The Ancient Ceremonies of Chaco Canyon

Ceremonial Pottery in Ancient Chaco Canyon

The largest discovery of cylindrical pottery was found in the complex, small burial room known as Room 33. Despite its small size, it seems to be one of the most ornate burial chambers in the southwest. In the chamber with The Turquoise Priest, referred to by Lekson as “The Major Dude”, there are about 200 odd cylinder jars. “With a few red-slipped exceptions, all are black-on-white or plain white. Most are Gallup, or Chaco black on white. But painted decoration includes a range of styles…”.

As previously mentioned, it is believed the purpose of these cylindrical jars was to hold chocolate drink, an elixir likely limited to use as a ritualistic or ceremonial drink for the upper class. The fact that special vessels were apparently created solely for this purpose lends weight to this theory.

“Among the many unusual objects from Pueblo Bonito are ceramic cylinder jars, vessels typically 2.4 times as tall as they are wide…Fewer than 200 jars are known from the American Southwest, and 166 of these come from Pueblo Bonito. Excavations revealed 111 of these cylindrical jars in a single large cache in one room at the site.” .

The cache that is referred is Room 33 of Pueblo Bonito, thus showing that The Turquoise Priest, or The Major Dude, partook in this ceremony. Considering that the dates for the burials in Room 33 are concurrent with the first building phase of Pueblo Bonito, it is reasonable to assume that The Turquoise Priest participated in ceremonies that involved the use of cacao. Lekson comments on the massive amount of cylinder jars and cacao:

“They have a literature all their own…with Mesoamerican implications and refutations…in Mesoamerica, cylinder jars and cacao were high-value items, things nobles would have, but never commoners. The boys at Bonito had both the jars and the cacao.”.

It is possible that The Turquoise Priest traveled from far south, bringing with him Mesoamerican cultural practices? Or he was the son or grandson of a traveler that arrived in Chaco?