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CDI was envisioned as a “virtual” collection of the scattered Chaco Canyon information that would be integrated in a manner such that scholars could more easily assemble the types of data most relevant to a variety of important research questions. Currently the archive contains collection material from over eight institutions across the country.

CDI is a collaborative effort to create a digital archive that will integrate much of the widely dispersed archaeological data collected from Chaco Canyon in the late 1890s and the first half of the 20th century. Today the ruins of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park hold great meaning to many Native American Nations of the Southwest as sites of ancestral importance. Having stood the test of time, the ruins of Chaco Canyon entered the broader public consciousness in the late nineteenth century as a vivid symbol of the cultural resources of the United States. In 1987, Chaco Canyon was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site signaling its importance as a valued part of international cultural patrimony. Today, Chaco era ruins continue to be a focus of preservation efforts both domestically and abroad. Early excavations of the 1890s and 1920s in Chaco Canyon centered on discovering the genesis and evolution of the prehistoric “Anasazi” inhabitants. These early research efforts, conducted by the American Museum of Natural History, the National Geographic Society, and the Smithsonian placed Chaco at the center of the evolving discipline of archaeological science. Today, the Chacoan Phenomenon (Irwin-Williams 1978) continues to be a touchstone in debates about prehistoric culture change within the discipline of archaeology. The mission of the Chaco Digital Initiative is to ensure that the early archaeological research records are preserved for and accessible to future generations. Currently these materials are scattered around the country at various repository institutions, making it difficult to answer some fundamental research questions. Our goal is to make the research and human history of this national treasure available through a comprehensive digital research archive that will allow people to search information such as field notes, images, maps, and tree ring dates by user specified criteria. Users will also be able to browse data through a graphical interface. When completed in 2009, we hope that the Chaco Digital Initiative will continue to place Chaco Canyon at the forefront of preservation efforts in the United States and abroad and serve as a model for the role of new technologies in archaeological scholarship.


Stephen Plog, Commonwealth Professor of Anthropolgy, Principal Investigator Worthy Martin, Associate Director IATH Robbie Bingler, Senior Programmer Analyst IATH Carrie Heitman, Assistant Director Abby Holeman, Senior Researcher Adam Watson, Senior Researcher


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) National Science Foundation

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