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5MT2 Research Domains

By Richard H. Wilshusen

John Cater had two different research interests when he directed the excavations at 5MT2. Originally he thought that the site might have had an important ceremonial tie to Yellow Jacket Pueblo, which Joe Ben Wheat had proposed to be one of the key ceremonial centers for the Mesa Verde region. This research focus gradually shifted as it became clear that the site was a residential hamlet, and a second research domain emerged that concentrated on the differences in abandonment modes observed in ancestral Pueblo sites. Cater's (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 Unpublished MA thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder.
) MA thesis ultimately addressed the question of how to distinguish different abandonment modes at a site such as 5MT2.

Although Cater's research probed one aspect of the excavation information from 5MT2, there clearly are many important research domains left to be addressed. With the total reinventory and rebagging of all the artifacts, as well as the centralization of the artifacts and records, the possibility of addressing large research questions is much more feasible than when Cater was doing his original research. We have picked three different research domains for discussion here, but they are by no means the only important areas in which the Yellow Jacket research might be turned. They simply are topics that were immediately evident after composing this short report.

Large Sites and Small Sites: Dates and Connections

Our present chronological placements of the occupations at 5MT2 still need more precision and confidence. A key issue in any reanalysis of the site's materials will be to try to better date the components of occupation. This should be possible to do by analyzing the sherds from key proveniences in both site areas. Cater was careful to ensure that a small percentage of the site assemblage was recovered through screening of the sediments. The sherds from these proveniences should provide a good sample for generating ceramic frequencies for the two areas of the site and more confidently estimating the dates of occupation.

We need to emphasize that in this report we have almost cut in half the length of occupation that Cater estimated for 5MT2. In addition, we did not find sufficient evidence of an earlier occupation, as proposed by 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.
). If the ceramic analysis proposed above or other material analyses suggest that the site has a longer occupation history than proposed here, then limited excavations at the site may be warranted to try to address this deficiency and to find more support for Cater's original proposal.

Chronological placement is key in understanding the relationship between the small hamlets such as 5MT2 and the immense villages such as Yellow Jacket Pueblo (5MT5). Are the various components of occupation at the hamlet contemporary with the main occupations of Yellow Jacket Pueblo (Kuckelman and Ortman 2003Kuckelman, Kristin A. and Scott G. Ortman
2003 Chronology. In The Archaeology of Yellow Jacket Pueblo (Site 5MT5): Excavations at a Large Community Center in Southwestern Colorado [HTML Title]. Available: Date of use: December 17, 2004.
) or do the occupations of these small sites actually coincide with periods of lower population at the large pueblo? Is a small hamlet such as 5MT2 used as a full-time residence for several households, or could it simply be a seasonal residence for a number of households with permanent residences in the large village? These are only a few of the questions which to be addressed about how these small sites are potentially tied to the pueblo.

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The Development of Communities and the Abandonment of Communities

The work at the sites in the Joe Ben Wheat Site Complex (i.e., 5MT1, 2, and 3) shows what presently appears to be a coincident development with Yellow Jacket Pueblo, although as noted above, this needs stronger confirmation. The close proximity of the smaller sites to the pueblo makes it almost certain that they functioned as part of the same community, and without a doubt, Yellow Jacket Pueblo would have been the center of this community. A recent analysis of the large Pueblo II and Pueblo III community centers, such as 5MT5, suggests that two fundamental changes occurred in regional social landscape in the period of A.D. 1050-1290 (Varien 2002Varien, Mark D.
2002 Persistent Communities and Mobile Households: Population Movement in the Central Mesa Verde Region, A.D. 950 to 1290. In Seeking the Center Place: Archaeology and Ancient Communities in the Mesa Verde Region, edited by M. D. Varien and R. H. Wilshusen, pp. 163-184. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
). First, the community centers become more tightly packed in the central Mesa Verde region and this likely resulted in increased competition for resources. Second, the total area occupied by all of these centers also constricts.

Varien's study raises a number of important questions that could be partly addressed with the 5MT2 materials and site record. Can we see increased competition over time for resources in the organizational and economic evidence associated with 5MT2? Do the increasing constraints on the catchment areas around villages change the subsistence patterns or strategies associated with a small site such as 5MT2? Finally, how does the distribution of community social power change and how does that get witnessed at a smaller hamlet?

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Household Organization

At even a more basic level, a fundamental piece of research remaining to be done is to isolate and define the household organization of the second component at 5MT2. The dismantled architecture and limited excavations in the southern roomblock and kiva render most household archaeology in that area difficult, but the second component offers a rich data set for addressing a number of household archaeology problems. What are the basic characteristics of households in this period and what activities might leave sufficient archaeological evidence to identify different household areas at a site?

A fascinating study would be to compare the household organization of two nearby, almost contemporary, sites such as 5MT 1 and 3. One of the powerful aspects of the Yellow Jacket investigations is that they allow multiple tests of a proposal with sites that are in similar settings and that share much history. There has been very little laboratory analysis of these materials to begin to assemble even the most basic arguments about household organization and integration.

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