Go to Table of Contents.
About This Publication
List of Tables
List of Illustrations
Introduction to the Site
Research Design
Castle Rock Pueblo in a Regional Context
Settlement Organization
Population Estimates
Faunal Remains
Plant Evidence
Rock Art
The Final Days of Castle Rock Pueblo
Oral History
A Native American Perspective

Settlement Organization

by Kristin A. Kuckelman

In this section, I examine the physical organization of Castle Rock Pueblo from several perspectives: the physical layout of buildings, plazas, and middens; the rate and sequence of building construction; and variation in styles of architecture among different residence groups or areas of the site. These topics are of interest because, first, architectural layout can reflect aspects of the inhabitants' social organization (Lipe and Hegmon 1989*1:21). Second, the rate and sequence of building construction can tell us how quickly people moved from scattered hamlets to aggregated villages such as Castle Rock Pueblo during the thirteenth century, an important aspect of settlement in the Mesa Verde region that is still poorly understood (Varien 1999*1; Varien and Kuckelman 1999*2). And third, stylistic variations in architecture might reflect differences in social rank or status.

Village Layout

Evidence indicates that buildings at Castle Rock Pueblo were constructed in suites of two to six surface rooms with an associated kiva nearby; these are commonly called kiva suites. The settlement at Castle Rock Pueblo thus may be thought of as a concentration of individual kiva suites. Sand Canyon Pueblo represents a different style of late Pueblo III village in which kiva suites were grouped into large, contiguous architectural blocks. In addition, some of the architectural blocks at Sand Canyon Pueblo (Block 300, for example) were composed not of conventional kiva suites, but almost entirely of surface rooms, which may indicate use specialization. Another characteristic of Castle Rock organization, typical of villages in the Sand Canyon locality (Adler 1994*1:94), is that each residence cluster appears to have had its own midden, rather than there having been only one or a few locations for refuse disposal shared by the entire village. These characteristics may indicate that the growth of this village was less planned and more piecemeal (Lightfoot et al. 1992*1:17) than that of a village like Sand Canyon Pueblo, which is interpreted as having been at least partly preplanned (Bradley 1993*1).

The Castle Rock site plan (Database Map 509) shows that the residence clusters (or kiva suites) form several larger clusters of buildings in five areas: at the southeast edge of the site; against the south face of the butte; against the north face and on top of the butte; at the northeast edge of the site; and at the northwest edge of the site. Although it is not apparent from the site plan, these clusters are at least partly a result of the topography of the site (Database Map 510). The structures at the southeast edge of the site are in a relatively level area, but the ground surface between them and Structure 102 slopes steeply. Another rocky, sloping area lies northwest and northeast of Structure 102. The area occupied by the structures against the south face of the butte is relatively level, but just south of it the ground slopes steeply down to the exposed bedrock of the plaza. There is also a steep slope between the structures against the north face of the butte (Structures 302 and 304) and those separated to the north. Some of this clustering was probably intentional, however, and reflects residence groups that were related or affiliated in some way. These clusters could have been equivalent to the architectural blocks present at Sand Canyon Pueblo, which could be important for understanding the sociopolitical organization of these villages.

Two possible plazas were identified at the site (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 is enclosed by structures to the east and west and by a site-enclosing wall to the north. See "Public Architecture" in "Architecture" for a discussion of these possible plazas.

The buildings on the butte must be mentioned here as part of the layout of the village, just as the butte itself must be seen as an integral, though natural, component of the village. These buildings are discussed in more detail in the following section and in "Architecture" and "Chronology."

Rate and Sequence of Construction

The available tree-ring dates for Castle Rock Pueblo suggest that construction of the village got off to a slow start. The earliest structure was Structure 204 (a partly underground kiva), which was probably built in A.D. 1256 (see Table 1 in "Chronology"). We found no remnants of surface rooms near this kiva.

There is no evidence of more construction until Structure 206 (a completely underground kiva) was built four years later. This new construction could have been the result either of the arrival of a new residence group or of internal growth of the existing group. A north-south row of surface rooms to the west, including Structure 205, appears to have been built and used by the same residence group that built the kiva. Additional rooms might have been built at that time by the same residence group. The nearness of Structure 206 to the two-story rooms wedged between the boulder to the east and the butte face, and to the rooms on top of the boulder, suggests that these buildings were associated with one another.

In A.D. 1261, Structure 302 (a kiva) was built near the north face of the butte. The nearness of Structures 305 (a tower), 306 (an alcove room), 308 (a room), and 309 (another alcove room) indicates that these structures, as well as Structure 301 and others that were on top of the butte, were built and used by the same residence group that used the kiva. Three years later, another tower (Structure 401) was built, this one along the edge of an arroyo at the northwest edge of the village (also see "Towers" in "Architecture"). The purpose of this tower is unknown, but testing revealed that its original floor contained evidence of food preparation. The final floor contained a hearth and household tools. This tower might have been built for a special purpose by a residence group already living in the village, such as the group in Structure 302. Or it might have been built by a new group, along with undated Structures 402 (a kiva), 408 (a D-shaped enclosure), and 407 (a room); these structures are closely spaced and could have been a residence cluster.

Tree-ring dates indicate that the next structure to be built, in A.D. 1265, was Structure 101 (a kiva) at the southeast edge of the site. It is unclear which other structures in this area, if any, were built by this new residence group at the same time.

In the next year, Structure 105, an oversized and probably communal kiva, was constructed in a central position just south of the butte. Thus, by A.D. 1266 the small village contained enough residents to warrant building a communal structure. Perhaps one or more of the nearby, undated kivas (Structures 110, 104, 103, and 102) or the undated structures at the southeast edge of the site (Structures 107, 108, 112, and 125) had also been built by this time. In any case, a minimum of four and a maximum of 12 residence groups were living in the village by 1266.

Two years later, Structure 405 (a kiva) was built at the northeast edge of the village. This structure was probably built at the same time as the rest of a cluster consisting of two additional kivas (Structures 405, 406), a one-story surface room (Structure 403), and an adjacent two- to three-story building (Structure 404/409/410). Limited excavation in the lower room (Structure 404) exposed a subfloor feature indicating that food processing had occurred there, among other activities. The construction of this cluster seems to indicate the arrival or creation of two new residence groups. These groups might have been related in some way, because the surface buildings were constructed as a unit and the cluster lies some distance from other buildings. Site-enclosing walls were then constructed, one between the northwest corner of Structure 403 and the east wall of Structure 401, and another beginning at the southeast corner of Structure 404, trending southward.

The latest tree-ring date for the site is a noncutting date of A.D. 1274, from Structure 304, a kiva. There is no cluster of cutting dates to indicate when this kiva was built, but it was either built or still being repaired after A.D. 1274. The surface rooms possibly used by the same residence group include adjacent, undefined rooms east of the kiva, along with Structure 307/310 (a tower). Although little remains of Structure 307 today, historic photographs show that this building, perched on a ledge midway up the butte face, was originally at least two stories tall (Figure 1). If so, its roof could have provided one of only three possible access routes to the top of the butte. Another route was a narrow, inclined ledge on the north face of the butte below Structure 301, and the third could have been created by placing a ladder on the roof of Structure 305.

From data gathered during excavations, it appears that all structures in the village except Structures 108, 126, 304, and 308 were still in use until the occupation ended. The rate and sequence of construction suggests that the village grew slowly at first. Later, however, the rate of construction increased, and during the A.D. 1260s, new structures were built almost every year. On the basis of these data, it is believed that the movement of individual families or residence groups from dispersed hamlets to this aggregated village occurred primarily during the 1260s.

Stylistic Differences in Architecture

Differences in architectural style can indicate differences in the status or rank of village residents (Flannery 1972*2:45; Lekson 1984*1:271), differences in the time of construction of various parts of a village, or the presence of different kin, social, religious, or political groups in distinct areas of a village. A substantial amount of variation could indicate that new arrivals came from widely scattered, unrelated hamlets instead of having a more common origin. At Castle Rock Pueblo, no variations of this sort were detected in the overall quality of the architecture across the site, in the types of masonry cross sections, or in the amount of shaping of the stones in the masonry walls exposed. Analyses of possible differences in artifact assemblages and plant remains are presented in "Artifacts" and "Plant Evidence."


The settlement organization of Castle Rock Pueblo indicates that this village grew piecemeal during its 20- to 25-year existence. The layout of the site shows no evidence of the preplanning evident at other thirteenth-century villages such as Sand Canyon Pueblo (Bradley 1993*1). Construction began slowly in the mid-A.D. 1250s but the village grew rapidly during the 1260s, when some impetus prompted a steady stream of residence groups to abandon their small farming hamlets and join this growing, defensible village. Groupings of residence clusters suggest that at least some of the physical organization of the village was affected by kinship ties. The village itself may have been organized into northern and southern halves, each with its own plaza. The presence of only one oversized kiva may symbolize the cohesiveness of the village as a whole. The lack of noticeable variation in architectural style or quality indicates a lack of rank or status differences within the village.

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