The next excavation project for the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center will be an investigation of an ancestral Pueblo village with two Pueblo II period (A.D. 950–1150) great houses.
The new project, The Northern Chaco Outliers Project, moves Crow Canyon’s focus from the Indian Camp Ranch subdivision to the 5-acre Haynie site (5MT1905) near Cortez. The site includes standing architecture, although previous landowners have explored it extensively.
Unlike the individual small houses in which most ancestral Pueblo families of this era lived, multi-story great houses were built to accommodate many households in one large structure. They first developed in Chaco Canyon, in present-day northwestern New Mexico, beginning in approximately A.D. 850. Around A.D. 1080, the Chaco regional system expanded to the area north of the San Juan River, including Aztec and Salmon Pueblos, the largest great houses outside of Chaco Canyon. Many archaeologists believe the great houses at Aztec Ruins became a center of power equal to Chaco Canyon, and probably succeeded Chaco as the primary center, during the mid-A.D. 1100s.
The ancestral Pueblo inhabitants of the Haynie site were part of the larger Lakeview group, which includes the two great houses at Haynie and two others nearby on private land. This makes the Lakeview group one of the densest concentrations of great houses found north of Aztec Ruins.
“There are few communities in the Mesa Verde area that have a tight clustering of public and residential architecture,” said Susan Ryan, director of archaeology at Crow Canyon. “We don’t see many examples of this dense concentration of great houses in the Mesa Verde region." Others include the Lowry and Mitchell Springs communities.
Public architecture, which includes great houses, is generally the nucleus of a community. Because this community has four public buildings and one great kiva, Crow Canyon archaeologists will be tasked with understanding the relationships between the residents living in the Lakeview community and how they may be tied into the Chaco regional system.
The goals of the Northern Chaco Outliers Project are fourfold. Researchers hope to explore differences in artifact production to look at social stratification and equality/inequality. Archaeologists also will be exploring the relationship of the inhabitants of the Haynie site to the middle San Juan region and to Chaco Canyon. All four of the Lakeview community’s great houses have features that suggest their builders most likely migrated to the central Mesa Verde region directly from Chaco or the middle San Juan. In addition, Crow Canyon’s research will provide new data on the relationships between humans and the environment, the role of public architecture and community centers, and ancestral Pueblo identity formation.
"Because we believe the Haynie site was occupied from the Basketmaker III period into the 13th century, this is a chance to collect data from the initial occupation of the site to the time when depopulation took place throughout the region,” Ryan said. The A.D. 1130–1180 drought is particularly important, because those five decades of extreme moisture deficiency on the Colorado Plateau caused some communities to depopulate, while others held their population, and a few even grew.
The research at Haynie will, in turn, tie into data Crow Canyon has collected over the past 33 years.
During 2016, a History Colorado State Historical Fund grant will support site assessment, remote sensing, drone mapping, and planning of future research there. The site also will be nominated to historic preservation registers. Crow Canyon’s Native American Advisory Group has visited the site and participated in a collaborative research design process with Crow Canyon staff.
Full-time excavation will begin during the 2017 field season, and the project will continue through 2020. In addition to Crow Canyon’s professional archaeologists, participants in Crow Canyon’s adult excavation programs and educational programs, including school groups, teen camps, and College Field School, will excavate at the Haynie site. The public will not be allowed to visit the site without being part of a Crow Canyon program.
See more information about Crow Canyon’s Archaeology Research Program, in which citizen scientists participate in excavation and archaeological research. Spaces are still open for 2016 sessions.
The Northern Chaco Outliers Project is funded in part by the State Historical Fund (a program of History Colorado, the Colorado Historical Society).