Crow Canyon enters phase 2 at Goodman archaeological site
It didn\'t look like much, but according to Grant Coffey, an archaeologist at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, a dinner table-sized patch of dirt clumps off to the side of a trail in Hovenweep National Monument was an ancient midden pile. “We’re actually on a midden right here,” Coffey said, gesturing toward the pile.
The archaeologist, clad in work pants and a gray hooded sweatshirt, was in the middle of a spring mapping project, preparing a site for summer excavation.
As he wandered around the site, Coffey also pointed out the remains of a great kiva and walked along what he said was an ancient trail used by early people.
This spring Coffey and his partners Susan Ryan, Steve Copeland and Johnny Walker are prepping for summer excavation work by doing some mapping at a new site west of Cortez. Wednesday, as Coffey walked around the area to be excavated, his fellow researchers were using a piece of hardware called a total station to log detailed geographical data.
The total station is a system that uses a laser to precisely place a location, thus exactly locating the places the group will excavate this summer.
Coffey and his fellow archaeologists at Crow Canyon are embarking on the second phase of a six-year research project this year. They recently finished the first three years of an excavation at Goodman Point Pueblo, and are now moving to examine peripheral sites in the areas that predate the village.
The goal of the second part of this research is to understand why a group of people who lived in smaller, scattered sites might have coalesced into a large village centered on a natural spring, Coffey said.
“How many people were here? What was the strain on the resource?” he asked rhetorically.
Those are just some of the questions the archaeologists hope to answer over the next three years.
In Coffey’s terms, the researchers are trying to understand “how a dispersed community eventually formed into a large aggregated community.”
From around 1000 to 1200, people in the area lived in the smaller, scattered dwellings, Coffey said. The work Coffey and his partners have already done at Goodman Point Pueblo points to the structures in that Pueblo being built in the late 1250s, he said.
For a while, archaeologists surmised that Ancestral Puebloans moved to living in larger settlements concentrated around springs because of a period of unpredictable precipitation. The hypothesis was that they moved to be closer to a constant water source because of that larger climatic change.
But now researchers are beginning to think there were a variety of influences, both social and ecological, that led the society to change its makeup. They’ve started giving a little more credit to a group of people they used to think were mere pawns of the greater climatological and ecological systems.
“It seems like there was really a number of factors,” Coffey said, speaking of the reasons that earlier people changed their lifestyle and social structures.
As the Crow Canyon archaeologists turn their focus to the areas that were settled earlier, they hope that among the bones, sherds and pollen samples they find that they will be able to piece together a picture of why these people changed their lifestyles.
Coffey and his archaeological partners are excited to work in the Goodman Point area because it is a relatively pristine setting, he said. The region was set aside from homesteading in 1889, so it has not had the agricultural and human impacts that many other areas have experienced.
Over the course of the summer, the Crow Canyon researchers could have as many as 1,400 participants help them excavate the new site, Coffey said. These helpers will range from middle school students to paying adult vacationers who fly into this area just for the opportunity to do some archaeological work.
The center practices low-impact archaeology, which involves excavating small, randomly-selected sections of the site instead of performing a full scale excavation.
“We try and dig the smallest amount that we can to answer the questions that we have,” Coffey said. "
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