Show All - Hide All
The Basketmaker Communities Project: Early Pueblo Society in the Mesa Verde Region
Long before the famous cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park were built, early Pueblo people were establishing a foothold throughout the Mesa Verde region.
The time was the Basketmaker III period, which archaeologists date from about A.D. 500 to 750. The period was marked by, among other things, a rapid increase in population that was largely attributable to the influx of Pueblo farmers into the region. Upon their arrival, the immigrants soon began developing the community organization and institutions that would become hallmarks of later, "classic" Pueblo society.
Crow Canyon's Basketmaker Communities Project is a multiyear investigation of the largest Basketmaker III community known in the central Mesa Verde region. The centerpiece of the project is the Dillard site (5MT10647), a community center that dates from the seventh century A.D. and includes a great kiva.
The Dillard site was first recorded in 1991 by Woods Canyon Archaeological Consultants (WCAC) as part of an archaeological survey for the development of a private residential community known as Indian Camp Ranch. The survey revealed the presence of several pithouses, as well as a much larger structure that subsequent WCAC test excavations revealed to be one of the oldest public buildings in the Mesa Verde region: a great kiva approximately 10 meters in diameter and 1 meter deep (see photo at right, showing WCAC test trench in the great kiva).
The 1991 survey also revealed that the Dillard site is surrounded by a cluster of more than 120 pithouses dating to the same time period as the Dillard site. The majority of these pithouses have not been obscured by later ancestral Pueblo sites or modern buildings. Thus, the sites Crow Canyon will investigate during the Basketmaker Communities Project are part of the most extensive and best-preserved cluster of Basketmaker III remains in the central Mesa Verde region.
Crow Canyon's Research
During the three years of fieldwork that are planned for the Basketmaker Communities Project (2011–2014), Crow Canyon will continue its long-term research into community development in the central Mesa Verde region. Two of the most basic questions we hope to answer through our investigations are, When did communities first form in the region and what was the nature of the community that surrounded and included the Dillard site?
Specifically, our research will focus on several important questions:
Where did the people who settled in the Mesa Verde region during the Basketmaker III period come from?
How much of the rapid expansion of settlement in the Mesa Verde region during the Basketmaker III period was due to immigration? How much to in situ population growth?
How did ancestral Pueblo people make the transition from a foraging society organized around kinship to an agricultural society organized around community institutions?
What was the nature of Basketmaker III communities in the Mesa Verde region, and how do those early communities compare with communities that developed later during the Pueblo I, II, and III periods?
Does the extensive cluster of pithouses surrounding the Dillard site reflect occupation by a large number of families over a short period of time or a small number of families over a long period of time?
Does variation in pithouse size and elaboration reflect variation in social ranking, household size, or household activities?
Crow Canyon's programs for adults, families, teens, and school groups involve the public in real archaeological field and lab work. So sign up for a Crow Canyon Archaeology Adventure and help us learn about this exciting time in Pueblo history!