Dr. John Kantner, University of North Florida

Publications on Chaco Canyon and the Chaco World

Dr. Kantner's publications on the so-called Chaco "phenomenon" appear in both academic outlets and in less-technical formats. A sample of this work is listed below.

Books

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In Dr. Kantner's 2004 book, he traces the evolution of Puebloan society in the American Southwest from the emergence of the Chaco and Mimbres in the AD 1000s through the early decades of contact with the Spanish in the sixteenth century. Based on a diverse range of archaeological data, historical accounts, oral history and ethnographic records, this introduction for students of the Puebloan Southwest is vital reading for any archaeologist concerned with the origins of early civilizations.

  • Canadian Journal of Archaeology

    "...a tour de force of archaeological synthesis...[I]t identifies major themes in prehistory, while also providing a sample of the great variation..."

    Kiva: The Journal of Southwestern Anthropology and History

    "John Kantner has crafted a captivating and highly readable book devoted to ancient Puebloan developments in the American Southwest."

    Santa Fe New Mexican

    "If you're looking for a broad introduction to the ancient Puebloan culture, this informed and well-organized book is a pleasure to read."

    Mark Bernstein Book Notes

    "This superb book surveys our current archaeological understanding of the Puebloan Southwest, from origins through contact...deals masterfully with controversies and heresies, showing where the professional disagreements lie without allowing the text to be consumed with them. Kantner deals judiciously and well with modern techniques and trends..."

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This 2000 volume brings together twelve chapters by archaeologists who suggest that the relationship between Chaco Canyon and outlying communities was not only complex but highly variable. Their new research reveals that the most distant groups may have simply appropriated Chacoan symbolism for influencing local social and political relationships, whereas many of the nearest communities appear to have interacted closely with the central canyon--perhaps even living there on a seasonal basis.

  • Traditional Dwellings & Settlements Review

    "The multifaceted approach . . . provides different and sometimes refreshing perspectives on Chaco. Their contributions offer new insight into what a Chacoan community is, and they shed new light on the nature of interactions among prehistoric communities. "

    American Antiquity

    "The volume is well illustrated with maps and photographs including some of Kantner's computer generated reconstructions of great houses repositioned in their settings...The volume is data rich and addresses issues of general importance to archaeology..."

    Antiquity

    "Drs. Kantner & Mahoney introduce 10 studies of architecture, economies, rites, and settlement history among the fascinating residential groups in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, and its 'outliers'. [They] suggest that local autonomy was more prevalent than has been assumed..."

    Mark Bernstein Book Notes

    "This is a lovely collection of essays, accessible, engaging, disputatious, and sometimes hilarious."

Journal Articles

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Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2019, this article reports the results of an extensive analysis of fingerprints left by potters in the paste of Chaco-era pottery. Drawing upon forensic research on fingerprints, Dr. Kantner and his co-authors were able to confidently identify the sex of the potters. Surprisingly, despite the conventional wisdom that ancient potters were mostly women, the fingerprints were made by both males and females, with the exact proportions varying substantially over short periods of time and small distances.


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This 2012 article, co-authored with Andrew Duff, Jeremy Moss, Tom Windes, and Steve Shackley, compiles and discusses several sourcing studies on obsidian artifacts dating to the Chaco era (approximately AD 800–1150) in the northern Puebloan Southwest. In addition to reanalyzing obsidian recovered from Chaco Canyon, this study includes artifacts recovered from Kantner's Lobo Mesa Archaeological Project and Andrew Duff's field sites south of Zuni Pueblo. This data-rich article provides an important corrective to earlier studies on Chaco-era obsidian exchange.


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In 2004, Dr. Kantner organized a special peer-reviewed issue (69[2]) of Kiva: The Journal of Southwestern Anthropology and History on Chaco-era great house communities across the Southwest. In addition to the introductory article, he authored a chapter titled "Rethinking Chaco as a System." Other contributors to the volume include Ruth Van Dyke, Keith Kintigh, Dennis Gilpin, and Kathy Roler Durand. All of the authors conclude that Chaco Canyon's impact on surrounding populations was quite variable, ranging from direct control by the canyon to diffuse emulation by distant villages.


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This article published in Human Nature in 1999 (10[1]) argues that archaeologists working in the Southwest have erroneously considered all mutilated human remains as evidence of cannibalism. Through a statistical analysis of osteological data, combined with a cross-cultural discussion of violence, this article contends that different forms of violence are represented by the skeletal data. The article concludes with a game-theoretic assessment of why mutilation occurred during the 11th century.


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The Chaco "road system" has evoked great interest by archaeologists and the interested public, for the miles and miles of roadways across the desert -- some several meters wide -- seem incongruous for a society without wheeled vehicles or packed animals. This 1997 Expedition article reports the results of a GIS-based analysis demonstrating that the roads do not follow "economical" paths across the landscape; instead, they are oriented towards prominent natural features with likely cosmological importance.


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This 1996 article in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology reports the results of Dr. Kantner's M.A. thesis research on the Chaco-era great house communities of the Red Mesa Valley in NM. Based on a comparison of the local environments surrounding these communities, he argues that varying degrees of political competition could be predicted based on game-theoretic models and human behavioral ecology. The predicted levels of factionalism and centralization are then compared with the archaeological evidence for these sociopolitical phenomena.


Book Chapters

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Although not directly about the Chaco phenomenon, Crucible of Pueblos (2012), edited by Richard Wilshusen, Gregson Schachner, and James Allison, discusses formative developments in the Puebloan world, many of which set the social, cultural, religious, and political stage for Chaco Canyon to emerge as an 11th-century monumental center. The final chapter, written by Dr. Kantner, synthesizes the volume and identifies issues that merit further archaeological investigation.


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Under the direction and editorship of F. Joan Mathien, the Archaeological Society of New Mexico published The Casamero Community in the Red Mesa Valley of Northwestern New Mexico, which assembles decades of research reports on the archaeology of this important Chaco-era community. Dr. Kantner contributed the volume's final chapter, which assesses the role of Casamero in the larger Chaco World of the 11th century A.D.


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This 2007 book, Religion in the Prehispanic Southwest, includes a chapter by Dr. Kantner that explores how the shape of religion changed in the century following the collapse of the Chaco Canyon pilgrimage center. In significant ways, religious behavior after Chaco was much more variable and accessible, attesting to how dominant and hierarchical religion likely was during the Chaco years. Also discussed is the continuing significance of Chaco Canyon for generations after its great houses were little more than crumbling ruins.


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Two decades after the latest and largest program of field research at Chaco--the National Park Service's "Chaco Project"--the original researchers and other leading Chaco scholars convened to evaluate what they now know about Chaco in light of new theories and new data. In this 2006 capstone volume, the contributors address central archaeological themes, including environment, organization of production, architecture, regional issues, and society and polity. Dr. Keith Kintigh and Dr. Kantner contributed a chapter on Chaco's impact in Puebloan communities outside of the canyon.


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For more than a century, archaeologists and others have pursued Chaco Canyon's many and elusive meanings. In Search of Chaco brings these explorations to a new generation of enthusiasts. This completely updated 2004 edition features seventeen original essays, scores of photographs, maps, and site plans, and the perspectives of archaeologists, historians, and Native American thinkers. Dr. Kantner contributed a chapter on great house communities to this highly readable book.