General Chronology of Site Occupation
By Richard H. Wilshusen
There are two well-documented components of construction and occupation at site 5MT2 (Site Plan, 5MT2 - pdf format). The earliest corresponds to the use and abandonment of the six-room pueblo and pitstructure in the southern half of the site (Area 2) and the latest component is a temporally distinct occupation and abandonment of the fourteen room pueblo and pitstructure in the northern half of the site (Area 1). Based on all the presently available chronological evidence it appears that the first component probably dates to sometime between A.D. 1160 and 1225, or early Pueblo III, and the second component most likely dates sometime between A.D. 1200 and 1280, or late Pueblo III (Lipe and Varien 1999bLipe, 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.). A more complete discussion of Mesa Verde temporal periods, ceramic types, and changes in architecture types and style can be found in the section that defines the concepts and terms used in this report.
It does appear that the beginnings of the second component followed close after the abandonment of the first component. However, the wide range in the date estimates for the two occupations does not mean that the components each lasted for 55-65 years. The ranges simply indicate that the occupation most likely falls sometime within that period. A recent study of thirteen Pueblo II and III hamlets in this same region estimated that most of these sites had occupation spans of between one and three generations, or roughly 20-60 years (Varien 1999a:Table 5.4Varien, Mark D.
1999a Sedentism and Mobility in a Social Landscape: Mesa Verde and Beyond. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.). Certainly, the simplicity of the first occupation suggests that it lasted on the shorter end of the range.
There is a great deal of relative dating evidence for the temporal placement of Site 5MT2's two main components. Ceramic type frequencies, site stratigraphy, architectural style, and the abandonment modes of various structures all support the interpretation that the southern roomblock and pitstructure represent the earlier component at the site and the northern roomblock and pitstructure are the last occupation. As will be detailed later, the few absolute dates—that is, the tree-ring and archaeomagnetic dates—from the site appear to provide less accurate estimates of the occupation dates in this instance. The main sources of evidence for dating the site occupation history are discussed separately.
Based on Cater's (1989: Table 7Cater, John D.
1989 Chronological Understanding of Site 5MT2, Yellow Jacket, Colorado, and a Study of Abandonment Modes. Unpublished MA thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder.) initial analysis of sherds from the two components, it appears that the first component of occupation (i.e., Area 2) had relatively equal amounts of McElmo Black-on-white (15% of the total pottery from this area) and Mesa Verde Black-on-white (11%), with only a very small percentage (1.5%) of the earlier Mancos Black-on-white. Although Cater's analysis can not be compared directly to the ceramic dating methods used by Ortman (2003: Tables 13 and 14Ortman, Scott G.
2003 Artifacts. In The Archaeology of Yellow Jacket Pueblo (Site 5MT5): Excavations at a Large Community Center in Southwestern Colorado [HTML Title]. Available: http://www.crowcanyon.org/yellowjacket. Date of use: December 17, 2004.) at nearby Yellow Jacket Pueblo (5MT5), the more comprehensive Crow Canyon dating scheme suggests some general trends in ceramic change useful for dating 5MT2.
The first component's ceramic frequencies fit well with the A.D. 1180-1225 period as described in Ortman's calibrated data set. The extremely high Mesa Verde Black-on-white percentages (28%) for the later component almost certainly associate it with a typical ceramic profile of A.D. 1225-1280. Testing in a midden area to the east of both structural areas resulted in higher percentages of Mancos Black-on-white (6%) than elsewhere on the site and suggest that the initial occupation of the site might slightly predate A.D. 1180. It must be emphasized that our report write-up coincided with the reinventory and rehousing of all the sherds and we were unable to reexamine most of the sherds from the site, so we depend heavily on Cater's original preliminary analysis.
The architectural styles evident in the two areas of the site almost certainly postdate A.D. 1150. A great deal of the masonry had been taken from the southern roomblock and pitstructure soon after their abandonment, so less can be said about their architectural styles, but based on the one remaining complete masonry wall and the general form of the kiva, even the earliest component most likely post-dates A.D. 1150. Lipe and Varien (1999b:318-320Lipe, 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.) summarize a number of architectural trends, all of which reinforce placing the two components at 5MT2 in the A.D. 1150-1300 period. The presence of kivas with lined masonry interiors, six pilaster roof support systems, and southern recesses; the double course wide masonry walls of the roomblocks with pecked masonry; and the location of the site close to a major canyon-head settlement complex all reinforce assigning both components at the site to Pueblo III (A.D. 1150-1300).
In terms of site stratigraphy and structural abandonment modes the evidence again supports the interpretation that the southern roomblock is the earlier occupation and the northern roomblock is the later. As noted earlier, masonry from both the interior of the southern kiva and from the walls of the southern roomblock were robbed after the abandonment of these structures and quite possibly reused in the construction of the northern roomblock and kiva. Although Cater argues that the roof of the southern kiva was not salvaged (1989:162Cater, John D.
1989 Chronological Understanding of Site 5MT2, Yellow Jacket, Colorado, and a Study of Abandonment Modes. Unpublished MA thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder.), the very limited amount of structural timbers (i.e., only four small tree-ring samples were recovered) and very dense deposits of humic material in the roof fall deposit suggests an alternative explanation in which the main timbers were robbed and the smaller closing materials collapsed onto the floor in the process of exposing the main roofing timbers. Whatever the case, it is clear that the southern roomblock was at least partly dismantled and the kiva cavity filling with trash during the main occupation of the larger northern roomblock at the site.
The final abandonment consisted of leaving at least 15 ceramic vessels and various stone and bone tools on the floor of the northern kiva and two of the rooms in the roomblock. Cater (1989:185Cater, John D.
1989 Chronological Understanding of Site 5MT2, Yellow Jacket, Colorado, and a Study of Abandonment Modes. Unpublished MA thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder.) argued that the roofs of these structures had been caved in upon abandonment. It is reasonable to suggest that the leaving behind of a large number of substantial tools may signal not only site abandonment, but also a migration of sufficient distance that large vessels and valuable tools could not be easily transported.
There are five datable tree-ring samples associated with the last occupation of 5MT2. All of the samples were associated with a tunnel that connected Room 9 and Kiva 1 (1144vv, 1145vv, 1189vv, 1191vv, 1191r). The dates suggest a possible construction cluster at approximately A.D. 1191, which appears to be too early for the last construction based on all the other chronological evidence. In fact, this date much more closely matches the suggested timing of the construction and use of the earlier site component, and it may be that these timbers were among those salvaged from Kiva 2 or its associated roomblock for the construction of Kiva 1 and its roomblock. In deference to the possibility that these dates are close to the initial construction event of this last occupation, we have opted for an A.D. 1200 beginning date for this component.
The archaeomagnetic dates derived from samples taken from the two kiva hearths are a mixed lot. The earlier kiva hearth produced such an early date range (A.D. 975-1075), it is difficult to reconcile with the high percentage of McElmo Black-on-white and presence of Mesa Verde Black-on-white in use contexts in this area. The later kiva hearth samples are so late (A.D. 1275-1400) as to barely be feasible, given that this region is increasingly depopulated after A.D. 1280.
It should be noted that John Cater (1989Cater, John D.
1989 Chronological Understanding of Site 5MT2, Yellow Jacket, Colorado, and a Study of Abandonment Modes. Unpublished MA thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder.) in his write-up of the site suggested that it may have been occupied for more than 200 years, or from the mid-eleventh century until late in the thirteenth century. He proposed several hypothetical jacal, or post and adobe, roomblock constructions based on comparisons with the site history of 5MT3. Our interpretation of the site chronology is based on a more conservative interpretation of the available evidence. A careful reanalysis of the artifacts from the site should demonstrate whether this interpretation is too conservative.
Even with our relatively conservative dating of the site occupations at 5MT2 to A.D. 1160 to 1225 and 1200 to 1280, it is evident that there is considerable overlap between the components of occupation at 5MT2 and the pueblo just 40 m to the south, the Porter area of 5MT1. The main masonry pueblo in the Porter area dates to approximately A.D. 1140 to 1225, which clearly overlaps the probable occupation estimate for the first component at 5MT2. There is also an unexcavated small roomblock and probable kiva just to the east of the Porter area which also appears to date to A.D. 1140 to 1225. The later occupation at House 2 of 5MT2 is clearly contemporary with the latest use of Kiva C and associated rooms at 5MT1, so that these two "sites" (i.e., the Porter area of 5MT1 and site 5MT2) may have functioned almost as a single site between A.D. 1160 and 1280.