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  The Chaco kiva/silo debate among archaeologists continues to be a widely ignored concept. The basic question is whether all of the kiva-type rooms were just that, i.e. religious kivas, or were primarily long-term corn storage granaries. At Chaco Canyon, in Pueblo Bonito, there are at least four basic circular room designs. This would indicate that there were at least four different uses.

Based on our research of Paquimé granaries, we believe that the smaller Chaco kivas should be re-evaluated as multipurpose facilities that were primarily used as silos and, when empty were also used as living quarters previous to abandomnet and for religious blessing ceremonies after C.E. 1275. Many archaeologists agree with the living quarters theory, but fail to explain the hearth and ventilation system that produces carbon monoxide built into the smaller “kivas.” Our research indicates a completely new theory that explains the hearth and ventilation features. What I propose is that these Chaco silos were such high tech grain storage facilities that most archaeologists have not as yet accepted any theory as to their practical useas long term grain silos.

The Hohokam had a less well understood structure that had a raised floor, fire pit and schist stone risers, and may have functioned in the same way as kiva silos and olla granaries. Although burials are common in Hohokam pit houses, there is no burial documented in this room excavated by Emil Haury.
My original proposal, based on a study of the Paquimé

  granaries, is that the Anasazi used live coals in the hearth below the humidity control box to manage environmental conditions in the storage chamber above. The smoke and tannins released from the charcoal helped flavor, preserve, and protect the stored grain from mold, insect and rodent pests. Robert M. Adams, the archaeologist who proposed this very ingenious theory, also observes that carbon monoxide from a sealed chamber is a very effective pesticide that has no harmful effect on grain as a food product. Kivas, however, are very dangerous to humans who might be using these small, dark, and smokey chambers as emergency living quarters. This storage strategy helped the Anasazi and Paquimé people survive many droughts and contra-indicates living quarters and religious chambers.

It is important that there are no burials in the round rooms of Pueblo Bonito, said Roger Moore, an archaeologist at Chaco Culture Park. It is also significant that there are no burials in Granary Row at Pumpkin Center or School House Point. It is clear that these peoples avoided burials in food storage facilities. Burials are not associated with Granary Row at Pueblo Bonito or Salado granaries, further supporting our hypothesis for long-term food storage.

copyright 2005 - Richard D Fisher -