaged and engaging story of one man’s physical and spiritual journey of self-discovery.”

His articles have been published in Ragazine and WorldView Magazines, Literary Yard, Scarlet Leaf Review, and Quail BELL. At the same time, the Solas Literary Award recognized two essays, including a Bronze award, in this year’s “Best Travel Writing” Travel Adventure category. Two of his pieces were winners at the Arizona Authors Association Literary Competition, and another was recently published in ELAND Press’s newsletter.  He’s a contributing writer for “Revue Magazine” and the “Literary Traveler.” His column, “The Million Mile Walker Review: What We’re Reading and Why,” is part of the Arizona Authors Association newsletter. He’s working on his next book, Moritz Thomsen, The Best American Writer No One’s Heard Of. He continues to produce a documentary on indigenous rights and out-migration from Guatemala, “Trouble in the Highlands.”  His wife and three children were born in Guatemala. You can learn more at


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