Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Debra L. Martin

Second Committee Member

Barbara J. Roth

Third Committee Member

Pierre Lienard

Fourth Committee Member

Jennifer L. Thompson

Fifth Committee Member

Janet S. Dufek

Number of Pages



Analysis of human remains in the Greater Southwest offers important insights into mechanisms underlying cultural processes, human adaptability as well as behavioral flexibility and resilience in the face of change. Data collected from human remains from several sites throughout the Four Corners region of the Greater Southwest provides information on the ways that violence and social inequality were used to maintain a regional complex between AD 850 to AD 1300. Human remains were used to provide empirical data on biological (age, sex, stature, and robusticity) and cultural (mortuary context, burial practice, and site layout) identity. Skeletal remains provided information on socioeconomic and political identity (nonlethal and lethal violence as well as musculoskeletal markers). The specific research question addressed in this project was to determine if there was data to support sociopolitical hierarchy during the period of the Chaco Phenomenon. Bioarchaeology offers a method for identifying characteristics on the burials that are indicative of social status, such as variations in mortuary pattern, nutritional disparity, differential activity patterns, frequencies of health problems, and risk of violence.

The primary goal was to identify burials within the Chaco Phenomenon that seem to support the presence of higher status or elite individuals at the sites that have been suggested to have served as regional centers, Pueblo Bonito and Aztec Ruins. However, since elites only reveal one side of the social hierarchy, it was also important to identify if there appeared to be individuals at other sites that were at greater risk of trauma, poor health, and increased labor (i.e., lower class citizens, captives, or slaves). Revealing the skeletal changes that seem to indicate social hierarchy and violence during this period provides support for the presence of a large regional ceremonial center that grew in influence and power in the Four Corners region of the Greater Southwest.

The results of this analysis indicate that some of the individuals at Pueblo Bonito appear to have mortuary and skeletal markers that indicate they belonged to a higher social status. Additionally, outside of Chaco Canyon and the power of Pueblo Bonito there is some evidence that violence was higher among certain groups, suggesting that there were likely lower status or subaltern groups. Finally, the project showed that while certain types of violence (e.g., massacres) may have decreased during this period, there is still ample evidence that violence was very much a part of the Chacaon World.


Bioarchaeology; Chaco culture; Paleopathology; Pueblo; Social control; Social status; Southwest; New; United States – Four Corners Region; Violence


Archaeological Anthropology | Biological and Physical Anthropology | Indigenous Studies

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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