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New Thoughts on Pueblo Bonito’s “Tree of Life”

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Chaco Pueblo BonitoTUCSON, ARIZONA—According to a Live Science report, Chris Guiterman of the University of Arizona thinks the so-called Plaza Tree, a 20-foot-long tree trunk unearthed in the center of Chaco Canyon’s Pueblo Bonito in 1924, did not hold symbolic or religious meaning for the residents. It had been previously suggested that the trunk was the center of a religious cult, or that it came from a “tree of life” which symbolized “the center of the world.” Guiterman’s analysis of strontium isotopes in the wood and comparison of its tree rings with those of modern trees suggests it grew more than 50 miles away, in the Chuska Mountains, and not in the center of the ancient town. An examination of records of the initial excavation of Pueblo Bonito also revealed that no evidence of deep tree roots was uncovered in the plaza. Guiterman suggests the tree trunk may have been used by the residents of Pueblo Bonito as a pole, a construction beam, a bench, or even firewood. “I don’t know what it was used for, or why it was located in the plaza where it was found,” he concluded. To read about imported goods from Mesoamerica that were found within buildings at Chaco Canyon, go to "Early Parrots in the Southwest."

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