Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Photo Gallery

A Trip through the American Southwest
pueblo bonito at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

A high altitude view of pueblo bonito in Chaco Canyon  (Canon 24-mm, June 1998)

From my early studies in architecture I have been enthralled by the great Southwest Pueblos and speculations about the ancient civilization that built them. Pueblo Bonito, in Chaco Canyon, is arguably one of the finest examples of the monumental ruins left behind by the Anasazi (Navaho for "ancient ones" or "ancient enemy"). The Anasazi lived in delicate balance with the demanding arid landscape that surrounded  them. For instance, they left evidence of seasonal water management via impounds and irrigation. The hundreds of thousands of wooden poles required for roof structures were imported from up to 50 miles away -- quite a distance for a society without wheels.  It was quite the treat to finally see Chaco Canyon in person.  

One reaches Chaco Canyon by driving down a very long dirt road. On first impression the site it is not really a canyon at all but more like a dry wash enclosed by relatively low bluffs. The area offers the largest concentration of pre-Columbian settlements in North America and was inhabited from around A.D. 850 to 1150. Chaco Canyon is home to 13 other major archaeological sites and hundreds of smaller ones in addition to pueblo bonito.

A plan view of pueblo bonito, this was an elaborate and impressive construction


I was eager to get a kite into the air and did so after our late-afternoon arrival -- thank goodness for the long days of summer. From the air you can see the large scale and geometric design of Pueblo Bonito. As with most of the other great houses in the canyon, the layout was the result of several building stages and was not a single construction event. From initial construction in the middle of the ninth century, three hundred years elapsed before the present form of Pueblo Bonito was realized. 

A quartet of views from above pueblo bonito (Canon 24-mm, June 1998).

The sandstone dwellings are testimony to extensive planning, management, and resource-gathering. They were oriented to the warm sun of the south and snugly nestled against the south-facing mesa wall. The builders used a refined masonry technique for multistory construction with technique that evidences a level of craft still admired today. The walls were finished with a plaster coating to protect the mud mortar from rain.  

Ground-level views of the fine masonry construction at pueblo bonito  (Canon 24-mm, June 1998)

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