ARCHAEOLOGY OF CACTUS RUIN:
Cactus Ruin is modeled after Roys Ruin, an ancestral Pueblo Indian site located in southwestern Colorado. Roys Ruin was excavated in 1988 by the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center as part of a large excavation project, which consisted of sampling 14 archaeological sites. The complete site report is available on Crow Canyons Web site (Chapter 4, Roy's Ruin, The Sand Canyon Archaeological Project: Site Testing). The paper excavation is closely patterned after the actual excavation findings, including the distribution of artifacts and samples, at Roy's Ruin.
Roys Ruin is located on a mesa top in the Sand Canyon area. It consists of a masonry rubble mound, a kiva depression, a collapsed tower, and a midden. To test the site, a random sample was employed, resulting in only a small percent of the site being excavated. Tree-ring dates and pottery analysis suggest that the site was a small habitation occupied in the early A.D. 1200s. Pottery studies and features suggest that there may have had an earlier occupation during the A.D. 1100s.
Figure 3: Print six to eight copies (enough for the number of student groups). Figure 3 grid squares are reusable in future instruction. Cut Figure 3 into the 54 excavation units along the grid lines. (We suggest laminating the excavation unit pieces and storing them in clear plastic 35mm slide holders, in order by excavation unit number.)
Figures 4 through 6: Print multiple copies (enough for the number of student groups).
Note: You can laminate some figures for multiple uses. Figure 2 and Figure 6, however, will need to be printed out for each lesson because the students will write on them.
2. Explain the concept of conservation archaeology: for decades, archaeologists excavated entire sites, but today archaeologists practice what is referred to as "conservation archaeology," which is based on the premise that excavation is destructive. Once an excavation has occurred, the exact conditions of the artifacts, architecture, and soil layers can never be recreated. Therefore, it is important to limit excavations in an effort to preserve portions of a site for future research.
3. Share with the students how the steps for conducting archaeological research relate to the scientific method. If desired, you can draw the chart below to show students how the two methods relate to each other.
4. Explain the concept of sampling strategy: archaeologists do not need to "dig up" an entire site to answer their research questions. In most cases, only a portion of the site is excavated and a sample of the data is collected. By employing a well-thought-out research design, archaeologists focus their sampling strategies on parts of the site that will yield the maximum amount information for their research. This lesson is structured to reinforce that concept. Where the students chose to excavate is determined by their research design and the kinds of evidence for which they are looking.
5. Divide the class into groups of 2 to 5 students. Explain to the students that they will use a sampling strategy to learn about the people who lived at this site over 700 years ago.
6. Pass out the drawing of Cactus Ruin (Figure1) and the map of the topography (Figure 2). Emphasize that Figure 1 shows the visible remains of collapsed structures. Figure 2 is a topographic map that represents all the archaeological remains present on the modern ground surface. Have the students locate the datum. The datum is a point established by archaeologists when they map a site. It is the point form which all horizontal and vertical measurements are made. Do the students understand the topographic lines? What type of structures are located at Cactus Ruin? What are you likely to find if you excavate the rubble mound? the kiva depression? the tower? the midden?
7. Distribute the Map Key (Figure 4). Using the Map Key ask the students to make observations about the site and midden artifacts.
8. Distribute the Research Report (Figure 6). Ask the students to write a research question about the people who lived at the site and record the question in box one of the Research Report. Refer to the following chart for examples.
9. Discuss how to state the question as a hypothesis in box two. Encourage the students to identify the kinds of evidence that will answer their research hypothesis and to record their answers in box three. In box four ask the students to identify what parts of the site (i.e., roomblock, kiva, midden) they will excavate to find that evidence. For example, if the students want to find a tree-ring date, they should look in the kiva area. Burned beams in kiva roofs are preserved well enough to yield tree-ring dates.
10. Once the students have completed boxes one through four of the research report, ask them to identify eight excavation units that they will be sampling. Ask the students to list them in box five.
11. When the students have chosen their excavation units, ask one team member to come to the notebooks and select the appropriate excavation units. Using the map Key (Figure 4) and Plant List (Figure 5), have the students list the artifacts and other evidence they discovered in box six. The students will most likely find other evidence that does not relate to their hypothesis, but this information is also important. The students should list this information in box seven.
12. Ask the student to write a paragraph that summarizes what they learned about the site. (Use the back side of the Research Report.) Did their excavations support or contradict their hypothesis?
Canyon Archaeological Center, 23390 Road K, Cortez CO 81321