The last two chapters of The Prehistoric Pueblo World, by the two discussants from the conference that resulted in the book, seek to summarize the conclusions of the other chapters and discuss their implications. Chapter 16, by Linda Cordell, is the more straightforward of the two. Cordell, a well-regarded and distinguished southwestern archaeologist, discusses the main common threads of developments in the various areas covered by the volume, and takes up some of the main themes of the book in more detail. Among these are the everpresent Pueblo III processes of aggregation and abandonment, about which Cordell points out some interesting implications of the data presented in various chapters but refrains from making any sweeping conclusions. Another theme she addresses, however, is considerably more directly relevant to the purpose of this blog, and that is the impact of Chaco and its collapse on regions both near and far.
As Cordell points out, the start date for the book, AD 1150, is by no means arbitrary. It coincides roughly but clearly with the end of the Chaco system, whatever it was, and thus marks the period under discussion as the time when the regions heavily involved in the system had to readjust to its absence. In other words, this book is (partly) about the aftermath of Chaco.
Different regions handled that aftermath differently, and Cordell proposes a useful classification of levels of involvement in the Chaco system that can be used to evaluate and compare post-Chaco developments. At the lowest level are those regions that show little or no interaction with the system: the far west, the Kayenta region, Hopi, the Sinagua area, east-central Arizona, southeastern Arizona/southwestern New Mexico, the Rio Abajo, and the northern Rio Grande. While there was a certain amount of contact between Chaco and some of these areas, as indicated by the presence at Chaco of trade goods like turquoise and obsidian, it was clearly minor, and these areas do not show outlying great houses, roads, or other quintessentially Chacoan traits. When Chaco declined around 1150, little or nothing changed in these areas. While they did all undergo various changes over the course of the period covered by this book, the most important of those changes came later and had no particular temporal connection to events at Chaco.
In contrast, the areas with outlying great houses, roads, and other clear signs of substantial connection to Chaco show evidence of major changes around 1150. In some regions that seem to have been particularly closely integrated into the system, there is evidence that some aspects of it continued even after the end of the role of Chaco Canyon as a regional center. Particularly in the Mesa Verde and Cibola areas, there is evidence for continued construction of great houses and other projects that may indicate a continued role for Chacoan ideology in local societies. The most notable example of this, of course, is the extremely Chacoesque center at Aztec, which continued to function for quite some time after the end of activity at Chaco itself (though it likely never reached the scale of influence Chaco had had at its height). Aztec is included in the San Juan Basin chapter of this book, and there is evidence for continued Chacoan influence in other parts of the basin and its peripheries as well, particularly in the Chuska Mountains. In other parts of the Chacoan sphere of influence, on the other hand, such as in parts of the Acoma area, Chacoan traditions such as great-house architecture seem to have been abandoned more rapidly.
Overall, like so many other chapters in this book, this one is unable to come to any satisfyingly firm conclusions, and Cordell ends up focusing much of her discussion of the Chaco aftermath, like her discussions of aggregation and abandonment, on the need for more and better data on all of the topics under discussion. Since one of the main purposes of the book was to gather together the available data and spur efforts to collect more, this is only fitting in a chapter devoted to summary and discussion of its contents.