The Sites

The Southwest in the World uses a dozen big, important, (mostly) well-known sites and districts to make various points throughout the text:

Aztec Ruins National Monument:  Early 12th and 13th century regional center, excavated by Earl Morris of the American Museum of Natural History in the 1910s-1920s (Morris 1919, 1921, 1924, 1928).  With at three major Great Houses, three bi-, tri-, and quadri-walled structures, many Great Kivas, roads, mounds, and scores of smaller structures, Aztec Ruins was single largest site with Mesa Verde tradition ceramics – and a regional center/capital, successor of Chaco Canyon.  (cf. Yellow Jacket: the largest Mesa Verde town, but not a regional center or city, like Aztec.)  Subsequent work by John Stein and Peter McKenna revealed a large, proto-urban successor to Chaco Canyon (Lekson 1999).

Black Mountain (LA 49):  Largest post-Mimbres, pre-Casas Grandes site (i.e. 1125 to 1250) in southwestern New Mexico.   Over 500 rooms (estimated) in multiple adobe roomblocks over an area of 600 m by 250 m.  Three major components: a small Late Pithouse component, a very large Black Mountain phase component, and a large late (Gila & Ramos polychromes) component.  Located on the Mimbres River about 10 km northwest of Deming NM.   Excavated by Kathryn Putsavage of the University of Colorado in 2010-2011 (Putsavage and Lekson 2011).

Chaco Culture National Historical Park:  The 11th and early 12th century regional center with 8 major Great Houses, a dozen minor Great Houses, and hundreds of smaller structures, roads, berms, platform mounds, Great Kivas.   Over a century of excavations by a wide range of institutions (Lekson 2006 – among many, many other references: Chaco Research Archive)

Chimney Rock (5AA83):  A classic 11th century Chacoan outlier near Pagosa Springs CO (Lister and Lister 1993; Malville 2004).   35 single-story rooms atop a dramatic ridge 300 m above the valley below.   Two huge natural sandstone pillars at the end of the ridge were landmarks for major lunar standstills.   Excavated by Jean Jeancon of the Colorado Historical Society in the 1920s (1922); and  Dr. Frank Eddy in 1970 (1977) and Brenda Todd of the University of Colorado 2009 (Todd and Lekson 2010).

Far View House:  A well-known but not-so-classic medium-sized 11th – early 12th century Chacoan outlier on Mesa Verde CO, occupied through the 13th century.  Excavated by Jesse Walter Fewkes of the BAE in 1916, with minimal reports (Fewkes 1917, 1922).  Recent work focuses on the landscape around Far View (Wright & Breternitz REFS vs. Stein & Benson REFS).

Mesa Verde National Park:  the famous National Park, famous for its spectacular cliff dwellings, but not the center of gravity in the “Mesa Verde period,” 1125-1300 (Noble 2006).   Many more people lived off the mesa in much larger towns, such as Yellow Jacket (Lipe, Varien and Whilshusen 1999).   The regional/political center during this period was Aztec Ruin NM (qv).

Old Town (LA 1113):  Largest 11th century Mimbres Valley town, about 30 km north of Deming, NM.   Large Mimbres phase masonry pueblo over a Late Pithouse component, with an adobe Black Mountain phase pueblo adjacent to the south.  Excavated by Darrell Creel of the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory, University of Texas (Creel  2006)

Paquimé:  AKA Casas Grandes.  The last and greatest city in the ancient Southwest, located in Chihuahua Mexico, about 100 km southwest of Juarez.  Massive poured adobe walls, terraced multi-storied roomblocks with patio-facing colonnades, T-shaped doors, I-shaped ball courts, “pyramids,” effigy mounds, and astonishing quantities of exotic materials (tons of ocean shell, remarkable copper artifacts, about 500 macaws, etc).  Paquimé was the regional center of the Casas Grandes area.  Excavated in the 1960s by Charles Di Peso of the Amerind Foundation (Di Peso 1974).   More recent important work at sites near Paquimé by Michael Whalen and Paul Minnis (2001, 2009)

Phoenix Basin (Hohokam):  Hohokam is not a central focus of the book, but the dense settlements of the Phoenix Basin, supported by an astonishing system of canals, comes into the mix as a comparison and peer-polity.  The Phoenix Basin is (very approximately) the area from the confluence of the Salt and Gila rivers (just west of Phoenix AZ) upstream (east) about 100 km.

Pinnacle Ruin (LA 2292):  200-room migrant Mesa Verde-esque stone masonry pueblo perched atop a very defensive butte, about 60 km northwest of Truth-or-Consequences NM.  Excavated by Lekson 2000-2008 (Lekson et alia 2002; Lekson & Laumbach REFS) in a joint project of the University of Colorado & the Canada Alamosa Project.

Redrock (LA 5412):  AKA Redrock Cemetery Ruin.  Largest 11th century Gila Valley (Mimbres phase) town, 30 km west of Silver City NM.  300 masonry rooms in dozens of roomblocks.  A single Great Kiva may have been in use through the Mimbres phase (unlike Great Kivas in the Mimbres Valley).  Never excavated; mapped by Lekson in 1974 (Lekson 1978); north half of the site bulldozed in the 1980s.

Yellow Jacket (5MT5): the largest Mesa Verde town, about 45 km northwest of Mesa Verde National Park CO.  Kristin Kuckelman (2003) describes Yellow Jacket:  “The site covers 100 acres and contains a minimum of 195 kivas (including a probable great kiva), 19 towers, a possible Chaco-era great house, and as many as 1,200 surface rooms.  Its occupation spanned about 220 years, from the mid–A.D. 1000s through the late A.D. 1200s.”   (Aztec Ruins was larger; but it was a regional center/capital.)  Excavated by Joe Ben Wheat and the University of Colorado 1954-1991 and by Crow Canyon Archaeological Center 1995-1997  (Kuckelman 2003)

Most of  these sites, in pairs and in trios, are also the focus of an appendix to Southwest in the World, exploring the methodology of regional interaction;  draft sections/fragments are available as PDFs.  Caveat emptor: these are DRAFTS with shaky citations and sketchy illustrations!

Chimney Rock and Chaco

Pinnacle Ruin and Mesa Verde

Black Mountain and Paquimé

1 Response to The Sites

  1. Jeanne Chick says:

    I am curious about t-shaped doorways. I remember them from Chaco Canyon, and perhaps other nearby sites. Recently someone showed me a photo of Aramu Muru in Peru so I wondered if these doorways are found anywhere else in the world.

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