Porter Area Research Domains
By Mark D. Mitchell and Richard H. Wilshusen
Although Wheat's data on the late Pueblo II occupation of the Porter area appeared anomalous in the 1960s, more recent work in the Yellow Jacket locality and adjacent areas provides a context for interpreting his results and for designing additional research using the CU Museum's Yellow Jacket Collection. Recent projects also provide important data for understanding the relationships between the Porter area and other nearby settlements during the Pueblo II and Pueblo III periods. In the following sections the archaeology of adjacent contemporaneous sites is briefly discussed and four key research domains are summarized.
Pueblo II and Pueblo III Settlements in the Montezuma Valley
Research conducted over the last 20 years has identified a large number of late Pueblo II and Pueblo III settlements within about 20 kilometers of 5MT1. Two nearby projects—the Four Corners Archaeological Project (FCAP) and the Ute Mountain Irrigation Project—in particular provide important perspectives for interpreting the Pueblo II and Pueblo III features in the Porter area. Just over 15 kilometers west of the Yellow Jacket locality, the Hovenweep Laterals portion of FCAP had several multi-component sites with Pueblo II and Pueblo III occupations (Morris 1991Morris, James N.
1991 Archaeological Excavations on the Hovenweep Laterals. Four Corners Archaeological Project Report 16. Complete Archaeological Service Associates, Cortez, Colorado.). Northwest of Yellow Jacket, five sites with Pueblo II components were excavated for the South Canal portion of FCAP (Kuckelman and Morris 1988Kuckelman, Kristin A. and James N. Morris
1988 Archaeological Investigations on South Canal. Four Corners Archaeological Project Report 11. Complete Archaeological Service Associates, Cortez, Colorado.). Lastly, the Ute Mountain investigations documented even a greater total number of sites than FCAP that were occupied during the Pueblo II or Pueblo III periods, southwest of Yellow Jacket (Billman and Robinson 2003Billman, Brian R. and Christine K. Robinson
2003 The Puebloan Occupation of the Ute Mountain Peidmont [sic], Vol. 3: Late Pueblo II to Early Pueblo III and Late Pueblo III Habitation Sites. Soil Systems Publications in Archaeology No. 22, Vol. 3. Phoenix, Arizona.; Robinson 2002Robinson, Christine K.
2002 The Puebloan Occupation of the Ute Mountain Piedmont, Vol. 2: Single Component Basketmaker III and Middle Pueblo II Habitation Sites. Soil Systems Publications in Archaeology No. 22, vol. 2. Phoenix, Arizona.).
Features and structures similar to those comprising the intermediate and Pueblo III components in the Porter area also can be found in small Pueblo III settlements elsewhere in the region (e.g., Morris 1991Morris, James N.
1991 Archaeological Excavations on the Hovenweep Laterals. Four Corners Archaeological Project Report 16. Complete Archaeological Service Associates, Cortez, Colorado.; Varien 1999bVarien, Mark D.
1999b The Sand Canyon Archaeological Project: Site Testing. CD-ROM, Version 1.0. Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Cortez, Colorado (distributed by the University of Arizona Press, Tucson).). The architecture on these smaller Pueblo III sites can include isolated masonry rooms; small masonry roomblocks; post-and-adobe structures; and deep, masonry-lined kivas with six pilasters and an encircling bench, just as is the case at Porter.
Ceramic data indicate that the Porter area was first occupied during the mid-1000s re-colonization of the Montezuma Valley and abandoned near the end of the thirteenth century. However, it is not clear whether it was continuously inhabited during this period. Aeolian deposits in the fill of Kiva D, the last of the late Pueblo II kivas, suggest that the Porter area may have been abandoned for a period in the mid-1100s. The relative dearth of late Pueblo III pottery (especially Mesa Verde Black-on-white vessels) outside of ritual abandonment contexts hints at the possibility of a second periodic abandonment in the mid-1200s.
Construction history data for the Porter area also indicate that the intensity with which it was occupied may have varied over time. Structures and features stratigraphically intermediate between the late Pueblo II component and the Pueblo III components may represent the first, small-scale phase of Pueblo III construction. Alternatively, these intermediate structures may have been built during a short hiatus in the permanent occupation of the Porter area and should more properly be considered field houses or temporary habitation structures.
The clear architectural differences between the earliest and the latest structures in the Porter area also suggest an occupational unconformity. Such differences may be indicative of a general transformation of architectural styles in the Montezuma Valley over time. Alternatively, such differences may indicate that two culturally-distinct groups occupied the Porter area successively. Detailed analyses of the artifact assemblage associated with the early and late components may clarify the relationships between the prehistoric inhabitants.
Recent nearby investigations substantiate the variable nature of Pueblo II architecture Wheat documented in the Porter area of 5MT1 (Lipe and Varien 1999b:270Lipe, William D. and Mark D. Varien
1999b Pueblo III (A.D. 1150-1300). In Colorado Prehistory: A Context for Southern Colorado Drainage Basin, edited by William D. Lipe, Mark D. Varien, and Richard H. Wilshusen, pp. 290-352. Colorado Council of Professional Archaeologists, Denver.). These projects exposed deep pitstructures or kivas ranging from square or subrectangular to circular in plan. In some cases four pilasters are present while in others six are used. Some benches are complete, while others are partial. Some kivas lack either pilasters or a bench. Subterranean rooms (mealing rooms) also are variable, but perhaps less so than the kivas (Kuckelman and Morris 1988:425Kuckelman, Kristin A. and James N. Morris
1988 Archaeological Investigations on South Canal. Four Corners Archaeological Project Report 11. Complete Archaeological Service Associates, Cortez, Colorado.). Ramadas and post-and-adobe buildings are present, as are deep bell-shaped and straight-sided storage pits similar to those Wheat documented in the Porter area. Tunnels are present, as are deep storage features attached to semi-subterranean work and storage rooms. Masonry structures are present on some Pueblo II components, but like those of the Porter area these tend to consist of isolated rooms rather than small roomblocks.
This variability may be attributable in part to the process of colonization, but it may also reflect cultural differences among the migrants. It may also reflect long-standing cultural differences within the Mesa Verde region. Pueblo II architecture documented within Mesa Verde National Park differs systematically from that observed in the Porter area and elsewhere in the Montezuma Valley, suggesting that at least two distinct cultural groups may have been present. However, the similarities in pottery and in some burial practices documented at both Montezuma Valley and Mesa Verde sites suggests that some aspects of social identity are shared regionally. For example, both Wheat (n.d.b.Wheat, Joe Ben
n.d.b. The Architecture of Porter Pueblo. Ms. on file, University of Colorado Museum, Boulder.) and Swannack (1969Swannack, J.D., Jr.
1969 Big Juniper House, Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado. Archaeological Research Series No. 7-C. Wetherill Mesa Excavations. National Park Service, Washington, D.C.) documented the presence of ceramic funerary offerings consisting of one or two vessels resting on or closely associated with sherds from large corrugated jars in late Pueblo II burial contexts.
Beginning with its establishment about A.D. 1060, the Porter area was one component of a complex community centered on Yellow Jacket Pueblo (5MT5). Reconstructing the relationships among the settlements within this community is critical to understanding the occupational history of the Porter area. How are the histories of 5MT1 and 5MT5 intertwinned? Was their development parallel, or was the establishment and abandonment of the Porter area a function of events taking place at Yellow Jacket Pueblo? Do both sites exhibit similar sequences of growth and decline?
A consideration of the relationships between the Porter area and Yellow Jacket Pueblo also leads to a more general inquiry into the organization of Pueblo II and Pueblo III communities. To what extent, or in what way, were the social and economic affairs of 5MT1 influenced by Yellow Jacket Pueblo? How were social units, such as lineages or clans, distributed between the two settlements? Did the inhabitants of the Porter area have ties to other nearby communities?
Although Yellow Jacket Pueblo must have dominated community socio-political affairs, it is likely that in day-to-day domestic life the residents of the unnumbered roomblock east of the Porter area and of 5MT2 would have had much more influence. Both are so close to the Porter area (5MT2 is just 25 meters north, and the unnumbered roomblock is 50 meters east) that it is quite possible that the households at the three sites shared kinship bonds, held agricultural land in common, or cooperated on various tasks. What was the nature of the relationships among these three settlements, and how did they change over time? What was the momentary size of this local community, and how were social units distributed within it? How did this local group interact with the residents of 5MT3 or Yellow Jacket Pueblo?