The villagers of Castle Rock Pueblo constructed a substantial number of buildings. All structures observed at the site were
built of sandstone masonry. Remnants of buildings were found around the base of Castle Rock butte, on top of at least one
large boulder, on a ledge midway up the north face of the butte, and on top of the butte. I estimate that at least 16 kivas, 40 rooms, nine possible
towers, a D-shaped enclosure, two dams and associated reservoirs, two
possible plazas, and numerous enclosing and
retaining walls were constructed. Archaeologists study architectural
remains in order to learn what types of buildings were constructed, how the
different buildings were used, and how many people lived at a site (see
"Population Estimates"). In this
section, I discuss the types and uses of various buildings observed at
Castle Rock, including rooms, kivas, towers, public architecture, and
defensive architecture. In "Settlement Organization", I discuss
how the village and the
people who lived in it were organized.
Accurately estimating the number of structures originally present at Castle Rock is a difficult task, especially for the top of
the butte and the southern portion of the site. Historic documents (Jackson 1981*1:379) and photographs (Figure 1 [close-ups a and b] and Figure 2 [close-up a]) indicate that at least three
structures stood on top of the
butte, but only the base of one, Structure 301, remains.
We found kivas at the south end of the site, and therefore we expected to find associated surface rooms. We examined the
ground surface in that area and excavated several test pits but found only one room (Structure 120). The sandstone rubble
on modern ground surface that usually signals the presence of rooms might have been collected in historic times. Historic
photographs show that much more sandstone rubble was visible on the modern ground surface at Castle Rock 100 years
ago than was present when Crow Canyon began testing in 1990 (Figure 2). Numerous historic buildings in
McElmo Canyon were constructed of shaped sandstone rocks that were probably collected from Pueblo ruins. Castle Rock
Pueblo would have been the source of a great quantity of shaped rocks and is easily accessible from the road by wagon or
The minimum estimate of 40 rooms for the site is based on both observation and inference. In addition to the 22 rooms for
which there is clear physical evidencethat is, rooms visible in historic photographs and/or exposed during
excavationtwo rooms per kiva were counted as a minimum likely to have existed for kivas for which fewer than two
surface structures were found nearby (see "Settlement Organization"). Rooms were
more or less rectangular and one story
tall, and they rested at ground level.
We considered various characteristics of rooms to try to learn how the
rooms were used. We examined the locations and sizes of the structures and
considered the types of features and artifacts found within them.
Structures 108, 111, 117, 119, 120, 122, 124, 308, and 404 are thought to
have been living, or habitation, rooms. (To view maps of a particular structure, go to the Castle Rock Pueblo Database and select the structure by number.) Domestic activities such as food preparation, eating, sleeping,
and other daily activities are believed to have occurred in these rooms,
because excavations exposed one or more hearths or firepits (in Structures
108, 111, 117, 119, 120, 122, and 124) or because they contained
food-processing (grinding) features (Structures 119, 124, 308, and 404).
Broken pots, various tools, and, in some rooms, eggshell fragments were
found on the floors, indicating cooking
or food preparation or possibly food storage.
The hearths and firepits in the surface
rooms and courtyards at Castle Rock Pueblo
were less carefully constructed than the hearths in the kivas. This was
also true at Sand Canyon Pueblo, a large village 7.5 km (4.7 mi) north of
Castle Rock that was inhabited at the same time. However, a smaller
percentage of the rooms at Sand Canyon contained hearths and firepits
than did those at Castle Rock (see "Kivas," below).
Structures 114, 121, 123, and 203 are thought to have been used as storage rooms, for the following reasons. The portion of
Structure 203 exposed during excavation had a steeply sloping floor, which is not characteristic of habitation rooms.
Structures 114, 121, and 123 were "back" rooms in a roomblock, a
location typical for storage rooms (Lightfoot 1993*2:298).
Also, Structures 121 and 123 were very small and were built against an
irregular section of the butte face in such a way that a person probably
could not have stood upright in them. Although none of the four rooms was
excavated, no evidence of hearths or food preparation was found.
Sixteen structures at Castle Rock Pueblo were identified as kivas. The term kiva is used here as an architectural label and is
not intended to imply the manner of structure use. Architecturally, the typical thirteenth-century kiva in the Mesa Verde
region was underground, circular, and lined with masonry; it had an encircling bench, several pilaster roof supports, a hearth, a deflector, a sipapu, and a ventilator system. During testing
of the kivas at Castle Rock, many of these typical
characteristics were observed, but several interesting architectural modifications were also present.
Modifications to Traditional Kiva Construction
Several adjustments in kiva architecture in the Mesa Verde region resulted from a change in preferred settlement location
during the mid- to late A.D. 1200s. Puebloan people had inhabited the region for 1,400 years, and for most of that time
they had lived on and farmed rolling uplands, mesa tops, and other
locations that had deep, farmable soils. In the mid-1200s, however, people
moved from these prime agricultural locations (Adler
1994*1:9394) to canyon heads and rims, talus slopes, cliff overhangs, and,
in the case of Castle Rock Pueblo, a small butte in McElmo Canyon. These
new locations were characterized by shallow soils, rocky slopes, and
outcrops of sandstone bedrock. This shift had a major impact on the
construction of kivas, which traditionally had been underground structures.
Around Castle Rock butte, the natural depth of the soil or other sediment
varied, but in most areas it was too shallow to enable the construction of
a fully underground kiva without hitting bedrock. Builders therefore used
various methods to achieve the desired underground effect. The depths of
kiva floors below modern ground surface at Castle Rock vary widely across
the site, depending mostly on the depth of
To achieve the desired kiva depth, at least five of the 16 kivas at the site (Structures 103, 110, 112, 302, and 304) were
excavated partly into bedrock. In fact, the southeast portion of Structure 302 was excavated 1.5 m (nearly 5 ft) into
decomposing bedrock. The second adaptation to the shallow depth of bedrock, seen in Structure 103, was to extend the tops
of the kiva walls above the prehistoric ground surface. Dirt was then banked outside these walls for structural stability and
possibly to give the structure an underground appearance. This technique is believed to have been used in historic kiva
construction as well (Miller 1976*1:2526).
A third design modification was used for kivas in the very shallow sediment at the south end of the site. Structures 102,
107, and 204 were built where the sediment was only 1.0 to 1.2 m (3 to 4 ft) deep. Approximately 1.8 m (6 ft) of sediment
depth is needed for a kiva to be constructed completely underground. The existing depths of these kivas are such that
approximately the upper half of each structure must have been above the prehistoric ground surface. There is no evidence
that dirt was banked outside, so these walls were probably built more substantially than were the underground walls, which
were of masonry veneer one course thick and not designed to bear the load of a roof. Testing did not reveal how these
structures were roofed, nor the means of entry.
The fourth modification was an innovation for creating an underground kiva in a low spot in exposed bedrock. This method
is thought to have been used to construct Structures 402, 405, and 406.
First, a retaining wall was builtStructure 408 provided the retaining
structure for Structure 402, and walls east, south, and west of 405 and 406
enclosed those structures. The walls of the kivas were then constructed on
bedrock. Dirt was added in the space between the kiva walls and the
enclosing walls until the desired kiva wall heights were achieved and the
roofs could be added. The rooftops of the kivas
would have formed courtyards, neatly enclosed by the top few courses of the enclosing walls.
These innovations in kiva construction illustrate the lengths to which the inhabitants of Castle Rock Pueblo went to
position their village in this defensible location, even though the terrain was poorly suited to the construction of kivas.
Later, at Hopi and Zuni pueblos, kiva builders went to similar lengths to create the sense of being underground when
shallow, mesa-top sediments prevented actual underground construction (Mindeleff 1989*1:112113; Smith 1972*1:104; Webb and Weinstein 1987*1:33, Photo 29). What is the importance or
significance of the underground aspect or appearance of kivas? According
to Mindeleff (1989*1:117118), "old [Hopi] men say the kiva was excavated
in imitation of the original house in the interior of the earth, where the
human family were created, and from which they climbed to the surface of
the ground by means of a ladder, and through just such an opening as the
hatchway of the kiva." Similar explanations have been given by Fewkes
(1911*1:48) and by Swentzell (1988*1:1516), who maintains that the Tewa
kiva is most often partly or fully underground and must be entered from the
rooftop, simulating the symbolic
emergence hole of the Pueblo universe.
Another innovation appears in kiva architecture at Castle Rock. At least 14 of the 16 kivas at the site were circular, typical
of kivas in this region prehistorically. One kiva, however, was square (Structure 103). Another (Structure 112) might also
have been square, but not enough of the architecture was exposed during excavation to determine this for certain. Few square kivas
have been found in the region, although square kivas dating from the Pueblo III period are common in the upper Little Colorado area to
the south (Hill 1970*1:Figure 14; Martin
and Plog 1973*1:134). Square kivas were also constructed during the late
Pueblo III period in the Kayenta region of northeastern Arizona (Anderson
1966*1; Gumerman and Skinner 1968*1:191192; Judd 1930*1; Martin and Plog 1973*1:134; Schroedl 1989*1:342, 407) and in southeastern Utah (Lindsay et al. 1968*1:218, 245), but circular kivas were more
common in these areas (Martin and Plog 1973*1:134). Square
kivas are common in historic and modern Pueblo construction (Adams 1989*1:157; Hawley 1950*1:286; Lipe and Hegmon 1989*1:18; Mindeleff
1989*1:112, 124125; Parsons 1974*1:100; Smith 1972*1; Webb and
Weinstein 1987*1:Photo 91).
Some structures in the Mesa Verde region referred to as "square" kivas do not seem comparable to the square kiva at Castle
Rock. One rectangular room at Sand Canyon Pueblo (Structure 107) contained some kivalike features, but it lacked the
pilasters and benches that are characteristic of kiva architecture (Bradley 1992*2:Figure 7.2). A structure in Mug House at Mesa
Verde (Rohn 1971*1:8183) that is often referred to as a square kiva
consisted of a circular bench face built inside an existing square room.
This construction technique was similar to that used at Sand Canyon Pueblo
(Bradley 1992*2:83) and at the Great Tower Complex at Yellow
Jacket Pueblo (Site 5MT5) (Kuckelman 1997*1:14), where circular kivas were
built inside above-ground, rectangular masonry rooms that rested on
bedrock. The square shape of these kivas is thus thought to have been a
result more of circumstance than of innovation. The idea of enclosing
circular kivas inside square rooms during Pueblo III times in this region
might have come from earlier buildings in Chaco Canyon, New
Mexico (Hawley 1950*1:294).
The square kiva at Castle Rock (Structure 103) differs from the kivas just mentioned in that it was not built inside a
rectangular room. That is, because Stucture 103 was completely underground, the builders could have made it any shape
they wanted, and they chose to make it square. Few other completely underground square kivas have been reported from
this region, but those that are known were constructed in the mid-A.D. 1200s. The square kiva most similar to that at
Castle Rock was reported from Nancy Patterson Village (Thompson et al.1988*1:2833), a large site in southeastern Utah.
Unlike most other square kivas, but like the one at Castle Rock, the Nancy
Patterson kiva contained benches and pilasters. The square shape of the
Nancy Patterson kiva was recognized as representing "an unusual break with
cultural tradition" (Thompson et al. 1988*1:41).
Two other completely underground square kivas were excavated at Site 5MT9541 in southwestern Colorado (Billman
1996*1:16; Kleidon 1998*1:7397). These kivas contained
no pilasters, only the lower portions of the walls were of masonry, and the
only bench was the southern recess (Kleidon
1998*1:7397). Lancaster and Pinkley (1954*1:61)
mentioned the presence of four square kivas in Bone Awl House, a cliff
dwelling in lower Soda Canyon at Mesa Verde National Park. Jesse Nusbaum
apparently excavated two of those kivas in 1926 (Smith 1987*2:12), but
little information about this site was published. Linda Martin (personal
communication 1998) verified that these kivas were fully
underground; she described their shapes as "squarish with rounded corners."
The significance of square kivas is unknown. The first square kivas in the Mesa Verde region might have been constructed
simply as local experiments. Alternatively, the idea of a square or rectangular kiva could have been borrowed from regions
to the south (Adams 1988*3, 1989*1:155157; Gumerman and Skinner 1968*1:Figure 6; Hill
1970*1:Figure 14) or west (Lindsay et al.
1968*1:218220, 245247; Schroedl 1989*1:340349),
although square or rectangular kivas in those areas tend to be smaller,
tend to lack pilasters and formal benches, and tend not to be oriented
north-south. Or it is possible that the square kiva reflected the
beginning of some type of development or change in the ancestral Puebloan
In recent years, the exact use of the ancestral Pueblo structures that
archaeologists call kivas has been debated (Adler 1989*1; Cater and Chenault 1988*1; Lekson
1986*1:5051, 1988*1; Lipe and Hegmon
1989*2). Structures in ancient pueblos have been called kivas because
they are architecturally similar to buildings in modern pueblos that are
called kivas (Powell 1875*1:68). Because the modern
structures are used for the activities of men's societies (Hegmon 1989*2:9; Hewett and Dutton
1945*1:42) and for religious rites (Dozier 1970*1:140; Hewett and Dutton 1945*1:4142; Mindeleff
1891*1:130; Morgan 1965*1:208209) and dances (Parsons 1974*1:99), it has been assumed that ancient Pueblo
kivas were used for the same activities (Fewkes 1911*1:48; Powell 1875*1:68; Simpson 1964*1:37).
Recently, this assumption has been questioned and debated (Adler 1989*1; Cater and Chenault 1988*1; Lekson 1984*1:5051; Lipe 1989*1). The
debate focuses on whether ancient Pueblo kivas were used like modern
kivasprimarily reserved for men's meetings, social activities, and
religious ritesor whether they were used for family domestic
To use data from Castle Rock Pueblo to address the question of kiva use, we did the following: (1) looked at the locations
of hearths at the site; (2) compared the plant remains and animal bones from hearth ash in kivas and rooms; and (3)
compared the types of artifacts and features in kivas and rooms. Hearths are important indicators of domestic activity
because they were needed for preparing meals, for lighting, and for warmth. Where were hearths found at Castle Rock
Pueblo? Virtually every kiva at Castle Rock contained a hearth, which is also true at every other excavated site in the
region. If hearths were present only in kivas, then we might assume that many domestic activities occurred there. But if
hearths were also plentiful outside kivas, then domestic activities might have occurred at those other hearths, and the kiva
hearths might have had much more restricted and specialized uses.
At Castle Rock Pueblo, hearths and firepits were found in the majority of surface structures where excavations exposed the
floor (Structures 108, 111, 117, 119, 122, 124, 305, and 401), including four "front" rooms in one roomblock and two
possible towers. One informal firepit was also found in a courtyard south of Structure 119. This evidence suggests that
many domestic activities at Castle Rock Pueblo occurred outside kivas. A comparison of vegetal material from kiva hearths
and from other hearths, however, indicates that not only was food being prepared in both types of hearths, but the same
foods were being prepared in both places (see "Plant Evidence"). At Sand Canyon Pueblo, a relatively small number of surface
rooms contained hearths or firepits, although the hearths contained similar
Thus, many domestic activities might have occurred in kivas at that site.
Wall niches are common in kiva bench
faces but are rarely found in rooms or towers. It has been suggested that
kiva niches were used to store ceremonial objects (Mindeleff
1989*1:121) or to make offerings to gods (Brew
1946*1:213). If these activities took place only where niches are
found, then at least some ritual acts might have been restricted to kivas
Artifacts left on floors provide additional clues to structure use. From the scarcity of artifacts found on kiva floors and
benches at Castle Rock Pueblo, we assume that many objects were removed when the structure or village was no longer
inhabited. The artifacts that were left behind in kivas were not noticeably different, either in kind or in quantity, from the
artifacts found on the floors of surface roomsgrinding tools, broken pots,
animal bones, chipped-stone tools and debitage, bone awls, and an occasional pendant or whole
pottery vessel. This could be considered evidence that similar activities
place in surface rooms and kivas (see also "Artifacts").
In general, both hearth and artifact data suggest that there was not a strong division in the types of activities that occurred in
kivas as opposed to surface structures at Castle Rock. Thus, kivas might have been used for domestic as well as ritual
activities (Adler 1989*1; Lipe 1989*1). It
is also possible that structure use varied seasonally (Gilman
1987*1). Because they were underground, kivas would have been much easier
to heat and much less drafty than surface rooms. Many domestic activities
might have taken place in kivas in winter and then shifted to rooms or
courtyards in warmer
weather. There is also the possibility that not all kivas were used in
exactly the same way (Mindeleff 1989*1:130).
Finally, in this attempt to understand the uses of ancient kivas, it seems significant that, prehistorically, kivas were present
in most residence clusters. This is not true of modern kivas, which in general are larger, less numerous, and not directly
associated with individual residence clusters. This major change occurred
after A.D. 1300 (Hill 1970*1:88; Lipe
1989*1:Table 1), perhaps fairly abruptly. The timing suggests that a
dramatic change in how kivas were used coincided with the major population
relocation that began near the end of the thirteenth century (Lipe 1995*1:162). If kiva use has
in fact changed dramatically from ancient to historic times, then continued study of prehistoric kiva use is needed.
The term tower has been used loosely in Southwestern
archaeology. Structures called towers have not been defined
consistently on the basis of size, shape, height, location, or inferred use. The well-known towers at Hovenweep are circular,
D-shaped, or rectangular; are one, two, or three stories tall; are single- or multiroomed; are isolated or attached to other
structures; are located on mesa tops or at canyon heads; and are sometimes
linked by tunnels to kivas (Winter 1977*1:210212). Other
towers described for the region were built in an even greater variety of
locations; their presence has been recorded in virtually every type of
place in which other structures have been recorded. Evidence suggests that
the uses of towers were diverse and numerous (Winter
1977*1:210211). In short, the term has become solely an
Even as an architectural label, however, its use is somewhat arbitrary and dependent on the perception of the beholder.
Given the great range of sizes, shapes, locations, and evidence of use, it
is possibleeven likelythat the buildings archaeologists call towers were
actually thought of and referred to as several different types of buildings
by the ancient Puebloans. Our modern idea of "tower" may not be accurate
or useful in thinking about these buildings. With this in mind, in this
section I point out several structures at Castle Rock that archaeologists
might call towers. These above-ground buildings do not fit the definition
of "rooms" given earliertowers are more than one-story tall, they have at
curved wall, and they are located above the village on the butte or on a boulder.
Nine structures at Castle Rock Pueblo had one or more of those
characteristics. Six of theseStructures 207/208, 301, 305,
307/310, 401, and 404/409/410are shown on the site map (Database Map 509). Three
additional, unnumbered buildings visible in historic photographs might also
have been towers. One of these was east of Structure 301, on the east end
of the butte (Figure 2, close-up a). Another was near the west
end of the butte (Figure 1, close-up a), and the third was on top of
the boulder south of the butte (Figure 1 [close-up b] and Figure 2 [close-up b]). Structure 408 was probably not a tower, despite its curved wall,
because evidence indicates that it was never more than a few masonry
Structure numbers separated by forward slashes (307/310) denote the lower and upper stories of buildings that were taller
than necessary for one story. However, a building could have been built taller than usual or than necessary for one story but
would not technically have consisted of two stories unless there was a floor midway up the structure as well as a roof at the
top. Solid evidence of two stories was observed only in Structure 404/409/410, where beam stubs projected from the inside
faces of the preserved north and east walls at approximately the expected height of the lowest-story roof. In fact, at least the
north wall of this building, as shown in historic photograph (Figure 5), was taller than two stories. It might have been a full
three stories tall, or there might have been a partial wall or a parapet wall on the second-story
Other structures taller than one story and thought to have been two stories include Structure 207/208, between the south
face of the butte and a boulder, and Structure 307/310, on a ledge midway
up the north face of the butte (Figure 4 and Figure 6 [close-up a]). In
1875, Jackson (1981*1:379) estimated the preserved
height of Structure 307/310 to be 12 ft (3.7 m). From historic photograph Figure 6 (close-up a), I estimate the height of that wall to have been
11.5 ft (3.5 m). Both of these heights are much taller than necessary for
a one-story structure. Structure 305 was probably two stories tall as
well, judging from the abundance of curved-face stone rubble that lay
downslope from the tower, which was located
against the north face of the butte.
These buildings took a variety of shapes. Structure 307/310 appears to have been rectangular. Structure 404/409/410 was
rectangular with a rounded northeast corner. Structure 401 was circular, and Structure 305 was a curved-wall building that
abutted the butte face, making it D-shaped. Structure 207/208 was irregular, merely occupying the space between the butte
face and a boulder. The remnant of the south wall of the butte-top Structure 301 is straight, suggesting a square or
rectangular shape for that building. The shapes of the possible towers observable only in historic photographs are unclear,
although straight walls and a few corners are visible on the structures at the west end of the butte and on top of the boulder
south of the butte (Figure 1 [close-ups a and b] and Figure 2 [close-up b]).
Many different uses have been suggested for the buildings called towers in the prehistoric Southwest, including lookout and
defense (Ingersoll 1874*1; Mackey and Green
1979*1), ceremonial activities, processing or manufacturing, cooking,
living, astronomical and calendric observation (Winter
1977*1:210211; Wormington 1947*1:94), and food storage
(Mackey and Green 1979*1). Many archaeologists have suggested
that towers were used for lookout and defense (Farmer 1957*1; Hibben 1948*1:36; Lancaster and Pinkley
1954*1:4447; Mackey and Green 1979*1; Schulman 1950*1), and some towers contained evidence of
violent deaths (Mackey and Green 1979*1:146147).
The locations of the possible towers at Castle Rock appear to be significant from a defensive point of view. Structure 401 is
positioned at the northwest edge of the site, and Structure 404/409/410 stands at the northeast edge. These could be
considered key defensive locations in the event of an attack from the north. Structure 305 is positioned against, and
Structure 307/310 is on a ledge midway up, the north face of the butte. These two buildings were protected by the butte,
and their roofs could have provided access to the top of the butteboth
defensive attributes. Structure 207/208 is wedged between the south face
of the butte and a boulder and is thus protected by both of these natural
barriers. This two-story
structure was also the access route to the building(s) on top of the boulder.
At least three structures were built on top of the butte, a location that allowed them to tower over the village whatever their
original building height. Two of these buildings are completely gone (but known from historic photographs) and so little of
the third (Structure 301) remains that we can only speculate about the uses of these structures. They probably were not
habitations, because their locations would have made them hazardous for small children and difficult to reach for people
who were infirm or elderly. They could have been lookouts, although one would not have needed a structure just to look,
and one certainly would not have needed three or more structures just to look.
The top of the butte was a good defensive place even without structures, but it would have been more defensive with them.
If the purpose of these buildings was defense, then, were they used only when the village was attacked? Did they sit empty
the rest of the time? Probably not, especially considering the types of conflicts that would have been likely in a defensible
village during this time period: hit-and-run raiding with at least the possibility of stealing food, and long sieges. The
possibility of either type of conflict would have made the top of the butte an attractive place to store provisions. It would
not have been easy to haul food and water to the butte top or to get those provisions back down if no attack occurred. It
would have been critically important, however, to have provisions stored in such a safe and defensible place if either type
of conflict took place. Mackey and Green (1979*1) and Winter (1977*1:211) are among those who have proposed that
towers might have been used for storage. Ernest Ingersoll
(1874*1), while on top of the Castle Rock butte in 1874,
observed "how absolutely safe a garrison would be so long as they could hold out against hunger and thirst."
We excavated test pits into three of the possible towers during our excavations at Castle RockStructures 305, 401, and
404. Artifacts and features in these structures could be considered evidence of their uses. Structure 305 contained a hearth,
and three complete vessels (one corrugated jar and two kiva jars) rested on the floor,
against the wall. The presence of the hearth and the burned plant remains
in its ash indicated that a variety of food was prepared in this building.
might have been stored or used in this structure, or both.
Structure 401 contained a hearth and a few grinding tools. Evidence from the hearth indicated that a variety of foods had
been prepared in this tower as well. Limited testing in Structure 404 revealed a grinding feature set into the floor, indicating
that some domestic activity had occurred there. All that remained of the second story of that building (Structure 409) at the
time of excavation were portions of the east and north walls, so no testing of that room was possible. Towers at other sites
tested by Crow Canyon (Varien 1999*2) also contained hearths.
The burned plant remains collected from the hearth in the tower at Troy's
Tower (a short distance west of Sand Canyon Pueblo) contained evidence of
food preparation, whereas
the hearth at Mad Dog Tower contained only fuel residue.
Thus, buildings that could have been towers at Castle Rock Pueblo might have served to provide protection (see also
"Defensive Architecture," later in this section) and a place
to store provisions in case of attack. Their interior
features and artifacts indicate that some domestic activities also occurred in these buildings.
For the purposes of this report, I define public architecture as buildings and features constructed and used by more than one residence group. Public architecture is of interest because it
reflects sociopolitical institutions (Flannery and Marcus
1976*1:206) and suggests the degree to which residence groups interacted
and cooperated with one another to achieve shared goals. Thus it reflects
the general cohesiveness of a village or community. The amount and type of
architecture can therefore reveal a group's level of sociopolitical
complexity (Flannery and Marcus 1976*1).
Public architecture recognized at the site includes an oversized (and probably communal) kiva (Structure 105), two plazas,
two dams and associated reservoirs, and a site-enclosing wall. Structure 301 and the other structure(s) on top of the butte
were probably built and used by the residence group in Structure 302 (see "Settlement Organization"). These
buildings might have been available to the other villagers, however, when
the village was threatened or attacked, and in that sense they
might be considered public.
Small kivas, constructed and used by single residence groups, were remarkably similar in size and style of architecture
throughout the Mesa Verde region in the A.D. 1200s. In contrast, one kiva at Castle Rock Pueblo stands out for its greater
size. Although an exact diameter cannot be specified, because only a portion of the southern recess was excavated, the
Structure 105 depression at modern ground surface is substantially larger than the depressions of the other kivas at Castle
Rock. In modern pueblos, oversized structures are used for gatherings
larger than those of a residence group (Hawley 1950*1:287),
and oversized structures are interpreted as having been used in the same
way in ancient times (Brisbin 1988*1:835, 843; Brisbin et al. 1988*1:231; Lekson
1986*1:51; Lipe 1989*1:57; Lipe and
Hegmon 1989*1:20). Thus, Structure 105 can be interpreted as having
been used for meetings, gatherings, or rituals involving more than one
residence group, though it could also have been used as a residence when it was not being used for public gatherings.
Two possible plazas were identified at Castle Rock Pueblo (Lightfoot et al. 1992*1:17). One is an area of exposed
bedrock south of the butte that is bordered on the south by an intentionally placed row of boulders. The other is an open
area near the north edge of the site that was enclosed by structures to the east and west and by a site-enclosing wall to the
north. Although the sediment in this area is now as much as 85 cm (33.5 in) deep, the presence of cultural features abraded into the underlying bedrock is clear evidence that bedrock was exposed when the village was founded.
These possible plazas could have been used
for communal dances and ceremonies (Adams 1989*1:158; Adler 1989*1:3638; Dozier 1970*1:169,
182184) that were too large to be held inside a structure. Plazas are
thought to have developed from great kivas (Scully
1989*1:20, 31). Adams (1989*1:155157) presented
evidence that enclosed plazas began to replace great kivas as early as A.D.
1250 in the upper Little Colorado River area of northeastern Arizona.
Thus, plazas at Castle Rock Pueblo might have been used for events that
were formerly held in a great kiva, as well as for a wide range of domestic
activities (Fewkes 1911*1:3637). Swentzell (1988*1:15) described the modern Pueblo plaza as
the physical, spiritual, and symbolic center of the Pueblo world. It is a
place for dances and ceremonies, wintertime tasks, cooking, and sleeping, a
place where the harvest is distributed and where firewood is piled for
communal use (Swentzell 1988*1).
If there were two plazas at Castle Rock, it would suggest a dual division of the village. That is, the inhabitants might have
been organized into two different social, religious, or political groups. This kind of dual system is present among some
modern Pueblo groups (Dozier 1970*1:155, 168170; Ortiz
The inhabitants of Castle Rock Pueblo constructed two dams in a drainage that borders the site on the north (Database Map 513).
These dams are not within the site boundaries we defined, but they lie within 40 m (131 ft) of the north edge of the site and
were clearly part of the public architecture of the village. The dams were built to stop or slow runoff from the large expanse
of exposed bedrock to the north and northwest of the site. They would have provided the villagers with an important
seasonal source of water.
The amount of public architecture at Castle Rock is relatively modest and appears not to reflect a high level of political
complexity. Nor do the oversized kiva and the plazas appear large enough to have held more than a small number of people
from other hamlets or villages in a surrounding community. The public architecture does indicate, however, that the
villagers of Castle Rock Pueblo cooperated to achieve the shared goals of providing water for the village and creating
special spaces for social, political, and religious activities.
Defense appears to have been a high priority for the inhabitants of Castle Rock Pueblo. Castle Rock butte seems to have
been selected for settlement because of its defensibility, and a substantial number of defensive buildings were constructed
there during the habitation of the village. Defensiveness was inferred by explorers who observed the site more than 100
years ago [Ingersoll 1874*1; Jackson 1959*1:316; also see original notation on National Archives Trust Fund photograph (Figure 4)]. More recently, in a
U.S. government cultural resource management plan that included Castle
Rock, "defense" was listed as a topic for which the site had research value
At the time this village was founded, in the A.D. 1250s, many other villages in the region were being built around canyon
heads or on canyon rims, with springs either nearby or enclosed within the village (for example, Sand Canyon Pueblo, Cannonball
Ruin, Yellow Jacket Pueblo, Goodman Point Ruin, Easter Ruin, Cow Canyon
Ruin, Hedley Ruin) (Varien et al. 1990*1:28). Control
of a permanent water source must have been an important consideration at
that time. Water would have been available to the inhabitants of Castle
Rock only seasonally in McElmo Creek and very intermittently in the
reservoir that the villagers constructed north of the site. A dependable
spring was undoubtedly available at not too great a distance, or the
village could not have survived for 20 years. Yet the villagers apparently
sacrificed control of a permanent water source. At other late Pueblo III
villages, control of water was seemingly gained by building very close to
or actually surrounding a spring; this was not the case at Castle Rock
Pueblo. This sacrifice was apparently made to gain the defensive
protection offered by the Castle Rock butte. As Lancaster
and Pinkley (1954*1:45) observed of the post-A.D. 1200 Mesa Verde area,
"the people apparently were forced to change their manner of living to
adapt their lives
and their homes to the possibility of attack."
Much of the architecture at the site appears to have been constructed with a concern for defense. Most of the rooms and
roomblocks were backed up against the butte face, with the associated kivas just in front of them. Two rooms were built
into alcoves on the north face of the butte (Structures 306 and 309). Several kivas (Structures 101, 102, 107, 112, 125, 204,
and 206) were tucked in beside one or more boulders. This positioning against the butte face or next to boulders would
have reduced the number of directions from which an enemy could attack, and it provided a natural lookout position for the
At least some of the site was bordered by low enclosing walls that
could have had a defensive purpose (Kenzle 1993*1).
Enclosing walls, even low ones, could have slowed advancing enemies long enough to make them vulnerable, and the walls
might have provided some protection for defenders who crouched behind them.
Other buildings that were probably constructed for defensive reasons were the nine structures (Structures 207/208, 301,
305, 307/310, 401, 404/409/410, and three unnumbered) that were possible towers (also see "Towers," earlier in this
section). Structure 301, a possible tower on top of the butte, was
arguably the most defensive structure at the site, because it controlled
the only natural access to the top of the butte (ladders on the roofs of
Structure 310 and 305 could have been additional man-made access routes).
This natural access is a narrow, inclined ledge with a sharp turn; it could
have been defended by one person with a rock. The top of the butte was
apparently also originally covered with some kind of breastwork (Jackson 1959*1:319) or masonry that covered the
top of the butte "from one end to the other" (Jackson
The construction of defensive architecture is significant because it reflects the perceived threat of aggression. When
defensive architecture was constructed at Castle Rock, the builders clearly believed there was a good possibility of being
attacked, a fear that proved not unfounded (see "The Final Days of Castle Rock Pueblo").
Nor was this fear limited to the villagers at Castle Rock. Evidence of
similar fears can be observed in the abundant defensible site locations and
defensive architecture dating from the final decades of the Pueblo
occupation of this region (A.D. 1260 to 1280), as well as from
protohistoric and historic times across the greater Southwest (Farmer 1957*1; Mindeleff 1989*1:xxvii; Morgan 1965*1:144).
The architecture at Castle Rock Pueblo includes kivas, rooms, towers, a D-shaped enclosure, dams, and retaining walls.
Determining the number and types of buildings originally constructed at the site was difficult because of historic collecting
of sandstone rubble. Some rooms at the site contained hearths and appeared to have been used for habitation, whereas other
rooms were probably used for storage. Many rooms were excavated only partly or not at all, and their uses could not be
Traditional kiva construction was modified in several ways to accommodate the shallow bedrock at the site, and at least one
innovative square kiva was constructed. Several lines of evidence suggest that there was not a strong division between the
types of activities that occurred in kivas vs. habitation rooms. The possible towers at the site took a variety of shapes and
sizes and were built in locations that could be interpreted as defensive. The three towers that were tested contained
evidence of food preparation and storage. The public architecture at Castle Rock included an oversized kiva, dams,
enclosing walls, and possible plazas, indicating that the villagers cooperated to achieve common goals. The defensibility of
the site location and the defensive characteristics of the structures built there, as well as the gathering of people into this
village, all suggest that the villagers perceived a threat of attack.
References cited | To borrow, cite, or request permission
Permissions obtained: See captions appended to individual figures.