Monday, October 25, 2010
With over 500 rooms, Chetro Ketl is the second largest of the Chaco Great Houses. Construction was begun about 1010 and continued in stages over the next century. Like near-by Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl suffered considerable damage in the 1940s as a result of catastrophic flooding. As a result, more reconstruction was undertaken than at most of the Great House sites in order to restore the walls to their appearance as first uncovered during the early Twentieth Century excavations.
Even without natural disasters, the ruins are subject to natural deterioration through the action of wind, rain and invasion by the roots of desert plants. Since the late 19th Century, teams of skilled Navajo craftsmen have been constantly employed in maintaining all the major Great House sites.
The back wall of Chetro Ketl is 470 feet in length, attained a height of at least four stories, and all surfaces would have been smoothly plastered. Although the ruins are impressive in their size and architectural sophistication, the intact building complexes would have had an appearance much different from what is apparent to today's visitors to the site.
The Great Kiva at Chetro Ketl, sixty feet in diameter, is built below ground level like those of Pueblo Bonito and Casa Rinconada just across the arroyo. However, the site also features a unique tower Kiva and a number of smaller round Kiva-like structures.
The finely-crafted masonry walls are built up with relatively small blocks of sandstone. It seems likely that the finished surfaces would have borne murals and designs similar to the petroglyphs and pictographs seen on the canyon walls, but none have survived
The human effort that went into construction of the Great Houses of Chaco is hard to conceive. What kind of social organization supported such massive undertakings -- including dragging thousand-pound log beams across fifty miles of desert -- can only be guessed at.