Cannibalism in Chaco Canyon: The charnel pit excavated in 1926 at Small House ruin by Frank H.H. Roberts, Jr.



A charnel pit that contained the disarticulated and intentionally damaged remains of eight incomplete adult and subadult Anasazi skeletons was found and excavated in 1926 by F. H. H. Roberts, Jr., at an AD 900 ruin he named Small House, located in Chaco Canyon, northwestern New Mexico. Damage includes extensive perimortem cranial and postcranial bone breakage, cut marks, anvil hammerstone abrasions, burning, many missing vertebrae, and fragment end-polishing. Together, these six types of perimortem damage are believed to be the taphonomic signature of prehistoric Anasazi cannibalism. The possible cause of the Small House episode is discussed within the framework of two explanatory models-random social pathology and institutionalized social control by violent means. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.