Cynthia Irwin Williams Lecture Set for February 8, 2013

The annual Cynthia Irwin Williams Lecture will be from 7-9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 8, in Buchanan Hall in the Music Building. It is free and open to the public.

photo catherine cameron feb 8

Dr. Catherine Cameron (photo by Jason Ortiz)

The guest speaker will be Dr. Catherine Cameron, professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Colorado.  She works in the northern part of the American Southwest focusing especially on the Chaco and post-Chaco eras (A.D. 900-1300).

photo catherine cameron 2 feb 8

Jonathan Till and Vaughn Hadenfeldt expose one of the wide core-and-veneer walls in the east end of the great house. (photo by Ken Abbott, CU Public Relations)

Her research interests include prehistoric migration, the evolution of complex societies through the study of regional social and political systems, methodology of defining social boundaries in the past, and prehistoric architecture.

She works in southeastern Utah at the Bluff Great House, a Chacoan site and in nearby Comb Wash, and published a monograph on this research in 2009 (Chaco and After in the Northern San Juan, University of Arizona Press).  She also studies captives in prehistory, especially their role in cultural transmission.

photo catherine cameron 3 feb 8

University of Colorado field school student Tracey Chirhart excavates in Feature 2, one of the large, deep rear rooms at the Bluff great house. (photo by Steve Lekson, University of Colorado)

She published an edited volume on this topic in 2008 (Invisible Citizens, Captives and Their Consequences, University of Utah Press).  She has been co-editor of the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory since 2000.

For more information, call Andrea McDowell at 575.562.2696.


  1. The Bluff Great House and the Chaco Phenomenon

Catherine M. Cameron
University of Colorado
Cynthia Irwin-Williams Lecture, February 8, 2013

The Bluff great house site is located on the San Juan River in southeastern Utah.  It was the focus of six seasons of excavation research conducted by the University of Colorado (CU).  Bluff had some involvement with Chaco Canyon, the great Pueblo center of the 9th to 12th centuries and is one of the few Chacoan sites in this region to have been recently excavated.

The location, in use since at least A.D. 500, saw the construction of a multi-storied Chacoan great house, great kiva, earthern “berm,” and prehistoric road segments in the late 11th or early 12th centuries.  The great house continued to be used (perhaps most intensively) during the post-Chaco era until about A.D. 1250.

Southeastern Utah contains a number of Chaco and post-Chaco great house communities and CU also conducted survey and test excavations at the Comb Wash community about 25 miles north of Bluff.   Our primary research questions focused on Bluff’s relation to the complex developments in Chaco Canyon and the nature of post-Chaco use of great houses both at Bluff and Comb Wash.

This presentation highlights some of the remarkably Chaco-like aspects of the Bluff great house, and presents surprising continuities at the site after the Chaco region collapsed. In contrast, the post-Chaco great house at the Comb Wash community has a number of Chaco-like features, but others that recall typical construction throughout the northern San Juan region.

Bluff and Comb Wash are used to explore and evaluate current models of the Chaco regional system.

Reading List If You Want to be Prepped for Lecture

Cameron, Catherine M.
2009  Chaco and After in the Northern San Juan:  Excavations at the Bluff Great House.  University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Kantner, John, and Nancy Mahoney (editors)
2000 Great House Communities across the Chacoan Landscape. University
of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Lekson, S. H.
1999 Chaco Meridian. Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, California.

2009  A History of the Ancient Southwest.  School for Advanced Research Press, Santa Fe.

Lekson, S. H. (editor)
2006  The Archaeology of Chaco Canyon: An Eleventh-Century Pueblo Regional Center. School of American Research Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

2007 The Architecture of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Mills, Barbara J.
2002  Recent Research on Chaco: Changing Views on Economy, Ritual, and Society. Journal of Archaeological Research 10(1): 65–117.

Reed, Paul F
2008  Chaco’s Northern Prodigies: Salmon, Aztec, and the Ascendancy of the Middle San Juan Region after A.D. 1100. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake.

Van Dyke, Ruth
2008  The Chaco Experience:  Landscape and Ideology at the Center Place.  School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe.


About George Crawford

archaeologist, archer, primitive technologist, and wannabee musician ... mostly
This entry was posted in anthropology, Archaeology, bluff great house, chaco, utah and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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