Q. Is it possible to estimate the
life span of the people of Castle Rock and the surrounding areas?
Q. Why did the Puebloans live in cliff houses instead
of tepees? Was it war or something? I have heard many answers, but
what is the real answer? What is your theory?
Q. What kinds of stuff do you find?
Q. Did the Anasazi have any type of spoken language?
Q. What did the Anasazi use to build their homes and
Q. How big (and deep) were kivas?
Q. What are archaeologists at Crow Canyon studying?
Q. How did they Anasazi make their pottery? What did
they use to paint their pottery, and how did they choose their designs?
Is it possible to estimate the life span of the people of Castle
Rock and the surrounding areas?
The term life span can be confusing since people use
it to mean two different things. It can mean how long a person lived,
or it can be an estimate of a group's average age at death. For
past societies, both types of information are determined from the
human skeletal remains found during archaeological excavations.
For example, the oldest person who died at Castle Rock Pueblo is
thought to have been about 50 years old, although in the general
Mesa Verde region the average age at death is estimated to have
been 35 years old. This factors in a really high infant death rate;
a child who survived five years had a good chance of reaching his
or her forties or fifties. The oldest remains I've analyzed (from
another site) were from a woman who died when she was in her sixties.
However, a woman's life span, on average, was shorter because of
childbirth deaths. The ancestral Pueblo average age at death might
seem low, but it was pretty typical for groups all over the world
until the discovery of antibiotics helped lower the infant death
rate. Life span, in the sense of the duration of life, is also pretty
consistent among humans, with people frequently living until their
eighties. Disease, malnutrition, and warfare make the average age
at death vary from group to group.
Bioarchaeologists (biologist + archaeologist) estimate
an individual's age using several techniques. Since every person's
skeleton varies somewhat in how it develops, we can only estimate
age. We estimate a child's age by tooth eruption, the length of
the long bones, and from certain things having to do with skeletal
development. For example, the ends of the bones have knobby parts
called epiphyses (e-piff-e-seas). The knuckles are some of
the hand's epiphyses. The epiphyses form and fuse to their bone
shafts at fairly specific times. For instance, the distal epiphysis
(knee) of the femur (upper leg) forms at an early age, but doesn't
fuse until the late teens. Adult age estimates are based on age-related
changes in the pelvis or the ends of the ribs, how much the sutures
in the skull have fused together, and even how worn the teeth are.
The books that explain how to estimate adults' ages are pretty technical,
but you might be able to find a biology book that shows how kids'
skeletons develop. As for when teeth come in, look in your own mouth,
or those of your friends-but not when they're eating!
was answered by Cindy Bradley, Physical Anthropologist. Top
Why did the Puebloans live in cliff houses instead of tepees? Was
it war or something? I have heard many answers, but what is the
real answer? What is your theory?
The ancestral Puebloans (the Anasazi) lived in pueblos instead of
tepees because these structures fit their lifestyle. As you probably
know, Puebloan people (both past and present) were farmers. Farmers
stay in one place to plant, cultivate, and harvest their crops (in
this case, corn, beans, and squash). A pueblo was a permanent village
made out of sandstone rocks. It could survive the cold winters and
hot summers of the Southwest. And I think they are pretty comfortable
places to live.
I think that
tepees were neat houses, too, but they were very different from
pueblos. Tepees were designed to be easily moved. The people who
used them were mostly hunters and gatherers. They needed to be able
to move from place to place to follow the herds of animals and to
find seasonal plants. A pueblo would not make sense for these people.
So they developed a warm, comfortable structure that fit a traveling
Archaeologists still don't know for sure why the
ancient Puebloans moved from villages on top of the mesas to cliff
dwellings within the canyons. Some think that they were worried
about being attacked. There was a severe drought at that time, and
people might have been fighting over food and water.
prepare for violence, even if they do not fight all the time. The
United States has a large army and lots of weapons. We are not at
war right now, but we worry about the possibility of war and try
to be prepared for it. Maybe this was true for the ancient Puebloans,
was answered by Sara Kelly, Archaeology Educator. Top
What kinds of stuff do you find?
A. The kinds of artifacts that I find in ancestral Pueblo sites
include grayware pottery used for cooking and storing food, decorated
(Black-on-white) pottery used for serving, chipped-stone tools,
grinding stones, and tools such as awls, needles, and spatulas,
made from animal bones. Most of the artifacts that archaeologists
find are bits of ancient trash left behind by ordinary people. Sometimes
we find whole pots, arrowheads, or other complete tools. These are
beautiful objects and they are enjoyable to find, but finding the
artifact is not the objective or the end in itself. I immediately
start to wonder why someone left this perfectly good tool behind
when they moved. Did they move too far away to come back and get
it? Were they planning to return but never had the chance? How did
this whole tool or vessel get in this spot where I found it?
question was answered by Ricky Lightfoot, Archaeologist.
Did the Anasazi have any type of spoken language?
Yes! Although the Anasazi (ancestral Puebloans is another name for
them) did not have a written language, they most certainly did have
a spoken language. Any group of people need to be able to communicate,
and the Anasazi were no different.
We do know that
they spoke to each other, but we cannot be sure what their language
sounded like. Our best clues come from the languages of the modern
Puebloan people who live in Arizona and New Mexico. You might be
suprised to learn that six different languages (Tewa, Tiwa, Towa,
Keres, Hopi, and Zuni) are spoken in modern Pueblo villages and
that these languages come from four different language families.
An example of a language family is the Romance family
which includes Spanish, Italian, and French. These languages are
descended from Latin, the language of the ancient Romans.
Because so many
different languages are spoken in the modern Pueblos, and because
there are no written records of ancient Puebloan languages, archaeologists
do not know which ancestral languages were spoken in which ancient
villages in the Southwest.
was answered by Scott Ortman, Material CultureSpecialist. Scott
has a special interest in anthropological linguistics. Top
What did the Anasazi use to build their homes and ladders?
A. The ancestral Puebloans (another name for the Anasazi) used a
number of different materials to build their homes. Early Pueblo
Indian homes were built partly underground. Archaeologists
call these pithouses. The
walls were earthen (made of dirt). Large logs, usually made out
of juniper trees, and smaller sticks formed the frame of the house.
The house frame was covered with adobe, a mixture of dirt, ashes,
and water. When dried, the adobe served as a protective covering
against the sun, wind, and rain. The family probably had to repair
their adobe roof regularly to keep it in good shape.
later ancestral Puebloans built aboveground rooms from
sandstone rocks covered with adobe.
They chipped the sandstone into rectangular shaped blocks and used
adobe mortar to cement the blocks in place and cover the stone walls.
They built the ceilings out of large and small wooden beams. These
buildings had rows of connected rooms and sometimes were two or
more stories high. They looked a lot like our apartment buildings.
These buildings we call pueblos. Another type of house was
the kiva. These round buildings were most often built underground.
Kiva walls were made of stone, dirt, and adobe. Ceilings were made
out of wood and covered with a layer of earth.
were very important for reaching the rooftops of pueblos and for
entering the underground pithouses or kivas. Ladders were generally
made out of sturdy wood, such as oak or juniper. Because the ancestral
Puebloans had no nails, they had to tie the rungs of the ladders
to the posts or wedge them between two upright posts.
you can imagine, building a house like the ancestral Puebloans had
to do was a lot of work! You can look at drawings of more ancient
house types on our Web site in Pueblo
Indian History. Top
big (and deep) were kivas?
all houses, kivas varied in size from family to family. Most were
about 12 feet across and 9 feet deep. A class that I was teaching
recently was able to comfortably fit 16 people into a kiva of that
size that we visited at Mesa
Verde National Park. Some kivas were built especially for an
entire village to go to for special gatherings. These can be as
big as 50 feet across and 12 feet deep! Top
What are archaeologists at Crow Canyon studying?
Crow Canyon archaeologists are studying the ruins of American Indian
settlements in southwestern Colorado that were occupied between
A.D. 1050 and 1300. These settlements were built and used by Indians
whose modern descendants include the Hopi, the Zuni, the Acoma,
and other tribes who live in the pueblos of Arizona and New Mexico
today. These ancestral Pueblo Indians lived in southwestern Colorado
until around A.D. 1280, when they migrated south into Arizona and
New Mexico. Crow Canyon archaeologists are interested in learning
more about these ancestral Pueblo communities by studying the collapsed
ruins of their villages and farms:
were their communities organized?
were their homes sometimes dispersed across the landscape in small
farm settlements and at other times aggregated into large villages?
was there such an abrupt and large-scale migration out of the
region just before A.D. 1300?
did no one return?
use scientific methods to collect and evaluate data and answer scientifically
posed questions. The places we choose to excavate, how we excavate,
and what we collect are all influenced by what questions we are
asking and what we hope to learn.
question was answered by Ricky Lightfoot, Archaeologist.
How did they Anasazi make their pottery? What did they use to paint
their pottery, and how did they choose their designs?
was produced by a method called coiling and scraping. A clay "snake"
is coiled around in a spiral, forming the base to a vessel (a bowl,
for instance). Additional "snakes" or coils are added
on, creating the basic shape of the vessel.
Then the coils are scraped together, erasing all signs of the individual
coils. The ancestral Puebloans probably used shaped pieces of wood
or gourds as "scrapers" to do this work. Smooth stones
were used to "polish" the surfaces of bowls.
Puebloan pottery is called Black-on-White. The white is from the
color of the clay. The black paint used for the designs was made
from boiled plants (like beeweed or tansy mustard) or from crushed
rock with iron in it (such as hematite). Paint brushes were made
from the fibers of the yucca plant.
you can see many examples of our own culture's use of designs. For
instance, most of our clothing has some design, pattern, logo, or
motto on them. These elements may be important to the wearer or
may not mean anything at all. This also holds true for decorations
on our tools, dishes, houses, cars, etc. The ancient Pueblo people
were no different. They too used designs in their daily life. These
designs may have had specific meaning to them or may have just been
decoration. Unfortunately, we can't ask them where they got the
inspiration for their designs. Modern day Pueblo people have helped
archaeologists in explaining some ancient images. Because of their
ties with the ancient Pueblo people, modern Pueblo people can give
unique interpretations to past designs.
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