Burned Pit Structure Yields Unusual Finds

Floor assemblage
Small nodules of yellow pigment rest to the right of the basket on the floor of the burned pit structure.

On a ridge west of the Hatch group, Crow Canyon excavation of a burned Basketmaker III pit structure at Site 5MT10709 has revealed a tableau of life more than a thousand years ago.

Besides the expected hearth, archaeologists discovered the charred remains of a basket made of sumac and yucca fiber, a broken but complete bone awl and fragment of another, a plain gray ware cooking jar filled with burned seeds, and pieces of yellow pigment. Blackened beans were found in a nearby surface room.

Finding a basket during an excavation is unusual. According to a report by Laurie Webster, Ph.D., a textile and basketry expert who consulted on this find, “Although two-rod-and-bundle coiled basketry was probably ubiquitous at Basketmaker III/early Pueblo sites in the Montezuma Valley/Great Sage Plain area of southwestern Colorado, actual examples are rare because of the poor preservation of artifacts in this area.”

Jar of seeds
This plain gray ware jar was
full of seeds when it was unearthed.

The jar had shielded the seeds within it, which have not been identified conclusively yet but apparently had been harvested for food. Finding a cache of seeds also is unusual, according to Crow Canyon archaeologists. The burning of the pit structure and collapse of the roof aided in preservation of the perishable artifacts.

Webster's report said that the presence of the coiled basket, together with bone awls that are typically used in making baskets, suggests that people from this community were part of a widespread pattern of coiled basketry production documented for other sites in this region.

Such an intact assemblage has a story to tell. Together, the materials found on the floor of the pit structure help researchers develop a picture of ancestral Pueblo life on the landscape now known as Indian Camp Ranch.


The Basketmaker Communities Project is funded in part by the State Historical Fund (a program of History Colorado, the Colorado Historical Society).

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