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About This Publication
List of Tables
List of Illustrations
Research Design
Population Estimates
Faunal Remains
Archaeobotanical Remains
Human Skeletal Remains
Rock Art
Yellow Jacket Pueblo as Community Center

Research Design

by Kristin A. Kuckelman

Crow Canyon's research at Yellow Jacket Pueblo (Site 5MT5) was conducted as part of the Village Testing Project. As part of this larger effort, which is described more fully in Ortman et al. (2000*1), we also tested two other large, late, village sites: Woods Canyon Pueblo, 11 km southwest of Yellow Jacket Pueblo (Churchill 2002*1; Crow Canyon Archaeological Center 2003*1), and Hedley Ruin, on a tributary of Monument Canyon near the Colorado-Utah border in southeastern Utah (Ortman et al. 2000*1:135–141). The primary goal of the Village Testing Project was to clarify the history of occupation of these villages; the overarching research goal was to better understand the aggregation that occurred during the late Pueblo II and Pueblo III periods (A.D. 1050–1300) and the depopulation of the region in the late A.D. 1200s (Wilshusen 1995*1).

Yellow Jacket Pueblo was selected for testing because it is the largest known site in the Mesa Verde region, it appeared to have been occupied during the late Pueblo II and the Pueblo III periods, and very little was known about it. The specific goals of our research were (1) to create a complete, detailed, and accurate map of the site using a total station surveying instrument (Database Map 263); (2) to document the types and extent of historic damage to the site (Kuckelman and Glowacki 1995*1; see also, for example, Database Map 267); and (3) to refine the site chronology through limited test excavations (see "Chronology"). A more detailed discussion of the research design is presented in Wilshusen (1995*1).

Our testing at Yellow Jacket Pueblo was designed to generate the greatest body of interpretable data with the least disturbance to intact deposits. We excavated 112 test pits with a total area of 167 m2. To sample and document buried remains from earlier occupations, all test pits were excavated either to undisturbed native sediment or to bedrock. We used three different testing strategies. The first was to excavate a 1-x-2-m pit along the north, or exterior, face of the north wall of each visible roomblock, or portion of roomblock, on land on which we had permission to excavate (Database Map 266). By exposing the outside face of each roomblock we could document the architectural style of the roomblock masonry and record the full stratigraphic sequence of occupation (in at least one location within each architectural block) without excavating through structure floors. We define an architectural block as a roomblock with its associated kivas, middens, and extramural surfaces.

The second strategy involved the excavation of at least two 1-x-1-m pits in what appeared, from evidence on the modern ground surface, to be the midden area within each visible architectural block. These pits were excavated to provide enough pottery sherds to allow us to determine the time of occupation of each tested architectural block, as well as to detect and sample remains that might predate the block. When too few pottery sherds were found in the first two pits excavated, additional pits were dug to ensure an adequate data set for that block.

The third strategy was to test several structures in the great tower complex (Architectural Block 1200). The purpose of this strategy was, first, to determine whether this architectural block was indeed the area that had been partly excavated and then backfilled in 1931 by field school students from the Museum of Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. Only very limited documentation has been found from this earlier excavation. Our second goal, once we verified that Block 1200 was in fact the previously excavated area, was to further test several of the structures and salvage as much information as possible from these disturbed contexts. This block was of particular interest to us because (1) it appeared to have been constructed in the mid– to late A.D. 1200s and, thus, to have been one of the latest constructions at the site; (2) it was similar to late, defensive-looking, canyon-rim structures at other sites; (3) it had a very high room-to-kiva ratio (about 1:1); and (4) it enclosed a spring. These characteristics led to the inference that this was an important structure built late in the occupation of the village and region. This block was also possibly the only major public architecture we had permission to test. Two other structures suspected of being public architecture at this site—a probable great kiva (Architectural Block 1800) and a possible Chacoan great house (Architectural Block 1800)—were not located on the portion of the site owned by The Archaeological Conservancy, and therefore we were unable to test them.

To make our investigation of Yellow Jacket Pueblo as complete and comprehensive as possible, we attempted to find all curated artifacts and documents associated with previous, nonprofessional excavations at this site and to use these data in our research (Wilshusen 1996*1). At least 500 complete or partial vessels from this site are housed in curation facilities in various locations throughout Colorado, including Boulder, Gunnison, Dolores, and Durango (Wilshusen 1996*1:2). Notes and maps from the Chappell Collection (housed in the Anasazi Heritage Center, Dolores, Colorado) were used in defining the chronology of the pueblo, especially for a key portion of the site containing the great kiva, which we were not permitted to test (see Database Map 266).

Site-Specific Research Questions

Site-specific questions from the Yellow Jacket Pueblo research design are presented below. Each research question is followed by one or more links to relevant sources of information, primarily chapters in this publication.

When was the village occupied?
Chronology, Artifacts

How many people lived in the village?
Population Estimates

How many architectural blocks, rooms, kivas, and towers were in the village?

Is the block referred to by the Museum of Western State College as "square mug house" (Hurst and Lotrich 1932*1) the same as our great tower complex?

How was the great tower complex used?
Architecture, Yellow Jacket Pueblo (Site 5MT5) as Community Center, Faunal Remains, Archaeobotanical Remains

How rapidly did aggregation occur in this community?
Chronology, Yellow Jacket Pueblo (Site 5MT5) as Community Center

What was the role of Yellow Jacket Pueblo in the larger community?
Yellow Jacket Pueblo (Site 5MT5) as Community Center, Artifacts

What is the evidence relating to subsistence at Yellow Jacket Pueblo?
Subsistence, Faunal Remains, Archaeobotanical Remains

What types of public architecture are represented in the village?

How much damage has the site suffered in historic times?
Database Map 267; see also the Yellow Jacket Site Management and Protection Plan by Kuckelman and Glowacki (1995*1).

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