As at all other sites excavated or tested by the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, archaeologists and volunteers routinely
collected plant materials from Castle Rock Pueblo for analysis. Larger pieces of vegetal material, such as pieces of charred
wood, maize (Zea mays) cob segments and kernels, and common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) cotyledons (seed halves), were
collected by hand whenever found during excavation. By convention, these specimens are often called macrofossils because they are large enough to be seen and collected separately. Plant remains were also collected from a targeted set of
archaeological contexts for a water-separation process termed flotation. This process involves the use of water to separate
fragile organic material from sediment, allowing for the recovery of tiny items, called microfossils, which are identified
under a microscope. Together, these two methods produced an extremely rich and informative record of plant resources
used by the inhabitants of Castle Rock Puebloa record that also reveals the nature of the environment surrounding the
Castle Rock community in the late A.D. 1200s.
Flotation Sample Processing
Castle Rock Pueblo flotation samples were a standard 1 liter in size. If more than 1 liter was available, the extra sediment
was curated; if less than 1 liter was submitted, the exact amount was measured and recorded, and the entire sample was
processed. Flotation samples were processed by two different methods, although the slight differences between them are
not considered significant. For some samples, a small bucket partly filled with water was placed on top of a graduated
series of five USGS geological sieves with mesh sizes of 4.75 mm, 2.80 mm, 1.40 mm, 0.71 mm, and 0.25 mm,
respectively. A flotation sample was then poured into the bucket, and running water was added for three to five minutes
while the sediments were stirred continuously. This process allowed floating organic materials to flow over the edge of the
bucket and through the stacked sieves until being caught by the first sieve with a mesh size smaller than the individual
pieces of organic material. The contents of each sieve were then dried separately and placed in individual plastic bags for
Other samples were water processed as well, though slightly differently. Each flotation sample was poured into a bucket of
water, and the sediments were stirred to loosen the organic material. The material that floated to the top was poured off
onto flotation cloth with a mesh size of 0.355 mm. Running water was then added to the bucket, and the sediments were
once again stirred and the floating light fraction added to the flotation cloth. This process was repeated until the water in the
bucket was relatively clear. The light fraction was dried on the flotation cloth on drying racks and then sieved through
USGS geological sieves with the same mesh sizes given above.
Subsampling for Seeds and Other Microremains
Because the volumes of light-fraction material recovered from the
processed samples were quite variable, some samples
were subsampled while others were examined in their entirety. All material greater than 2.80 mm in size was examined
from all samples, whereas the material from the 1.40-mm, 0.71-mm, and 0.25-mm sieve sizes was subsampled if the
volume of material within a sieve exceeded 5 ml. Then, approximately 25 percent of the material in the 1.40-mm sieve and
10 percent from each of the 0.71-mm and 0.25-mm sieves were examined. For any given sieve size, if numerous plant taxa
were identified within a subsample, additional material was analyzed until no new taxa were found. All material was
examined under a binocular microscope with magnifications ranging from 7X to 45X. Standard texts aided identification
(e.g., Martin and Barkley 1961*1), as did comparison with
modern collections of plant parts from the region.
Wood Charcoal Analysis
Charcoal was examined from all 57 flotation samples that were analyzed for seeds and other minute plant parts. Twenty
pieces of burned wood (primarily larger pieces and any that looked "different") were selected from the 4.75-mm sieve for
each sample, and each piece was examined for anatomical structure, ensuring the best chance of confident identification
(Minnis 1987*1:122). Flotation samples with fewer than 20
pieces of charcoal large enough to retain features necessary for
identification were examined in their entirety. Charcoal was also examined
from macrofossil samples, again with the
aim of identifying the taxa represented by 20 pieces of charred wood per sample.
Charred wood was oriented under the microscope and snapped to produce a clean transverse (cross) section. A collection of
modern wood specimens representing the majority of tree and shrub species currently growing in the region provided
material for comparison. This collection has been charred and is supported by specimens deposited in the University of
Arizona herbarium. It includes smaller stems, twigs, branches, and trunk wood in order to represent the broad range of sizes
of woody materials that might have been carried into a prehistoric village.
Although bags of macrofossils handpicked by excavators contained primarily wood charcoal, nonwood specimens were
present as well. All macrofossils greater than 4.75 mm in size were examined with the unaided eye in order to locate
nonwood plant parts; the nonwood specimens were then examined under the microscope. All macrofossil materials smaller
than 4.75 mm were scanned under the microscope to locate any nonwood items.
Fifty-seven flotation samples and 343 macrofossil samples from Castle
Rock Pueblo were examined (Table 1). Although diverse contexts were
sampled, the majority of flotation and macrofossil samples derived from secondary refuse and mixed cultural deposits. A number of flotation
samples represented primary refuse in hearths or firepits within
structures, including kivas, habitation rooms, and towers. Roof fall and
wall fall were also well represented.
A diversity of reproductive plant parts and wood types had been preserved, representing both wild and domesticated plants
(Table 2). At least 37 separate plant taxa were identified from Castle Rock Pueblo. Most specimens were charred. In Table
2 and all other tables in this report, taxonomic identifications are followed by the word "type," signifying that the specimen
or specimens resemble the named taxon but might also compare well with other related (or at times unrelated) taxa. This
conservative approach is used because of the similarity in appearance of parts of various Southwestern plants, especially
when ancient specimens are carbonized or damaged. For ease of reading, the word "type" has been omitted from text discussions.
The entire archaeobotanical data set, including provenience information,
will eventually be published on Crow Canyon's Web site. Also scheduled
for on-line publication are two supporting documents designed to be used
in conjunction with the analytic results presented in the database. The
first document, a detailed description of the criteria used to identify
prehistoric plant remains, will allow researchers to 1) corroborate any
identifications we make, 2) identify unknowns from written descriptions,
and 3) examine metric data in light of potential domestication models
based on anatomical and morpohological traits. The second, a comprehensive
summary of the ethnographic uses of various plants identified in the Mesa
Verde region, may provide insights into possible prehistoric use of those
same resources. (See Research
Charred vs. Uncharred Plant Parts
When uncharred plant parts are preserved in archaeological sites, it is important to consider whether they were associated
with cultural activities in the past or whether they entered the site via natural processes during site occupation or afterward.
A conservative rule of thumb is to consider uncharred plant materials in archaeological sites as being unrelated to
prehistoric human use of plants (Minnis 1981*1). Charred
specimens, on the other hand, are often assumed to be related to
intentional or unintentional prehistoric human use of fire. This
assumption can, on occasion, be in error. For example, the recovery of a
single charred Old World domesticated wheat (Triticum) grain from an
ancient context at Troy's Tower in the Sand Canyon locality can be
explained by the fact that modern dryland wheat-field stubble had been
burned over the
site (Adams 1999*1).
At Castle Rock Pueblo, a number of plant parts were recognized solely in uncharred condition either in flotation samples or
as macrofossils. These included seeds of Celtis (hackberry), Cucurbita/C. pepo, and Prunus/Rosa, along with a Juniperus fruit/fruit coat/seed, Opuntia epidermis fragments, and Pinus edulis nutshells (Table 3). The Pinus edulis nutshells and the Prunus/Rosa fruit all displayed rodent tooth marks, suggesting the likely source of entry. The Opuntia epidermis was quite
fragile, indicating relatively recent origin. A single Celtis seed and some Juniperus fruits and seeds in fairly good condition
appeared modern to analysts. In contrast, the unburned Cucurbita/C. pepo seeds most likely relate to prehistoric use of
domesticated squash, for three reasons: (1) squash is a known ancient domesticate in the area, (2) it was not likely grown as
a dryland crop in historic times, and (3) the degraded condition of the specimens suggests that they are fairly old.
Other taxa and parts were found in both charred and uncharred condition at Castle Rock Pueblo. Because charred fragments
of domesticated Zea mays cobs, cupules, and kernels were collected from multiple flotation and macrofossil samples, a
single unburned Zea mays cob fragment associated with wall fall in Structure 206 is considered to have been of cultural
origin and fortuitously preserved. In cases involving wild plants, however, where a single instance of an uncharred plant
part is accompanied by examples of the same part in charred condition (Atriplex wood, Gramineae caryopsis, Pinus bark
fragment, Stipa hymenoides caryopsis, Yucca/Y. baccata seed), we interpret the uncharred items conservatively as
noncultural. These plants are all part of the modern flora of the region and could owe their presence to incidental intrusion
of parts. Some uncharred Opuntia (prickly pear)/Opuntia seeds or fruit parts either had rodent tooth marks or appeared
modern to analysts, and on these bases they, too, are excluded from further consideration.
One taxon whose wood seems able to withstand long burial in open sites without being burned is juniper (Juniperus). At
Castle Rock Pueblo, although juniper wood was overwhelmingly preserved in charred condition, some specimens appeared
"partially charred," revealing the species' ability to preserve for centuries. The uncharred sections were often darkly
colored, as if aged. The wood is known today for its resistance to decay and for that reason is commonly used for fence
posts. There is a reasonable chance that uncharred juniper wood in six archaeological contexts at Castle Rock Pueblo might
be prehistoric. This seems especially likely for specimens preserved in roof fall (Structures 103 and 105) and on or above a
possible use surface (Structure 401). Nonetheless, the conservative approach taken here has been to omit those pieces of
wood from further consideration.
Perhaps the most perplexing situation concerns cheno-am seeds. It is often difficult to discern charring on these naturally
black seeds, especially when they are not swollen or broken open for an interior view. These seeds represent members of
both the goosefoot (Chenopodiaceae) and pigweed (Amaranthaceae) families, which grow in disturbed habitats, as
archaeological sites often are, and produce copious quantities of seeds. At Castle Rock Pueblo, cheno-am seeds were found
uncharred nearly as often as charred (Table 3). In one case (Structure 103), at least 100 uncharred seeds were found in a
postabandonment deposit in fill above roof/wall fall, suggesting perhaps a rodent cache. Most often, however, they
occurred in relatively low numbers, whether charred or not. Because of the weedy nature of the plants, in this report we
omit all uncharred cheno-am seeds from discussions of ancient plant use.
Judging from the entire set of 57 flotation and 343 macrofossil samples, it is clear that the residents of Castle Rock Pueblo
were agriculturalists who grew maize (Zea mays) (Table 4). Maize occurred most often in the form of charred cupules and
cob fragments in hearths and secondary refuse, and also as kernels and shank segments. The presence of cobs and shank
segments suggests that fields might have been close enough for these secondary waste products to have entered the pueblo.
The leftover cobs probably provided a source of fuel or tinder for hearths and firepits. A number of charred possible "meal
cakes" on Bench 6 in the oversized kiva, Structure 105, are suspected of consisting of ground maize kernels. Measurements
and key traits of maize and other well-preserved domesticates from Castle Rock Pueblo are summarized in Table 5.
Farmers also grew and/or had access to squash (Cucurbita pepo), common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), and gourds
(Lagenaria). Squash was preserved as seeds and rind fragments in five locations. Charred beans were preserved as
cotyledons (seed halves) in three locations, including roof fall with de facto refuse in Structure 305, a tower. This suggests
that beans might have been drying on the roof when the tower collapsed. A limited number of gourd rind fragments
completes the list of recognized domesticates. One fragment was collected with de facto refuse in the kiva (Structure 402)
associated with the D-shaped structure, and another was found in midden debris associated with either Structure 104 or
Structure 105, both kivas. The discovery of gourd remains in the Sand Canyon locality only in late Pueblo III contexts at
Sand Canyon Pueblo and Castle Rock Pueblo is noteworthy. This record has
been interpreted elsewhere (Adams and Bowyer 1998*1) as
evidence of one means of coping with food stress. That is, items such as
gourds might have been grown in order to be kept and traded for food at
some future time of hunger. The association of beans with Structure 305 (a
tower) and of gourd rind with Structure 402 (a kiva) is also intriguing,
considering the sparseness of these domesticates in Castle Rock deposits
generally. Perhaps limited availability of, or access to, these foods
brought them under some degree of social
Occupants of Castle Rock Pueblo harvested wild foods, at least on occasion (Table 4). The majority of this record is
preserved in flotation samples. Charred cheno-am seeds were found in 19 samples. These plants would have volunteered
readily in gardens and other disturbed locations and were likely harvested for both greens and seeds. Currently, goosefoot
plants come up in early summer, and pigweed seedlings germinate after the first summer rains. The seeds of these plants
start to ripen in mid- to late summer and continue to be available until fall frost. Burned seeds of prickly-pear cactus were
found in deposits at Castle Rock Pueblo; the fleshy fruits of this cactus ripen in late summer and can cling to the plants
until damaged by animals or freezing temperatures. The grains (caryopses) of rice grass (Stipa hymenoides) were a resource
in late spring and early summer. Seeds of purslane (Portulaca) would have been gathered from gardens and other disturbed
places along with the cheno-ams. Broad-leaf yucca (Yucca baccata) fruits, with mature seeds, ripen in late summer.
Reproductive parts of additional taxa are present in very small numbers at Castle Rock Pueblo, hinting at an even broader
diversity of native foodstuffs.
Fuel and Construction Materials
Judging from the entire flotation and macrofossil record, it appears that at least 15 types of wood were brought into Castle
Rock Pueblo and burned (Table 6). Although some of this material likely represents construction, much of it is probably
left over from the use of wood as fuel. The types of wood found as charcoal the most often were juniper (Juniperus) and
pine (Pinus and Pinus edulis). The presence of other juniper and pine parts, including charred juniper twigs and pine bark,
bark scales, and cone scales, suggests that a pinyon-juniper woodland existed during the occupation of the pueblo.
Additional types of wood that were commonly found include saltbush (Atriplex), cottonwood/willow (Populus/Salix), and
sagebrush (Artemisia). Saltbush and sagebrush are common shrubs today in the pinyon-juniper woodland, and sagebrush
flourishes in recovering agricultural fields. Cottonwood and willow trees can be found in canyon bottoms. The remaining
types of Castle Rock charcoal are also components of the modern flora, representing both uplands and lowlands.
Subsistence and Wood Use
The distribution of plant remains in different types of structures (Table 7 and Table 8) might shed light on the functions of
those structures or on the pueblo's social organization. The following discussion focuses on plant remains identified in
flotation samples taken from 15 thermal features (hearths and firepits) inside structures. These features are all considered to
have retained the primary refuse of the last fire(s) burned in them. It should be stressed that the samples represent only the
last few uses of these hearths and firepits, rather than overall or year-round use. This record is occasionally supplemented
with macrofossil information. Reproductive parts of plants are generally assumed to represent accidents of food processing,
although there could be other reasons why such parts might have been preserved in hearths and firepits. For example, some
seeds and fruits could have been brought in with moist vegetation gathered to provide a protective layer during the roasting
of some foods, such as maize ears. None of the thermal features discussed here are thought to have been roasting pits. Use
of flowers and fruits in medicine and ceremonies might also have resulted in the introduction of some reproductive plant
parts into hearths or firepits. The charcoal is assumed to represent primarily burned pieces of fuelwood.
Two towers (Structures 305 and 401) at Castle Rock Pueblo preserved a record of reproductive plant parts suggestive of
food preparation. These parts included cheno-am seeds, grass grains (including rice grass), and Yucca seeds. No maize was
collected from either tower, not even those parts (cobs and cupules) suggestive of fuel use. The plant record from the
towers reflects the presence of people in the late spring (Stipa hymenoides) and summer. Stickleaf (Mentzelia albicaulis)
seeds, rarely found in archaeological sites in the Sand Canyon locality, were preserved in Structure 401. Historically,
stickleaf seeds have been eaten by a number of Southwestern groups (Bohrer 1978*1:13). Charcoal of nine different tree
and shrub types was also preserved in the two towers, suggesting that various woods were used as fuel.
Maize was recovered from primary refuse in thermal features in seven kivas (Structures 103, 107, 112, 125, 302, 304, and
402). The presence of only charred maize kernels in three of these (103, 107, 112) suggests that maize was the sole food
product prepared in the last fires built in these structures. A potential food, Portulaca, was preserved in Structure 125. Plant
remains collected from the hearth in Structure 302 were similar to those in the two towers. The thermal features in
Structure 304 and Structure 402 (inside the D-shaped structure) lacked reproductive plant parts entirely. Structure 402,
however, had preserved gourd (Lagenaria) rind on a surface with de facto refuse, and plant parts (maize cupules, stickleaf
seeds) were also present in an associated midden.
The emphasis on domesticated plant use in kivas is confirmed in three additional locations. Although no hearth materials
were examined from the oversized kiva, Structure 105, the discovery of a number of possible Zea mays "meal cakes" on
Bench 6 suggests that maize was stored inside the kiva. A midden associated with Structure 101, another kiva, contained
preserved maize remains (kernel, cupule, cob) and cheno-am seeds. Finally, a maize cob was found in a midden associated
with Structure 405. The use of maize cobs as fuel is indicated in Structures 112, 125, and 304. In all kivas, charcoal from a
variety of tree and shrub species, representing both uplands and lowlands, also indicates fuel use.
Of five surface structures thought to have been habitations, two (Structures 119 and 124) preserved nothing to suggest food
preparation or use, except for some maize kernels in Structure 124. Structures 108 and 117 retained only two potential wild
plant foods each, along with maize kernels. The plant record in Structure 108 revealed nothing that would help explain its
unusual semisubterranean position. Only Structure 111, a small room built against the southern face of the butte, contained
numerous plant taxa suggestive of food preparationseeds of cheno-am, prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia), husk tomato
(Physalis), and purslane, along with grass grains and maize kernels. As in the case of towers and kivas, a number of tree
and shrub types (12) were carried into habitations as fuel sources, along with leftover maize cobs.
In an overview of the plant record from primary thermal features presumed to relate to the last fires in many structures,
some patterns emerge. More than half of these features preserved remains of maize kernels, and a third of them preserved
cheno-am seeds. Maize is a domesticate, and cheno-ams are known to proliferate in disturbed areas such as gardens, so in
one sense, both plants may be considered the products of agricultural harvests. Their presence in so many thermal features
suggests that farming provided most of the last foods eaten. This inference is supported by the presence of maize cobs as
fuel or tinder in many of the same locations. The presence of prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia) seeds in 20 percent of the
hearths and firepits reveals use of a fairly predictable wild food. Eight additional wild plant taxa were preserved in only one
or two thermal features, revealing rather limited reliance on them as foods.
Plant remains recovered from thermal features in the two towers, a single kiva (Structure 302), and a single habitation room
(Structure 111) indicate that a diversity of foodstuffs had been prepared, at least during the last uses of these features. The
towers, however, lacked evidence of maize as either food or fuel. Fewer foods were prepared in the other excavated
structures at the site. The food product that was preserved most often in primary thermal features in kivas, as well as in
middens clearly associated with kivas, was maize. Maize and other food products were also present in structures thought to
have been habitations.
With regard to fuel use, the presence of Juniperus and Pinus charcoal in more than 80 percent of primary thermal features
from all structure types suggests that the pinyon-juniper woodland still served as a major source of fuel for the final fires
built. The recovery of small parts such as twigs and bark scales confirms that the inhabitants of Castle Rock had access to
whole trees, not just to major trunk wood (for example, construction beams). Most of the remaining wood types were
probably common components of the pinyon-juniper woodland, including two that increase with agricultural disturbance
(Artemisia, Chrysothamnus). A few small trees or shrubs that grow in lowlands (Fraxinus, Populus/Salix, Sarcobatus)
complete the list of burned woods. The presence of maize cob parts in more than 50 percent of the thermal features
suggests that leftover cobs were used as fuel or tinder for the last fires burned.
Two "chief kiva fuels" (Atriplex, Rhus) of the Hopi Indians (Whiting 1966*1:38) were found only in the refuse of
primary thermal features in towers and kivas, and one additional type (Chrysothamnus) was almost exclusive to these
structures. The fourth chief kiva fuel (Sarcobatus) was present in all structure types. This ancient pattern resembles that of
historic Hopi wood use.
Plant Remains in Roof Fall and Wall Fall
Macrofossils handpicked from roof fall and wall fall strata in 11 structures have been analyzed for Castle Rock Pueblo
(Table 9). The large majority of specimens are charred, with a few notable exceptions. Cucurbita seeds on a bench in a kiva
(Structure 103) were uncharred, yet are considered prehistoric because of their degraded condition and because they
represent a domesticate. That the bench provided an exceptional preservation situation is indicated by the presence of partly
charred pieces of juniper (Juniperus) wood.
Roof fall and wall fall strata can include materials with more than one origin. Certainly, components of the roof are likely
to be present in roof fall. Items left on top of the roof or suspended from the rafters for drying or storage might also be
included. Items on kiva benches or possibly on floors might become mixed with collapsed roofing materials. It appears that
the Castle Rock plant record encompasses both materials chosen for roof construction and domesticated crops that were
associated with the use of roofs or the surfaces onto which the roofs collapsed. The patterns discussed below are
demonstrated in structures and elsewhere in contexts designated "surface contact or fill above surface" and "upper fill"
Of the 15 types of charcoal preserved in all deposits examined from Castle Rock Pueblo, a smaller subset of six types
appears to be most often associated with roof fall and wall fall. Juniper (Juniperus) was preserved in nine of the 11
structures for which samples from roof fall and wall fall were analyzed, complementing the tree-ring record of regular use
of juniper for construction timbers. Occasional use of Pinus wood is suggested by its presence in four of the roof fall strata; Pinus charcoal identified at the low magnifications used in this study potentially includes pinyon (P. edulis), ponderosa
pine (P. ponderosa), douglas fir (Pseudotsuga), and spruce (Picea), some of which grow on the northern flanks of nearby
Ute Mountain. The juniper and pine construction timbers likely provided the major roof elements (vigas) and supports,
although other large timbers might have been used as well.
In addition to the major construction elements of juniper and pine, some of the smaller layers of roof
constructionpossibly the closing layersmight be represented by charcoal from shrubs. These shrubs include sagebrush
(Artemisia), which was associated with seven roofs, and saltbush (Atriplex), rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus), and
cottonwood/willow (Populus/Salix), each collected from roof fall in three structures. At the Duckfoot site, a Pueblo I
hamlet in the region, Artemisia was a possible roof-closing material, as well as a flammable material used in the intentional
burning of structures (Adams 1993*1).
Nonwoody material associated with roof fall and wall fall inside structures includes the domesticates maize (Zea mays),
beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), and squash (Cucurbita). In some cases the items were found in association with kiva benches,
where they might have been sitting when the roof collapsed; it is also possible that they were associated with the roof and
landed on the bench as the roof fell in. Maize was found in eight of the 11 structures as cobs, kernels, a "fused mass," and
possible "meal cakes" of ground maize kernels. The "fused mass" on Bench 6 in Structure 105 consisted of cob, stalk, and
kernel fragments. Nearly 2,000 charred kernels, some still attached to cobs, were preserved in roof fall in Structure 206.
Possible maize "meal cakes" were found in Structures 105 (the oversized kiva) and 304 (a small kiva). Collectively, this
record suggests that maize was being stored either on kiva benches or in containers suspended from roof rafters. Other
domesticates present included uncharred squash (Cucurbita) seeds on Bench 2 in Structure 103 (a kiva) and charred
common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) cotyledons in Structures 206 (a kiva) and 305 (a tower). The storage of domesticates in
kivas and towers might indicate a certain level of social control over foodstuffs.
Proximity of Agricultural Fields
Agricultural fields were near enough to Castle Rock Pueblo that secondary waste products such as maize cobs were carried
in regularly and burned in hearths and firepits. Shank segments were also brought in on occasion. Cheno-am and Portulaca, weedy plants that thrive in agricultural fields, appear to have provided food in the form of seeds. Shrubs known to play a
role in the recovery of abandoned agricultural fields (Artemisia, Chrysothamnus) were among the top 10 charcoal types
identified in all deposits, suggesting that the inhabitants of Castle Rock had fairly regular access to disturbed land.
Seasonality of Site Use
Given what we know about plant seasonality and agricultural scheduling
needs, the plant record at Castle Rock Pueblo places occupants in the area
from the spring through the fall. Plants harvested during the late spring
and early summer include rice grass (Stipa hymenoides) and woolly
wheat (Plantago). The remaining wild plants produced reproductive
parts available during the summer and fall, as did the domesticates maize,
beans, squash, and gourds. The need to prepare fields and rework simple
water-control structures in the spring, to watch over crops in the summer,
and to harvest and process
plants in the fall would have required some people to be close at hand throughout many months of the year.
Plant Use Through Time
Castle Rock Pueblo was built and inhabited during the last half of the thirteenth century. Refuse accumulations in three
structures (108, 304, and 308) suggest that these buildings were abandoned while people continued to live in other areas of
the village. The majority of structures, however, appear to have still been occupied when the attack that ended the
habitation of the village occurred (see "The Final Days of Castle Rock Pueblo").
Structure 401, a tower, is one structure that might have been used after
that event, at least for a short while, as suggested by the presence of a
use surface above its
Some plant refuse accumulated in Structures 108 and 304 while people still occupied other parts of the village. Plant
material in the hearths of these structures seems not to vary noticeably from that found in general site debris. Remains of
the same foods and wood charcoal were mixed into the postabandonment cultural refuse that found its way into these
structures. No differences in plant use between these structures and the rest of the site are obvious.
As mentioned above, many of the structures at Castle Rock Pueblo were still in use at the time of the attack. The presence
of maize and squash in two kivas (Structures 104 and 206) that were open at abandonment indicates that crops were
available at this time. Most of these plant remains were found in roof fall or wall fall or else were on a surface or in fill
above it. This implies that the plants were associated with the kiva roofs in some way (for example, the plants were drying
on the roof or suspended in containers hanging from rafters) or were on the floor or a bench (in the case of Structure 206)
or somehow were within a ventilator system (Structure 104). The very small number of preserved food plant remains
present in postabandonment fill is consistent with natural deposition when people no longer lived at Castle Rock Pueblo.
The plant record in these and other structures might reveal something about the season during which the attack that ended
the occupation of the village occurred. For example, plant remains from thermal features and from roof fall and wall fall
deposits in two towers (Structures 305 and 401) and a kiva (Structure 302), supplemented by materials from just above the
structure surfaces, suggest several possibilities. Two of these structures (302 and 305) contained evidence of domesticated
plants along with cheno-am seeds. This implies human presence in the area in the late summer and fall, when crops were
ripe and required processing for storage. Similarly, the presence of broad-leaf yucca (Yucca baccata) and prickly-pear
cactus (Opuntia) seeds suggests late summer and fall. Because these items can be stored indefinitely, however, the season
of harvest does not necessarily equate with the season of use. The presence of people in the area during spring and summer
is implied by the discovery of rice grass (Stipa hymenoides) remains and the seeds of other later-ripening plants such as
Malvaceae and Mentzelia, all of which can also be stored. Two scenarios could reasonably account for these data. First, it is
possible that the attack on Castle Rock came in late spring/early summer and that some domesticates and garden weeds
were still in storage from a previous fall harvest. Alternatively, the village may have been attacked during or following the
fall harvest, in which case the seeds of wild plants found in the structures may have been stored from earlier in the growing
season. Assuming that it would have been difficult to acquire crop surpluses large enough to store food for lengthy periods,
the second scenario seems the more reasonable of the two.
Above the burned roof in Structure 401, a tower, excavators uncovered a surface, which suggests that there was limited use
of the site following the attack. Because no plant remains have been analyzed from this context, the nature of plant use
during this time is unknown. Structure 302, a kiva, also might have been used for a short while following the attack, though
no plant remains can be clearly tied to this use.
Resource Depletion and Food Stress
The plant remains preserved in structures abandoned before the attack were essentially the same ones preserved in
structures occupied up to the end of the village's occupation, which provides us with no evidence of resource depletion or
food stress. For comparison, a large archaeobotanical data set covering the last 100 years of occupation in the Sand Canyon
locality (Adams and Bowyer 1998*1) revealed some possible food
stress at Sand Canyon Pueblo. There, during the late A.D. 1200s, people
may have relied more on Opuntia (prickly-pear) seeds than did others
in the region during the late 1100s and early 1200s, and maize (Zea)
kernels occurred in relatively low frequencies in Sand Canyon Pueblo
hearths and firepits (seven of 38). At Castle Rock Pueblo, the presence of
maize kernels in eight of 15 thermal features with primary refuse (Table
7) represents a relatively high rate for the region for the thirteenth
century (Adams and Bowyer 1998*1). This suggests that food
stress, if present, was perhaps less of a problem at Castle Rock than at
some of the other pueblos in the region. That maize cobs and cupules were
found in some of these same hearths and firepits suggests that people were
burning cobs as fuel and not relying on them as a starvation food, as has
been recorded in the Southwest ethnographically
Another ethnographically known buffering mechanism for protecting a household against food shortfalls might have been
operating at Castle Rock Pueblothe production of valuable goods to
trade later for food (Lightfoot 1983*1:193). Although gourds
were present in the Mesa Verde region from approximately A.D. 600, gourd
remains were found in only limited quantities at Sand Canyon and Castle
Rock pueblos. The finding of gourd (Lagenaria) rind in two
Castle Rock might reflect the growing of gourds to make ceremonial rattles to trade with others for food.
The Past Environment
The prehistoric plant record suggests that many of the plants present in the region today were also available to the ancient
occupants of Castle Rock Pueblo. Although it is difficult to comment on relative proportions of taxa in past vegetation, the
evidence suggests that opportunistic weeds (cheno-ams, Portulaca) took advantage of agricultural fields and were in turn
harvested for food. The presence at Castle Rock Pueblo of wood of two shrubs (Artemisia and Chrysothamnus) known to
fill a successional role in fallow agricultural fields supports the idea that some portions of the landscape had been opened
for crops. That some of these fields were in the vicinity of Castle Rock is confirmed by the finding of agricultural waste
products within the pueblo.
Generally, a pinyon-juniper woodland covered the area and supported many of the same shrubs found in the modern
woodland. Although it has been difficult to locate two modern specimens of herbaceous taxa (Mentzelia albicaulis and Plantago) recovered at Castle Rock, both do occur occasionally in the modern environment and could owe their scarcity to
heavy historic grazing. The Castle Rock plant remains, although heavily biased by cultural choice and practices,
nevertheless reflect an environment with many of the modern plants present today.
References cited | To borrow, cite, or request permission