9. The Corn Was Imported
By the time 1100 rolled around, a couple of thousand people lived in Chaco Canyon. They were at their cultural zenith and had political power over a vast area. Yet, they lived on land too salty to grow staple foods such as corn and beans. The quality of the soil prevented these crops from producing enough to feed the masses, and tree ring studies showed that there wasn’t enough rain. Either few people lived in the valley or corn was imported. Scientists believed the second was more likely.
Ancient ruins indicate that not only did a large population live at Chaco but roads linked them with other Pueblo communities. One of these was a settlement 50 miles to the west. Hugging the eastern flank of the Chuska Mountains, they had the water to raise corn in abundance. There’s no direct evidence this was Chaco’s corn supplier, but the two groups are known to have traded other items, so the idea is not so far-fetched. What researchers cannot understand is why anybody wanted to live in the harsh Chaco Canyon.