Two processes characterize the later precontact history (twelfth-fourteenth centuries) of the northern part of the American Southwest: aggregation of people into large towns and depopulation of large regions. These processes have been explained as the result of environmental, economic, and social factors, including drought and warfare. Using a theoretical perspective based on Pauketat’s “historical processualism,” we argue that aggregation and depopulation are partly the result of historical developments surrounding the expansion and collapse of the Chaco regional system. We present our understanding of the Chaco regional system from the perspective of historical processualism; then, historical developments in the northern San Juan and Cibola regions-northern and southern frontiers of the Chaco world-are compared. The northern San Juan"s historically close ties with Chaco Canyon, the post-Chaco regional center at Aztec, and other factors ultimately resulted in the region’s depopulation. In the Cibola region, ties with Chaco were more tenuous and use of Chacoan ideology appears to have been strongest in the post-Chaco era, though no post-Chaco regional center emerged. Instead, large towns developed. Built on novel combinations of independent histories, ritual, and experience with Chaco, large towns enhanced stability. They were encountered by early Spanish explorers and some persist to the present day.