Ancestral Pueblo Archaeology of the Four Corners

Exclusive Field Trip for the SAR Board and President’s Council

September 23–25, 2011

Castle RockCastle RockPhotograph courtesy of Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
Castle Rock
Bowl FragmentBowl FragmentPhotograph courtesy of Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
Bowl Fragment
Sand CanyonSand CanyonPhotograph courtesy of Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
Sand Canyon
Dillard SiteDillard SitePhotograph courtesy of John Kantner
Dillard Site

Join us as we explore the post-Chacoan world of the Four Corners region. Between A.D. 1030 and 1130, Chaco Canyon was the most influential cultural and political center in the Pueblo world. Its monumental “great houses” were likely elite residences and the focus for trade, ceremony, and political deal-making. Then, in the early 1100s, construction at Chaco Canyon waned, even as villages in the Four Corners area, including Mesa Verde, began to flourish. We explore this fascinating time and place, examining elements of architecture, artifacts, and ethnography, and discussing the development of communities and movement of ancestral Pueblo people across the landscape in the wake of Chaco’s collapse.

Friday, September 23

Guests arrive in late afternoon at the Holiday Inn Express in Cortez, CO. After dinner at Crow Canyon’s campus, archaeologist Mark Varien provides a brief overview of Four Corners archaeology, preparing us for the experiences of the upcoming days.

Saturday, September 24

Our exploration begins with a visit to the Albert Porter Pueblo where Crow Canyon conducted excavations between 2001 and 2004. Project director Susan Ryan discusses the use of Albert Porter Pueblo, shares evidence of Chacoan influence at the site, and shows how the site continued to grow during the post-Chaco era. Crow Canyon’s research at Albert Porter has the potential to provide important new insights into community organization, the development of—or resistance to—social inequality, and the role of public architecture in the development of social complexity.

We then proceed to Goodman Point, where project director Grant Coffey takes us through Crow Canyon’s recent excavation program. Goodman Point was the first archaeological area set aside for protection in the United States when it was withdrawn from homesteading in 1889. It is now a 143-acre preserve containing 42 archaeological sites—perhaps the highest site density in southwestern Colorado. The largest site is Goodman Point Pueblo, which was occupied in the 13th century and contains 600–800 structures. The long history of protection has preserved an entire cultural landscape, with many features that are no longer preserved anywhere else in the region. This includes ancient roads, trails, and agricultural fields.

At the nearby Sand Canyon Community, we discuss the centuries-long occupation of the area that ended with the development of large aggregated villages that were built during the late 13th century. We will visit Sand Canyon Pueblo, which is one of the largest and most archaeologically significant in the central Mesa Verde region with an estimated 420 rooms, 90 kivas, 14 towers, and a great kiva.

This evening we are guests of Guy and Ruth Drew at Guy Drew Vineyards in McElmo Canyon. McElmo Canyon contains spectacular red rock formations and many Ancestral Pueblo Indian ruins. The combination of mineral-rich alluvial soils and the abundant sunlight provide excellent grape-growing conditions and very flavorful wine. The Drews have been a driving force behind the current agricultural transformation of the canyon—the latest in a long history of transformations that have taken place in the McElmo Canyon agricultural region since the AD 600s. We are in for a special treat, as Ruth and Guy host a lovely dinner just for our group.

Sunday, September 25

After breakfast, we are joined by Dr. Scott Ortman and return to McElmo Canyon to tour Castle Rock Pueblo. Built on and around a steep-sided butte in the mid-1200s, Castle Rock yields important information about warfare in the last years of Puebloan occupation of the Mesa Verde region. Scott will discuss what those analyses reveal about the occupation of the site. Dr. Mark Varien has worked with Hopi scholars and he will share their oral traditions related to this site.

We then visit Yucca House to discuss the changes in settlement patterns that took place over time and explore the changes in Pueblo culture they imply. Dr. Scott Ortman shares his recent dissertation research, which applies linguistics and ethnography to ancestral Pueblo sites to reconstruct the movement of people out of the Mesa Verde region in the late 13th century. Yucca House is an example of a site that is remembered today as an ancestral Tewa village.

Trip Leaders

Cost per person: $1300 for double occupancy, $1450 for single occupancy, includes 2 nights lodging at the Holiday Inn Express in Cortez, Colorado; all meals starting with dinner on Friday, September 23rd and ending with lunch on Sunday, September 25th; van transportation to archaeological sites in and around Cortez; lectures and guides; and a $200 tax-deductible donation to the School for Advanced Research. Transportation to and from Cortez from Santa Fe, New Mexico is not included
Activity Level: The trip involves easy to moderate short walking segments on uneven surfaces for up to a mile over the course of the day.
Reservations: Please call the SAR membership Office at (505) 954-7230 to register or to receive additional information about this trip. Space is limited, so call early. Payment must be paid-in-full at time of registration; 60-day cancellation policy is in effect.

Dr. Mark D. Varien, research and education chair, has worked at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center since 1987. Mark’s Ph.D. dissertation on Mesa Verde regional settlement patterns was awarded the Society for American Archaeology’s Best Dissertation Award and was later published as a book, Sedentism and Mobility in a Social Landscape: Mesa Verde and Beyond. Mark’s professional interests include household and community organization, the formation of cultural landscapes, human impact on the environment, archaeology and public education, and American Indian involvement in archaeology.

Dr. John Kantner, Vice President for Academic and Institutional Advancement at the School for Advanced Research, currently directs the Lobo Mesa Archaeological Project in west-central New Mexico. The goal of his research is to understand the Chaco Canyon phenomenon and its impact on the prehistory of the American Southwest, an interest explored in his book, The Ancient Puebloan Southwest.

Guest Scholars

Dr. Scott Ortman is currently an Omidyar Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute and the Lightfoot Fellow at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. Scott completed his dissertation at Arizona State University in 2009, and it won the Don D. and Catherine S. Fowler Prize for the best manuscript in anthropology. Scott’s work examines the biological, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds of contemporary Pueblo Indian peoples and develops a new theory concerning migration from the Mesa Verde region and the formation of Pueblo groups in the northern Rio Grande during the 13th century A.D.

Susan Ryan is the project director for Crow Canyon’s Albert Porter Pueblo Project and assistant director for the Shields Pueblo Project. Susan’s current research focuses on semiotics and the variation of architectural features in Chaco and post-Chaco period great houses in the northern San Juan region. She holds an M.A. from New Mexico State University and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona.

Grant Coffey is project director of Phase II of Crow Canyon’s recent Goodman Point Archaeological Project. He has published research on the formation of villages during the early A.D. 900s, a critical but poorly understood period in the Mesa Verde region, and on the formation of cultural landscapes in the Goodman Point area, with a focus on the transition between the Chaco and post-Chaco periods. He holds an M.A. from Northern Arizona University.

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