Research Objectives and Methods
The Crow Canyon Archaeological Center conducted research at Woods
Canyon Pueblo (Site 5MT11842) to improve our understanding of settlement
aggregation in the Mesa Verde region during the late Pueblo II and Pueblo
III periods (A.D. 10001300) and to contribute to an ever-growing
body of research into the depopulation of the region by the end of the
latter period. The excavations at Woods Canyon Pueblo were conducted as
part of Crow Canyon's Village Testing Project, which is summarized in
Ortman et al. (2000*1).
For a discussion of the research design that guided our investigations
at Woods Canyon Pueblo specifically, see Wilshusen
Crow Canyon archaeologists designed the Village Testing Project
to complement the Center's earlier research in the nearby Sand Canyon
Map 338). Our research in the Sand Canyon locality suggested that
large villages had formed rapidly in the mid-1200s as people moved from
small upland settlements to large villages in canyon environments. The
Village Testing Project focused on the investigation of large, late sites
outside the locality in an effort to determine whether this aggregation
might have been part of a larger phenomenon in the central Mesa Verde
region (see Ortman et al.
2000*1). The testing program conducted at Woods Canyon Pueblo and
Woods Canyon Reservoir (Site 5MT12086) examined whether the changes through
time in settlement patterns, subsistence practices, and the use of the
cultural landscape that were identified in the Sand Canyon locality also
occurred in the Woods Canyon community.
On the basis of our limited excavations, it appears that Woods
Canyon Pueblo was a small village compared with other late Pueblo villages
in the Mesa Verde region, but that its occupation was much longer, spanning
almost 150 years. The departure of the residents from Woods Canyon coincided
with the final emigrations out of the region in the late A.D. 1200s.
The research questions at Woods Canyon Pueblo focused on three
broad topics: (1) site chronology, (2) village layout and organization,
and (3) agriculture practices and water and soil management. In the lists
of specific questions that follow, the chapters of this report that address
each question are noted in parentheses.
Village Layout and Organization
Agricultural Practices and Water and Soil Management
Other Research Questions
Seventy-five small units, less than one percent of the 18.5-acre
site, were excavated as part of Crow Canyon's three-year testing program.
Test excavation of a small number of kivas and their associated middens
was our primary focus, but we examined several possible public areas and
water-control features as well. The sampling strategies employed allowed
us to address many of the research questions posed above; however, because
the testing was limited in scope, further excavations would be required
to refine the chronological history of the village, make a stronger case
for how the rim complex may have been used, and identify whether gardens
or small agricultural fields were present within the pueblo.
The objectives of the kiva-testing program were threefold. Our
primary goal was to gain a better understanding of when the site was constructed,
which required the collection of as many tree-ring dating samples as possible.
Because dateable specimens are much more likely to be preserved in kivasand
particularly in kivas that burnedour excavations focused on the
test excavation of these subterranean structures rather than of surface
rooms. Second, we wanted to evaluate how kivas at Woods Canyon Pueblo
were used and abandoned. For this, we needed to examine kiva stratigraphy
and sample enough floor and roof-fall assemblages to reconstruct activities
and abandonment processes. The third objective of the testing program
was to estimate the population of the village. The test excavation of
a subset of the possible kivas identified during mapping allowed us to
determine how many of the suspected kivas were in fact kivas, and this
information, extrapolated across the entire site, provided us with the
data necessary for estimating the population of the village as a whole.
Eight circular depressions or flat areas thought to perhaps be
kivas were randomly selected from what were tentatively identified as
the three main residential sections of the site (the upper west side,
the canyon bottom, and the east talus slope). Each depression or flat
area was tested by excavating a 2-x-1-m unit in its approximate northwest
quadrant, and six of the eight (Structures 1-S, 2-S, 3-S, 4-S, 5-S, and
7-S) turned out to be kivas. Two additional kivas (Structures 6-S and
8-S) were selected "judgmentally," that is, they were specifically chosen
for excavation because we wanted to quickly expand our kiva sample and
it was clear from evidence visible on the modern ground surface that these
two structures were, in fact, kivas. One of these, Structure 6-S, was
located in the rim complex. An additional kiva (Structure 9-S) was unexpectedly
found below Nonstructure 1-N, for a total of nine kivas that were tested
during Crow Canyon's excavations.
Our initial goal in testing middens was to better understand changes
in pottery over time. Our strategy was to identify and test burned kivas
whose dates of construction could be determined on the basis of tree-ring
dates, and then excavate a limited portion of the middens associated with
these same structures. The scarcity of burned roof fall in the tested
kivas, however, made it difficult to estimate construction dates, which
in turn prevented us from studying pottery change through time. Nonetheless,
the midden assemblages helped us address questions about site chronology,
intrasite organization and occupation, and subsistence strategies.
An area was defined as a midden if moderate quantities of artifacts
were present on the modern ground surface or if the area was located immediately
south of a kiva, where middens are typically found. Six midden areas were
tested (Nonstructures 3-N, 4-N, 5-N, 6-N, 7-N, and 8-N). The refuse from
four of the areas (Nonstructures 4-N, 6-N, 7-N, and 8-N) is believed to
have originated from specific tested kivas, because of the proximity of
the kivas to the midden areas and the absence of other nearby structures.
The other two midden areas (Nonstructures 3-N and 5-N) appear to be generally
associated with tested kivas, but it is clear that the refuse in them
also could have originated from other structures in the immediate vicinity.
Three to four 1-x-1-m units were randomly selected from each possible
midden area. If these units did not produce an adequate sample of refuse,
"judgment" units were placed in areas that were thought to contain more
All the deposits in a given "midden" area, whether they consisted
of midden deposits, natural deposits, extramural surfaces, or native sterile
deposits, were designated parts of the same large nonstructure. As a result,
a nonstructure as defined at Woods Canyon Pueblo contained multiple deposits
(and different kinds of deposits), rather than a single cultural
deposit as is standard at other sites excavated by Crow Canyon. For example,
a nonstructure at Woods Canyon Pueblo could include several extramural
surfaces, several midden deposits, and postoccupational fill. In an effort
to separate the multiple deposits included in a particular nonstructure,
we retroactively assigned every cultural deposit within the nonstructure
a subunit number. For example, a secondary refuse deposit and an extramural
surface in Nonstructure 5-N became Nonstructure 5.1-N and Nonstructure
5.2-N, respectively. The designations for natural deposits and mixed deposits
were not changed; rather, they were grouped with the original nonstructure
(in this example, Nonstructure 5-N) and are identified as "noncultural"
in the database. In some of these nonstructural areas, limited amounts
of midden were exposed, and often the midden deposits were no longer intact
because they had been naturally redeposited from upslope.
Testing of Public Space
The rim complex and a suspected plaza in the canyon bottom (Nonstructure
1-N) were tested as possible public areas at Woods Canyon Pueblo. Investigations
were aimed at understanding how these areas were used and what they might
reflect about village organization, social differentiation, and community
Testing in the rim complex involved exposing sections of the enclosing
wall that defined this space, exposing the exterior faces of buildings
contained in this space, partly excavating a kiva, and looking for evidence
of a plaza surface. The plaza area (Nonstructure 2-N) was divided into
two sampling strata. The first sampling stratum included all the visible
open space, and the second sampling stratum included areas covered by
rubble. Five 1-x-1-m units were randomly selected from Sampling Stratum
1, and three 1-x-1-m units were selected from Sampling Stratum 2. One
unit was expanded into a 2-x-1-m unit because more space was needed for
excavators to maneuver after a wall was exposed. Five judgment units were
also opened adjacent to architectural features and buildings. Another
judgment unit was excavated in a kiva (Structure 6-S). Lastly, all standing
walls and wall features in the rim complex were recorded.
The possible plaza in the canyon bottom (Nonstructure 1-N) was
tested by excavating 10 1-x-1-m judgment units. Testing revealed that
this area was not used as a plaza; rather, it might have served as a garden,
as well as a place where trash was discarded.
Testing of Water-Control Features
In an attempt to better understand the construction, use, and age of water-control
features at Woods Canyon Pueblo, we tested several checkdams in the main
drainage that bisected the site. Judgment units were placed adjacent to
possible checkdams visible on the modern ground surface on top of the
cliff (Nonstructure 9-N). Sections of five checkdams were exposed during
testing. A prehistoric reservoir (Site 5MT12086) located northeast of
the pueblo was also tested before excavations at Woods Canyon Pueblo began.
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