Granaries with unique design features have been known to exist in the Northern
Sierra Madre Mountains associated with the Trincheras and Paquimé cultural
system for over a
hundred years. In the past decade granary systems have also been found at several
Salado sites, including School House Point Mound and Pumpkin Center, which is
Granary Row Locus 2. Evidence of other granaries is found at Canyon Creek and
in the San Pedro Valley, in central and southern Arizona, and in the Mimbres
area of southwestern
New Mexico. All of these appear to be late date post-Chaco sites.
The archaeological debate whether the smaller kivas at Chaco (C.E. 850
- 1130) were actually corn storage silos continues. In the Paquimé
(C.E. 1250 -1425) culture region, however, the silos or granaries are
self-evident. Corn must be stored at 12 percent or less moisture content
or it will mold. Silo (kiva) “benches” and horizontal wood beam pilasters,
like those found in Chaco Canyon N.M. kivas, may have supported a latticework
floor with an air space beneath to keep the corn dry (bottom right).
The space for the horizontal wood beam pilasters are clearly visible
on the exterior of the Paquimé granary (top right). In both cases,
these extensive and large granaries indicate corn was widely grown
throughout the region and then centralized for storage. In the Paquimé culture
region the corn was dried, stored and then transported to Paquimé itself,
approximately 75 miles from the Sky Island site. At Chaco, the corn was grown
up to 75 -100 miles away, transported to the central outliers, and then
transported again for storage in Chaco Canyon villages such as Pueblo
Bonito. Transhumance agriculture is strongly supported by the evidence in
this unique architecture. The collection of fertile water and the corn storage
strategy gave the Anasazi and Paquimé peoples the ability to survive many
short-term and a number of severe long-term droughts (above).
Paquimé Sky Island
hypotheses have led to scientific experiments on scale models (above).
Using an advanced alarm system, these tests emonstrated that the
carbon monoxide produced by one live charcoal briquette exceeded the
deadly level by 10 times in less than sixty seconds. This strongly
suggests that the ancients had knowledge of this naturally occurring
long-term corn storage strategy when they designed their public architecture.
Technology of Paquimé/Chaco Smoker Granaries-Kiva
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
Based on our research of Paquimé granaries, I 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 abandonment 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 use as long-term grain silos.
As excavated by Emil Haury, 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.
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 smoky chambers as emergency
living quarters. This storage strategy helped the Anasazi and Paquimé
peoples 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.