Steve Lekson to give virtual presentation on ‘Chaco, North of the San Juans’ Thursday, July 16


By Nadia Werby
Chimney Rock Interpretive Association

Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) hosts a free lecture series five times a year to offer the opportunity for the public and CRIA volunteers to gather and enjoy a speaker whose topic typically relates to southwest archaeology, archaeoastronomy and/or Chacoan culture. 

Experts in the field travel sometimes from far distances to Pagosa Springs to present at this free series, but this month’s lecture series is now happening live and online for all to enjoy from the comforts of your home. 

Join us on Thursday, July 16, as Steven H. Lekson discusses “Chaco, North of the San Juans.” Space is limited to 500 people. To join this special Zoom presentation online at 7 p.m., you will need the Zoom link and meeting ID located on

It is generally held that Chaco did not move north of the San Juan River until 1075. At several key sites — including Chimney Rock and Far View House — there are hints of earlier Chacoan structures by 1020. Through the last quarter of the 11th century, Chaco outliers north of the San Juan of Chaco Canyon numbered over 75, including small great houses at the future sites of Salmon and Aztec Ruins. 

After 1090, Salmon and Aztec became the main focus of development — some of the largest construction projects in Chacoan history — as Aztec Ruins replaced Chaco Canyon as the preeminent regional center. Aztec’s architectural icon was enigmatic bi- and tri-walled structures; the new capital was planned around bi-, tri- and quadri-walls. Similar “outlier” bi- and tri-walls soon appeared across the countryside, presumably demarking Aztec’s region, less than one-third the size of Chaco’s. North of the San Juan, bi- and tri-walls extended as far west as Montezuma Creek in southeastern Utah — encompassing Mesa Verde and most of the Great Sage Plain — and as far as Genado-Gallup. Aztec Ruins marks the easternmost, along with single example at Chaco Canyon, built and then razed in what must have been an ideological/political action. Bi- and tri-walls vanished, along with many other iconic Chacoan forms, after 1300. 

Lekson was curator of archaeology at the Museum of Natural History, University of Colorado, Boulder. He received his Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico in 1988 and held research, curatorial or administrative positions with University of Tennessee, Eastern New Mexico University, National Park Service, Arizona State Museum, Museum of New Mexico and Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. 

Lekson directed more than 20 archaeological projects throughout the southwest. He was editor of the journal Kiva (2006-2011) and continues as contributing editor for Archaeology magazine (2003-present). Lekson’s publications include a dozen books, chapters in many edited volumes and articles in journals and magazines. His most recent books are “A History of the Ancient Southwest” (2009), “Chaco Meridian” (2015) and “A Study of Southwestern Archaeology” (2018). He curated a half-dozen exhibits, most recently “A History of the Ancient Southwest” (2014) at the CU Museum of Natural History. He retired in 2018. 

CRIA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that runs the daily operations and interpretive program at Chimney Rock National monument in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the San Juan National Forest. For more information, see the CRIA website at or call 731-7133.