Volume 8  Issue 9  

Basketmaker Communities Project:

Expanding Our Focus to Include Three More Sites

Pleasant View students
Archaeology Research Program participant Scott Evans (left) and Supervisory Archaeologist Grant Coffey begin
excavations at the Shepherd site in early summer.

by Shanna Diederichs, Supervisory Archaeologist

Crow Canyon archaeologists have made great strides this summer on the Basketmaker Communities Project, a multiyear, multisite investigation of a large Basketmaker III (A.D. 500–750) settlement in the central Mesa Verde region. While the first two years of the project focused on the Dillard site, which includes a great kiva and several pithouses, this year we extended our work to include three more sites, the Shepherd, TJSmith, and Switchback sites. All are located in Indian Camp Ranch, a private residential community near Crow Canyon.

At the multihabitation Dillard site, we have concentrated our excavations on the great kiva and seven other pit structures, but have also tested several exterior activity areas and middens. In the process, we discovered three additional small structures and several features that we will begin to test this year.

At the Shepherd site, located in the eastern part of Indian Camp Ranch, we tested a large rubble mound. On the basis of the recovery of a single Mancos Corrugated pottery sherd and the style of masonry wall, it appears to be a Pueblo II (A.D. 900–1150) field house. Field houses were small, one- or two-room structures located away from habitation sites and close to agricultural fields. Other features at the site, such as small storage structures, appear to be of Basketmaker III origin.

We tested the pithouse, two storage rooms, and the midden at the TJSmith site at the far eastern end of Indian Camp Ranch. The pithouse at this site is almost 1¾ meters deep—deeper than any others we’ve tested so far as part of the project. A hearth and storage bin were found on the plastered floor of this pithouse.

The Switchback site sits on a high ridge near the western edge of Indian Camp Ranch, overlooking the rest of the ancient settlement. A series of nine slab-lined rooms and a nearby pithouse depression have been mapped at this site. We’re sampling both the pithouse and its associated midden.

In tandem with excavation, we have been conducting electrical-resistivity surveys at six additional sites with the hope of locating buried pit structures. While our field crews are collecting the resistivity data, Mona Charles from Fort Lewis College has been interpreting the results. We have surveyed 16,800 square meters this year, and at least eight probable pit structures have been located.


History Colorado and NSF logosHistory Colorado and NSF logos

The Basketmaker Communities Project is supported in part by National Science Foundation Grant No. 1144918 and the State Historical Fund (a program of History Colorado, the Colorado Historical Society).

Minds Opened, Lives Changed!

Emilio Santiago

Intern Emilio Santiago weighs stones from the
roof of the great kiva at the Dillard site.

Thanks to your support, so far this summer almost 600 participants have either toured our excavation sites as part of a day tour or have excavated with us during a program for school groups, teens, or adults.

Crow Canyon also provided internships to Toby Austin, Nikki Berkebile, Cherise Bunn, Anna Dempsey, Kelsey Reese, Emilio Santiago, Jonathan Schwartz, Megan Smith, and Michelle Turner to further their archaeology careers.

Have you donated lately? Donate online; call 800.422.8975, ext. 141, or 970.564.4341; or e-mail us at [email protected] to support Crow Canyon’s life-changing work!


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