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The Chaco Meridian: Centers of Political Power in the Ancient Southwest 0th Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0761991816
ISBN-10: 0761991816
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Lekson is one of the few archaeologists who writes with a distinctive voice, one of the few who prefers to work without a net.... His account of political history of the ancient Southwest ... is a reconstruction that cannot be ignored by those interested in ancient Pueblo history and in the development of political complexity and social inequality. (Mark D. Varien American Anthropologist)

Once every generation or so a new work appears that radically changes how we perceive some aspect of the world. [The Chaco Meridian] is one of those 'paradigm-shifting' events in archaeology....It is a fun yet thought-provoking book, a must-read for anyone interested in modern archaeology. (David Anderson, National Park Service)

Chaco ... Why would such a thriving civilization grow in such an inhospitable environment? Why would it suddenly disappear? What was its relation to other flourishing areas of the 11th, 12th, 13th centuries? In this remarkable book Lekson overwhelms readers with his answers to these questions. Why are Chaco, Paquime (in Mexico), and Aztec on almost the same 'meridian?' Why were the objects of trade and symbolism in all three similar? <...The author presents his hypothetical answers convincingly.... (N. C. Greenberg, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture Anthropology)

It's a fascinating theory, but even if you don't agree with it, the book is a good source of the most up-to-date information on Southwestern cultures…. Lekson details the latest research and theories in a highly readable narrative spiked with humor. (Mark Michel, President of The Archaeological Conservancy)

Not only does Dr. Lekson's scheme imply a degree of regional unity unsuspected heretofore but it casts a new light on several archaeological features… and also, perhaps, on the lore of the region at the time of contact with the Spanish. (Antiquity)

Lekson is one of a few active archaeologists who have the experience, perspective and creativity to think this big. Because the book has so many interesting ideas, it may well play a significant role in changing people's thinking and setting research agendas over the next decade. A truly significant book. (Keith W. Kintigh, Arizona State University)

Lekson has given us a new view of the Southwest from a very high-flying trial balloon. The scenario he describes is just plausible enough to be both tremendously unsettling and tremendously stimulating to our thinking about the sources of Puebloan demographic and cultural change in the period 1050-1450. (William Lipe, Washington State University)

Chaco ... Why would such a thriving civilization grow in such an inhospitable environment? Why would it suddenly disappear? What was its relation to other flourishing areas of the 11th, 12th, 13th centuries? In this remarkable book Lekson overwhelms readers with his answers to these questions. Why are Chaco, Paquime (in Mexico), and Aztec on almost the same 'meridian?' Why were the objects of trade and symbolism in all three similar? <...The author presents his hypothetical answers convincingly. (N. C. Greenberg, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture Anthropology)

Exciting reading if one is at all interested in Southwestern prehistory and archaeology.... The author presents a raft of compelling arguments, data and facts that seemingly support his arguable theory….Read this book and decide for yourself. (New Mexico Magazine)

Provocative and challenging new book.... The book is well-written; the tone is casual and readable. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the American southwest; it is an exciting exercise in the possible. (K. Kris Holt About.Com)

Americans do not have the great ruins of Western civilization but we do have the Anasazi and the ruins of Chaco Canyon—especially Pueblo Bonito. Looking down from the sandstone cliffs one is impressed by the massive 'D'-shaped three-story structure with approximately 800 rooms and kivas. The magnificently constructed walls of flat sandstone, of all sizes, create a smooth geometrically designed surface. This architectural wonder was recently featured in the 1999 summer issue of Plateau magazine from the Museum of Northern Arizona. Why would such a thriving civilization grow in such an inhospitable environment? Why would it suddenly disappear? What was its relation to other flourishing areas of the 11th, 12th, 13th centuries? In this remarkable book Lekson overwhelms readers with his answers to these questions. Why are Chaco, Paquime (in Mexico), and Aztec on almost the same 'meridian?' Why were the objects of trade and symbolism in all three similar? Why was Chaco the dominant regional influence? What was the historical relationship of these organized people to the pueblos of today? The author presents his hypothetical answers convincingly. Maps, diagrams, and plates abound, along with a remarkable bibliography of 408 references. All levels. (N.C. Greenberg, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture CHOICE)

Steve Lekson is stirring the pot....A new and controversial analysis.... Lekson presents a unique perspective on the Southwest.... [His own] work is well-published, and it is the lesser-known information about Aztec and Casas Grandes that makes the book worth reading and the meridian question worth pondering....Lekson has huge personal knowledge of the Southwest....What is different about his presentation of data is that Lekson tries to convey some of the ideas that go through his head when he visits a site, a boon for those who have not had the chance to stand on a hillside overlooking some of the places he describes....Lekson diverges from the mainstream in several ways. His prose is distinctive and his allusions multifarious.... Among the positive aspects of the book is Lekson's effort to bring intentionality to the interpretation of Southwest archaeology...this book is worth reading for its effort to look at old data in new ways and to incorporate new data in looking at old questions. . . .The Chaco Meridian is a highly personal exploration of Southwestern archaeological data that will motivate a new level of discussion....In the long run, this book will be deemed either a potboiler or a classic, but now is the time to read it. (Winifred Creamer, Northern Illinois University Journal of Anthropological Research)

His proposed political history of a significantly expanded Pueblo world...is intended to make us think globally and escape the confines of 'feeble provincialism.' (R. Grinn Vivian, Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona Cambridge Archaeological Journal)

The Chaco Meridian effectively addresses some questions and spawns others, as seminal works are inclined to do. Lekson provides a compelling argument, meticulously laid out with some fun terminology and observations. (Kevin S. Blake, University of Wyoming The Geographical Review)

Lekson's narrative style is clearly a refreshing departure from the typical archaeological discourse of careerist gravitas and pretentious sanctimony. Lekson, in his own way and language, is surely seeking converts to his Chaco Meridian, but he is also challenging others to test his model and come up with a better one. To do either or more, one must first read this book. (J. Jefferson Reid, University of Arizona Journal Of Arizona History)

The pages (and particularly the chapter notes) crackle with ideas. Lekson writes with energy and wit, and the careful reader will find a few delightful gems. (Jonathan C. Driver, Simon Fraser University Canadian Journal of Archaeology)

The Chaco Meridian gives me hope for the survival of archaeology in this postmodern, new millennial world. It vindicates the approach of the lone scholar and harks back to the great strides made by the independent foundations and scholars of bygone years. Let there be more books like it.... If others will be inspired to follow Lekson's lead and tackle the unknown and unpopular, the profession, the public, and all of us will be the better for it. (Stephanie M. Whittlesey, Statistical Research, Inc. Journal Of Field Archaeology, Vol. 27, 2002)

About the Author

Stephen H. Lekson teaches at the University of Colorado.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: AltaMira Press (March 24, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761991816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761991816
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,303,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What marvelous ideas are incorporated into this model of a regional ideological "plan" for the prehistoric SW! As a teacher who regularly takes my classes to Casas Grandes, I would applaud Lekson; and take those to task who chop the Mimbres off at the NM/Mex. border--the strong presence of Mimbres as far south as Casas & vicinity is another strong point in favor of Lekson's idea. The mark of a really good hypothesis is that it makes one THINK long after the reading is done. I still find myself, months after the first reading, pondering the linguistic implications: was there a "lingua franca" for the SW in which this meridian-if it existed-was the "noon sun line" (the "central place" in the SW region)? The sun dagger at Chaco might back that up. If so, was the edge of the Plains the "sunrise boundary" and the Pacific the "sunset boundary? Is it even possible that, along with cognitive maps to get from central Mexico to the 4 Corners, the ancients actually understood that the watersheds flowed east OR west from this general meridian?? Wow. Lekson has been decades in formulating the concept; lets hope it is taken further. We constantly need reminded that sites aren't isolated; they belonged to much greater cultures--Lekson is a thinker with the big picture.
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By A Customer on October 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
hintzer@msn.com from Virginia, USA , 21 May, 1999 Provides provocative new views of the Anasazi culture A book that breaks the mold of most published archaeology literature. "The Chaco Meridian" takes an entertaining world view approach to the Anasazi culture, building a case for long distance interaction between Chaco, Paquime and further south into Mexico. Lekson presents information in a way that is refreshing and thought provoking (the book was difficult to put down once I began to read). Lekson discusses architectural and archaeological relationships that appear to be very obvious, yet he is one of the first to openly package Chaco, Aztec, Paquime and the general southwestern US into a common culture, and make these ideas available to the general public. There are no geopolitcal or academic borders in this book. Thanks for the good reading !
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Format: Paperback
A thought provoking book that in a subtle fashion entertains as well as compels the reader to turn the page for the next surprise. Yet, Leskon's case for an elite Pueblo group makes sense if one can forget or put aside the static approach to previous Pueblo research. Leskon mixes and stirs data that has been available for years and in the end wraps it into a package that attempts to describe the Pueblo culture through time rather than a series of start and stop/boom and bust cultures. Finally, someone steps forward and takes a chance. The mechanics of the Chaco, Aztec, Paquime sequence is nicely presented and a strong case is made, yet the story leaves one hanging with respect to the whys, and where did it all begin and end. Includes a surprising and good comparison with the Mississippian culture, albeit short (perhaps the subject of another book). Thank you for the good read!
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Format: Paperback
Lekson, an expert on Southwestern archaeology, presents a provocative thesis about the civilization that produced the great houses in New Mexico's Chaco Canyon. He proposes that Chaco Canyon was one of three successive capitals of a politically integrated region. According to Lekson, a ruling elite emerged at Chaco and perpetuated itself by moving a ceremonial city along Chaco's meridian. Lekson writes in an engaging and often deliberately provocative style. This is as fun as serious archaeology gets, though Lekson sometimes repeats his points. The book is well illustrated with diagrams and black and white photographs.
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Format: Paperback
Wow! In thirty years of Southwest archaeology and Chaco literature, Stephen Lekson has written the best treatise on what may be (or was) called the Chaco Phenomenum.
Well researched and presented conversationally, Lekson clearly outlines the evidence for a pan-Southwest Chacoan influence. Lekson speaks as colleague might, visiting in your home, sitting before the fireplace creating a logical system for "Chacoan hegemony". Air castles among friends.
Never be misled by Lekson's wordplay, "...the political structure of the Greater Southwest was a case of macaws and effect." It is his way of gently exposing an embarassing blindspot in the thinking of the old "Wise Men" of archaeology. Likewise his metaphor that "feathers are fluff compared to real stuff..." is a way of re-introducing the reader to the real significance of exotics.
Lekson echoes a Smithsonian Institute remark that the "history of the human race can be summed in the phrase, 'When do we eat?'" (Lekson, discussing Chaco as a redistribution center for surplus, "Beyond the Basin, local networks presumably took care of the perennial local problen: What's for dinner?)
Finally, Lekson is a master of the apt metaphor - "If Chaco is the bete noire of the Southwest, (Pueblo) Bonito is the the black hole. It sucks in astonishing amounts of interest, enegy, and resources..."
This book, like Bonito, will suck you in. Unquestionable the best read on Southwestern Archaeology since Wormington.
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