Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chaco Canyon and the Anasazi - adventure hooks

Chaco Canyon is just barely "off the map" right now for AZ Adventures, but offers some fascinating hooks for adventuring. In fact, it is so close, and so cool, I might have to extend "the map" a bit, to include them.

The Chaco Canyon settlement complex was the center of Anasazi civilization, and at its peak, contained some 5,000 residents, uniting the larger Anasazi population throughout the Four Corners area. Chaco Canyon itself (an cool place, I camped there in college) is located in the NW corner of New Mexico.

Chaco Canyon region in the red box
Chaco Canyon region in red box

Although most of New Mexico drains into the headwaters of the Rio Grande, and is thus naturally south-ward directed, the very northwestern edge of the state (including the Chaco area and present-day Farmington), drains into the San Juan River, which feeds Lake Powell, and is thus part of the greater-AZ watershed region.

Close-up of the San Juan River basin feeding Lake Powell

The region is also brought into contact with AZ because it is to the immediate east of the Chuska Mtns, where Canyon de Chelly, the homeland of the Dineh, is located. The Chaco Canyon Anasazi made roads that extended all the way to the Chuska Mtns, where they harvested timber and other resources, and so this Anasazi civ would be in loose contact with the Dineh tribes of AZ. The Chinle Creek running by Canyon de Chelly actually drains north into the above-mentioned San Juan River.

Chuska Mountain region

Route 666 (following our I-40) runs right south of the area, and thus trade relations with northern AZ would be natural, especially with the Derjuden of Flagstaff and the Monmore of Snowflake. The real-life Rt 666 (lately renamed to the less sinister-sounding Rt 491) runs straight north, immediately to the left of the Chaco Canyon area, as you can see in the map.

Chaco Canyon Roads

Anyway, one of the most amazing things about the Anasazi of the Chaco Canyon is their road system, which was clearly, but mysteriously, connected with their religious life. Hundreds of miles of roads ran outward like spokes from Chaco Canyon.

"The roads were built to an average width of 30 feet and carefully surveyed by unknown means so as cross the terrain in a virtually straight line. Little attention was paid to topography by the prehistoric road engineers; stairways, ramps, scaffolds and toeholds were cut into the stone when necessary. Many of the roads, particularly those closest to the canyon, had earthen berms or adobe curbs, signaling stations and roadside shrines. ... Many of the roads extend for a distance and then suddenly stop or run parallel to each other for long distances away from any settlements. Thus the Chacoan roads probably served multiple purposes — while some were functional, others may have served as symbols of spiritual values and/or used in formalized rituals."

(quotes from here:
These roads are eerily similar to the more-famous Nazca Lines in South America, famously connected to the idea of space travel by Erik Von Daniken. How else can we explain these absolutely straight lines extending across the desert, which the ground-based human eye cannot even see or appreciate? Clearly, they were meant to be seen from above. To me, this leads to one inescapable conclusion: Gith civilization! Which then connects us to the identity of Shiprock! Literally, a rock, a giant rock protruding up from the flat plain, that is actually a ship! (more in a future post on this subject....)

Anyway, so the Anasazi are the local humans, a distant relation to the Meso-American civilizations of the Mayans and Aztecs, who have some sort of connections to the Githyanki and their amazing sky ships. Yeah, adventuring hooks galore there, don't you think? Especially for a campaign which includes psionics! Oh yes, now you see why this is such a rich vein to mine for AZ Adventures....

The Mind Flayers come in here, too, definitely. The blood-thirsty, human-sacrificing Anasazi as friends/allies/worshippers of/tools of the Mind Flayers? Hmm, maybe, I will have to let that one marinate for awhile....

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