Revisiting the Depopulation of the Northern Southwest with Dendrochronology: A Changing Perspective with New Dates from Cedar Mesa and the Southern Bears Ears

The depopulation of Ancestral Pueblo people from the northern Southwest has been a fascination of archaeologists for decades. Using a suite of social and environmental models, scholars have attempted to explain the processes that led tens of thousands of people to vacate hundreds of communities at the end of the thirteenth century A.D. Recent site documentation and dendroarchaeological research in the Cedar Mesa area (in the southern Bears Ears National Monument), however, shows an inherent bias in these assessments that undervalue the size of populations and their longevity on the outskirts of the region. The presenters provide a synthesis of new tree-ring data from over two dozen previously unrecorded cliff dwellings from the greater Cedar Mesa that provide insights into the dating of construction and remodeling of structures and the size and longevity of communities living in remote cliff-dwellings in the western portion of the region. In this presentation, they review previous discussions about the timing of the depopulation of the northern Southwest, from the point of view of the Cedar Mesa area, to reassess the nature and timing of the depopulation and the effect these data have on assessments of the depopulation of the larger region.