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Archaeology of the Porter Area

By Mark D. Mitchell

The structures and features of the Porter area represent three, or perhaps four, occupations spanning the late Pueblo II to late Pueblo III periods. The earliest occupation, which probably began around A. D. 1060, is represented by an open cluster of deep pitstructures, semi-subterranean work rooms and large storage features surrounding one or two small, open plazas (Plan Map of Porter Pueblo II Component - pdf format (190kb)). The pitstructures, designated Kivas A, C1 and D, were probably occupied sequentially, rather than concurrently. Wheat (n.d.b.Wheat, Joe Ben
n.d.b. The Architecture of Porter Pueblo. Ms. on file, University of Colorado Museum, Boulder.
) describes this occupation as the "pitroom village," owing to the presence of distinctive subrectangular subterranean work rooms. More recently, some of these structures have been described as "mealing rooms" (Mobley-Tanaka 1997bMobley-Tanaka, Jeanette L.
1997b Gender and Ritual Space during the Pithouse to Pueblo Transition: Subterranean Mealing Rooms in the North American Southwest. American Antiquity 62:437-448.

The most recent occupations, which post-date A. D. 1140, are represented by a 12-room masonry pueblo surrounded by three deep pitstructures, designated Kivas B, C2 and E. Like those of the late Pueblo II component, these kivas were probably occupied sequentially. The roomblock grew over time, beginning with one or more isolated rooms, to which small groups of rooms were added successively (Plan Map of Porter Pueblo III Component - pdf format (175kb)). The latest occupation of the pueblo, dating to the period after A.D. 1225, probably consisted of a single kiva (Kiva C2) and a small number of surface rooms, while the early Pueblo III occupation (before A.D. 1225) appears to have been more extensive.

A small number of structures and features—including two masonry surface rooms, one or more post and adobe structures, and a variety of pits and hearths—are stratigraphically intermediate between these primary occupations. Their architectural characteristics are sufficiently distinct to suggest that they may represent a separate, third component. If so, it is likely that this use of the site was relatively ephemeral or intermittent. However, it may also be the case that these intermediate structures merely represent the earliest phase of the Pueblo III occupation, which were later razed during the course of roomblock expansion.

A second, unexcavated roomblock is located approximately 50 meters east of the Porter area. Based on a small sample of pottery observed on the surface of the midden, this unnamed roomblock has been tentatively dated to the period between A.D. 1140 and A.D. 1225, and therefore is likely to have been partially or wholly contemporaneous with the early Pueblo III occupation of Porter Pueblo.

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History of Research

Wheat began excavation in the Porter area during the 1957, while work was still underway in the nearby Stevenson area. Wheat may have hoped to find more Basketmaker III structures beneath the Pueblo II and Pueblo III structures evident on the surface of the Porter area, but it quickly became clear that no such structures were present. Instead, Wheat's work revealed a complex sequence of then-unknown architectural types. In the late 1950's nearly all of what was known about the Pueblo II occupation of Mesa Verde region derived from excavations conducted within Mesa Verde National Park (e.g., Lancaster and Pinkley 1954Lancaster, James A. and Jean M. Pinkley
1954 Excavation at Site 16 of Three Pueblo II Mesa-Top Ruins. In Archeological Excavations in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, 1950, by J.A. Lancaster, J.M. Pinkley, P. Van Cleave, and D. Watson, pp. 23-86. Archaeological Research Series No. 2. National Park Service, Washington, D.C.
), and it was immediately clear that the archaeology of the Porter area was dramatically different.

The 1957 work focused on the excavation of a series of long trenches through the midden area south of the masonry pueblo; an "outline trench" to define the walls of the pueblo; several semi-subterranean rooms located beneath the pueblo; and portions of Kivas A and B. In addition to Wheat, two students (John Wescott and Doug Bucy) and the camp cook (Erna Frenzel) worked at Porter.

Wheat continued work on the Porter area in 1958 and 1959. The 1958 campaign was limited in scope and focused primarily on Kiva C, with lesser efforts devoted to Kiva D and several subterranean rooms. Altogether three, or perhaps four, students (Doug Bucy, Jerry Bair and John Feistel) spent somewhat less than three weeks on excavation in 1958. In 1959, Wheat and five students (Jean Wolf, Alan Brew, John Wescott, John Feistel and Jerry Bair) spent six weeks excavating in the Porter area. They concentrated on the southeastern quadrant of the site, although limited work also was conducted elsewhere.

Wheat didn't work in the Porter area from 1960 through 1964, but resumed excavation on the northern side of the pueblo and in Kiva E during 1965. Excavation records for the 1965 season are fragmentary but there are records of Carla Bucy and Jim Balderstone working with Wheat for a week or two.

The final season in the Porter area was also the most extensive. In 1966, Wheat hired Frank Eddy, an advanced graduate student in the Department of Anthropology, to direct the field crew, which included seven students (Marie Louise Lind, Cassie Nelson, James Balderstone, Christopher Hall, Bob Mishler, Pat Lease and C. Roderick Wilson). During the six-week field season the crew focused most of their attention on the western side of the pueblo, although several units designed to clarify stratigraphic relationships were opened elsewhere.

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Available Documentation

A complete bibliography listing the published and unpublished documents describing the archaeology of 5MT1 can be found in the introduction to this report. The documents of primary interest relating specifically to the Porter area include Wheat (n.d.b.Wheat, Joe Ben
n.d.b. The Architecture of Porter Pueblo. Ms. on file, University of Colorado Museum, Boulder.
). Secondary sources include Anderson (1997Anderson, M.J
1997 Mortuary Practices of the Yellow Jacket Anasazi. Southwestern Lore 63(1): 1-5.
), Ellison (1997Ellison, John
1997 A Study of Projectile Points' Possible Function as Drilling Implements. Southwestern Lore (63)1:36-42.
), Ellwood (1978Ellwood, Priscilla B.
1978 Ceramics of Yellow Jacket, Colorado, 5MT1 and 5MT3, House 3. Unpublished MA thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder.
), Ellwood and Parker (1993Ellwood, Priscilla B. and Douglas R. Parker
1993 Yellow Jacket (5MT-11) [sic] Human Effigy Vessel. In Why Museums Collect: Papers in Honor of Joe Ben Wheat, edited by Meliha S. Duran and D.T. Kirkpatrick, pp. 69-88. Archaeological Society of New Mexico no. 19. Albuquerque.
), Karhu (2000Karhu, Sandy
2000 Mortuary Practices and Population Health at Two Yellow Jacket Hamlets, 5MT1 and 5MT3. On file at the University of Colorado Museum, Boulder, Colorado and the Colorado Historical Society, Denver, Colorado.
), Lange and others (1988Lange, Frederick , Nancy Mahaney, Joe Ben Wheat, and Mark L. Chenault
1988 Yellow Jacket: A Four Corners Anasazi Ceremonial Site. Second edition. Johnson Books, Boulder, Colorado.
), Malville (1989Malville, Nancy J.
1989 Two Fragmented Human Bone Assemblages from Yellow Jacket, Southwestern Colorado. Kiva 55:3-22.
), Mobley-Tanaka (1997aMobley-Tanaka, Jeanette L.
1997a The History and Prehistory of Yellow Jacket. Southwestern Lore 63(1):1-5.
, 1997bMobley-Tanaka, Jeanette L.
1997b Gender and Ritual Space during the Pithouse to Pueblo Transition: Subterranean Mealing Rooms in the North American Southwest. American Antiquity 62:437-448.
), Wheat (1981Wheat, Joe Ben
1981 Yellow Jacket Canyon Archaeology. In Insights into the Ancient Ones, edited by J.H. Berger and E.F. Berger, pp. 60-66. Mesa Verde Press, Cortez, Colorado.
), and Yunker (2001Yunker, Brian
2001 The Yellow Jacket Burials: An Analysis of Burial Assemblages from Two Basketmaker III through Pueblo III Mesa Verde Area Sites. Unpublished MA thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder.
). Table 1 lists the field notes that are available for Porter area excavations. In 1966, students did not keep individual journals; instead notes were kept on each excavation unit.

Table 1. Porter area field journals, 1957-1966.
NamePeriod CoveredPeriod at PorterComment
Wheat, Joe Ben6/14/1957–7/19/1957IntermittentSupervised work at both Porter and Stevenson
Frenzel, Erna6/13/1957–7/3/19576/13/1957–7/3/1957Left early
Wheat, Pat6/13/1957–7/4/19577/2/1957-7/4/1957 
Wescott, John6/14/1957–7/26/19576/14/1957–7/26/1957 
Bucy, Doug6/13/1957–7/26/19576/13/1957–7/26/1957Kiva B
Bucy, Doug and Feistel, John8/9/1958–8/30/19588/18/1958–8/30/1958Kiva C
Bair, Jerry8/25/19588/25/1958Includes misc. maps
Feistel, JohnNo dates (1958)No dates (1958)Kiva C
Unknown author (M. Read?)8/7/1958–8/30/19588/7/1958–8/30/1958Fragmentary notes; Kiva C; SR 6
Wheat, Joe Ben6/11/1959–8/2/19596/15/1959–8/2/1959Ends abruptly
Wolf, Jean6/16/1959–8/3/19596/16/1959–8/3/1959Test trench location maps
Brew, Alan6/16/1959–7/14/19596/16/1959–7/14/1959 
Wescott, John6/16/1959–8/4/19596/16/1959–8/4/1959Dates not labeled
Feistel, JohnNo dates (1959)No dates (1959)Room 22
Bair, JerryNo dates (1959)No dates (1959)SR 6
Wheat, Joe Ben6/1965–7/18/19656/1965–7/18/1965Kiva E
Bucy, Carla8/8/1965 and 7/18/19658/8/1965 and 7/18/1965 
Eddy, Frank6/18/19668/17/1966Notes on all EUs

Pithouse Excavation Record forms and Room Excavation Record forms are available for most of the site's structures and features. Burial Data Sheet forms are available for most of the human interments. Plan maps and architectural profiles were produced for all of the kivas and for most of the subterranean rooms and large pit features. Measured stratigraphic profiles are available for most of the major structures and for some of the excavation units, particularly those dug in 1966. Numerous stratigraphic sketches or notes, most of them produced by Wheat, are also available. Two small-scale maps were produced for the Porter area as a whole. One, drawn at a scale of 1 inch for every 2 meters, depicts the work completed through 1959, and may include some excavation units dug during the 1965 season. A second map, drawn by Frank Eddy at a scale of 1 inch for each meter, depicts all of the work conducted at the site through 1966, although the spatial relationships among some features and structures excavated in the 1950s are not accurately represented. These two maps have also been used to produce several other maps that emphasize the relationships between various parts of the site.

One-hundred-eighty-three black-and-white prints and 123 color slides are available for the Porter area. Fifteen of the black-and-white prints depict burials, while 26 show ground stone tools that probably were not collected.

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Porter Area Provenience Designations

Several provenience systems were used during the course of five field seasons of work in the Porter area. In some cases, more than one designation was applied to particular structures or features. In other cases, distinct features were not assigned unique numerical designations. Similar terms often were used to designate morphologically or functionally distinct architectural types. Later, during laboratory analysis and preliminary report preparation, many of the site's architectural units were renamed or renumbered.

To simplify this system, all of the major architectural features of the Porter area have been assigned to one of three distinct architectural classes. Kivas are large, fully subterranean habitation structures. Subterranean rooms consist of partially subterranean work and storage structures. Storage pits are large straight-sided or bell-shaped pits lacking floor features. Additional criteria for architectural class membership are discussed in the descriptive sections of the report and as well as under concepts and terms.

Where the original excavators assigned a unique numerical designation to a particular feature, that number has been retained. For example, in this report Pitroom 4 has been renamed Storage Pit 4 and Pitroom 11 has been renamed Subterranean Room 11. Where no unique identifier was available a new numerical designation, beginning with the number 201, has been assigned. For example, Excavation Unit 105 has been renamed Storage Pit 203.

A few small architectural features and isolated pits also have been assigned unique feature numbers, beginning with the number 301. For example, Pit 5 in Excavation Unit 109 has been renamed Feature 304. New designations have only been assigned to features specifically discussed in this report. No feature numbers have been assigned to isolated postholes. A detailed Provenience Synonymy is available for researchers who work with the collections. It provides a key to provenience designations for structures that had various labels in the field notes and their equivalent designations in this report.

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