A lot can happen to a landscape over the course of 1,000 years—streams can change course or dry up, entire forests can grow and die, farms can replace meadows, and roads and buildings can wipe out almost all traces of what came before.
Now a team of researchers from Indiana’s Earlham College is helping Crow Canyon archaeologists peel back the years at the Haynie site, and are looking at a nearby feature that may shed light on how ancestral Pueblo farmers used water in the area.
Dr. Cynthia Fadem and two of her students, Cora Johnson and Nishchal Restha, are looking for evidence of ancient waterways and possible reservoirs as part of paleohydrology and geomorphology studies at the Wallace site, which is located in a valley immediately south of the Haynie site and which is also part of the greater Lakeview Community— one of the densest concentrations of Chaco-era (A.D. 1050-1140) great houses found north of New Mexico’s Aztec Ruins.
Of particular interest is a structure that may have been a reservoir for storing water at the site.
“So far, we have been examining a potential reservoir feature at Wallace,” says Fadem. “This includes creating a high-resolution GPS map of the feature and the surrounding area so we can do water modeling and volume estimates.”
Fadem and her students have been using a number of techniques to help determine if the structure is an ancient reservoir, the site of an ancient stream bed, or perhaps something else entirely. This includes aerial surveying, GPS mapping, and gathering soil and other materials from core samples for analysis.
“There’s nothing conclusive so far, but we do have a digital elevation model of the feature and we can do calculations based off that,” said Fadem.
Geomorphology is the study of how land changes over time, both by natural forces and human activities. And as both an archaeologist and a geologist, Fadem is uniquely qualified to examine features like the one at the Wallace site from a geomorphological perspective.
“Being a geo-archaeologist is like being a jack-of-all-trades because there's not just one tool set,” said Fadem. “As a geologist and archaeologist, looking at the synthesis of cultures and landscapes, you really have to be flexible in terms of whether or not something is cultural or not.”
“It’s about building a story of how landscapes and features were used and have changed over time,” said Fadem.
The work is part of Crow Canyon’s Northern Chaco Outliers Project, which is focused on the Haynie site—a significant ancestral Pueblo village located just northeast of Cortez. The data gathered during the excavation of the site and examination of the surrounding area will dramatically increase our understanding of Chaco influence in the Mesa Verde region, changing human/environment relationships during the A.D. 1130–1180 drought, and the emergence and functioning of community centers through time.
The Northern Chaco Outliers Project is funded in part by History Colorado—State Historical Fund, the National Science Foundation, and the generous support of donors and program participants like you.
For more information on how you can take part in the discoveries being made at the Haynie site, check out our Archaeological Research Program by clicking here.