Chetro Ketl

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Chetro Ketl Great Kiva in Chaco canyon, New Mexico.

Chetro Ketl is a Chacoan Ancestral Pueblo Great House and notable archaeological site located in Chaco Canyon in the U.S. state of New Mexico. In the cliffs behind the ruins there are ancient stairways that lead to prehistoric roadways that connect to Pueblo Bonito [1] located .5 km to the west. Chetro Ketl consists of a large set of rooms in a rectangular configuration similar to late era Great Houses at Chaco such as Kin Kletso, and a long D-shaped wall which encloses a packed earth plaza. The site has many architectural elements that appear to reflect Mexican Toltec influence. Begun c. AD 1020, its 450–550 rooms shared a great kiva which is among the largest ever built in the American Southwest. Scientists estimate that it took 29,135 man-hours of construction to erect Chetro Ketl; Hewett estimated that it required the wood of 5,000 trees and 50 million stone blocks.[2] It features a 30 m (98 ft) colonnade characteristic of major structures built during the Toltec Era in Mexico at sites such as Tula (c. AD 980-1168) and Chichen Itza (c. AD 900–1200). The spaces between the columns were later filled in with masonry, making the colonnade difficult to discern in photographs.


Like most Great Houses in Chaco Canyon, Chetro Ketl was discovered by the 1849 Simpson expedition. He notes the size of the ruins (1300 ft across) and that the back wall had four stories. He describes windows along the first story that were later, like the colonnades, filled in with stone. Beyond noting a few more architectural details and that the site was strewn with pottery, Simpson had little more to say about Chetro Ketl.

Steven Lekson describes the first formal excavation of the site conducted in 1920-21, and 1929-37 by Edgar Hewett, director of the Museum of New Mexico.


Chetro Ketl was abandoned in the mid-1100s, at the same time as the other Great Houses such as Pueblo Bonito. Numerous theories have been advanced such as depletion of local resources and drought, but as with many aspects of Chaco Canyon, there is no one agreed upon cause. Unlike many other later period Anasazi sites throughout the Four Corners region, Chetro Ketl does not exhibit extensive fire damage nor skeletal remains showing evidence of violence. In fact, like much of Chaco Canyon, Chetro Ketl had almost no human remains at all.

Chetro Ketl may have been briefly occupied by Anasazi culturally affiliated with Mesa Verde and responsible for some of the McElmo style additions to Chetro Ketl c. AD 1099-1119. These additions were part of the last building phase at Chaco. By AD 1120, Chetro Ketl was abandoned.


The meaning of Chetro Ketl is disputed; a Pueblo guide for the 1849 Simpson expedition, Carravahal, claimed it meant rain pueblo (or rain village).[3] Later Navajo sources gave names such as "shining pueblo" and "corner house" but no one translation is agreed upon.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ [1],
  2. ^ Strutin 1994, p. 26.
  3. ^ Strutin 1994, p. 62.


  • Fagan, B (2005), Chaco Canyon: Archaeologists Explore the Lives of an Ancient Society, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-517043-1 .
  • Strutin, M (1994), Chaco: A Cultural Legacy, Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, ISBN 1-877856-45-2 .
  • Yankosky, Dan; Malville, J (1996), Chetro Ketl, Confluence Creations .
  • Lekson, Steven (2007), The Architecture of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico (Chaco Canyon Series), University of Utah Press, ISBN 978-0-87480-948-0 .
  • Simpson, James (1849), Navajo Expedition: Journal of a Military Reconnaissance from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the Navaho Country, Made in 1849, University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 978-0-8061-3570-0 .

Coordinates: 36°03′38″N 107°57′15″W / 36.0605°N 107.9541°W / 36.0605; -107.9541