Chimney Rock Archaeological Area (CRAA) lies on 3,160 acres of San Juan National Forest land surrounded by the Southern Ute Indian
Reservation. Hundreds of individual sites dot the landscape. So far researchers have found 91 structures that may have been permanent structures, plus 27 work camps
near farming areas, adding up to more than 200 individual rooms. The high mesa holds 16 individual sites, 14 of which are residential. Four of these sites have been
excavated and stabilized and are visited on the tour. The sites visited are the Great Kiva, Pit House, Ridge House and Great House Pueblo. Other sites have been
excavated and studied, then reburied to protect them and the valuable information they hold.
The Great Kiva
The Great Kiva is like many other great kivas in Southwestern Pueblo sites in that it is much larger than the round dwellings and smaller kivas; it also contains interior features that are suggestive of the activities that took place within it. Though probably used by the men for ritualistic purposes like other great kivas, it might have also been used for secular activities. Its size suggests builders designed the kiva large enough to hold women and children for community meetings, work, and play as well as ceremonies.
Built on a base of bedrock, this above ground structure is believed by archaeologists to have been a residence. It consists of a circular living room backed by three attached rectangular rooms. These rooms are believed to have been used for food storage, tool making, and milling.
The Ridge House
This is a multi-room structure consisting of three circular rooms and two rectangular rooms. The site is believed to have been a residence of some type because of the artifacts that were found in the structure and in the nearby trash dumps. The construction features found are those of a residence and not the features commonly found in the ceremonial kivas.
The Great House
The Great House is the biggest, highest, and best built structure in the area. Chimney Rock is believed to be the furthest northeast outlier of the Chacoan culture and this structure is an example of Chacoan architecture. The distinctive Chacoan architecture displays finished stone surfaces laid in level courses with small chinks between the larger stones to keep the courses even. This type of construction is very different from the random rock placement of the Mesa Verde style construction of the lower Chimney Rock sites. Whoever built the Great House and why they took on such a task in such a formidable location may forever remain a compelling mystery.
East Kiva, Great House
This was the first of the two kivas built in the Great House. Dendrochronolgy (tree ring dating) indicates that the original construction was about 1076A.D. and that it was remodeled or reconstructed about 1093A.D.. Given the placement of the village on top of bedrock, the kiva could not be dug into the ground. To create a subterranean effect, retaining walls were built around the kiva wall and the space between the two walls was filled with dirt.
West Kiva, Great House
This kiva and the connecting room block are believed to have been built at a later date than the East Kiva. Though the features of each kiva are quite different, this one also has the subterranean effect with dirt fill between the kiva wall and the retaining walls.
Walls at the Great House
The residence and storage rooms to the side of the East Kiva show excellent examples of the original stone work of 1000 years ago. Examples of the doorways that were constructed between the living quarters are also seen.
Text from Chimney Rock, Colorado website.