ARTICLES IN THE NEWS/>Secret ruins unveiled in Utah canyon
Arizona Republic - June 2004
Range Creek area southeast of East Carbon City, Utah Archaeologists led reporters into a remote canyon to reveal an almost perfectly preserved picture of ancient life: stone pit houses, granaries and a bounty of artifacts kept secret for more than a half-century. Hundreds of sites on a private ranch turned over to the state offer some of the best evidence of the little-understood Fremont culture, hunter-gatherers and farmers who lived mostly within the present-day borders of Utah. The sites at Range Creek may be up to 4,500 years old.
A caravan of news organizations traveled for two hours from the mining town of East Carbon City, over a serpentine thriller of a dirt road that topped an 8,200-foot mountain before dropping into the narrow canyon in Utah's Book Cliffs region. Officials kept known burial sites and human remains out of view of reporters and cameras, but within a single square mile of verdant meadows, archaeologists showed off one village site and said there were five more, where arrowheads, pottery shards and other artifacts can still be found lying on the ground. Archaeologists said the occupation sites, which include granaries full of grass seed and corn, offer an unspoiled slice of life of the ancestors of modern American Indian tribes. The settlements are scattered along 12 miles of Range Creek and up side canyons.
The collapsing half-buried houses don't have the grandeur of New Mexico's Chaco Canyon or Colorado's Mesa Verde, where overhanging cliffs shelter stacked stone houses. But they are remarkable in that they hold a treasure of information about the Fremont culture that has been untouched by looters. The Fremont people were efficient hunters, taking down deer, elk, bison and small game and leaving behind piles of animal bone waste, Jones said. They fished for trout in Range Creek, using a hook and line or weirs. In their more advanced stage they grew corn.
Waldo Wilcox, the rancher who sold the land and returned Wednesday, kept the archaeological sites a closely guarded secret for more than 50 years. The San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land bought Wilcox's 4,200-acre ranch for $2.5 million. The conservation group transferred the ranch to the Bureau of Land Management, which turned it over to Utah. The deal calls for the ranch to be opened for public access, a subject certain to raise debate over the proper stewardship of a significant archaeological find.
Artifacts found in the Wilcox collection include a wide array of bone needles, stone awls, bone and shell beads, projectile points, knives, scrapers and other stone tools from an interesting variety of cherts,-- obsidian, pink agate and what resembled Llano Estacado alibate.
Reconstructed Pithouse - State Park, Boulder, Utah
The Fremont culture or Fremont people, named by Noel Morss of Harvard's Peabody Museum after the Fremont River in Utah, is an archaeological culture that inhabited what is now Utah and parts of eastern Nevada, southern Idaho, southern Wyoming, and eastern Colorado between about 400 and 1300 AD.
The Fremont culture unit was characterised by small, scattered communities that subsisted primarily through maize cultivation. Archaeologists have long debated whether the Fremont were a local Archaic population that adopted village-dwelling life from the neighboring Anasazi culture to the south, or whether they represent an actual migration of Basketmakers (the earliest culture stage in the Anasazi Culture) into the northern American Southwest or the area that Julian Steward once called the "Northern Periphery".
The Fremont have some unique material culture traits that mark them as a distinct and identifiable archaeological culture unit, and recent mtDNA data indicate they are a biologically distinct population, separate from the Basketmaker. What early archaeologists such as Morss or Marie Wormington used to define the Fremont was their distinctive pottery, particularly vessel forms, incised and applique decorations, and unique leather moccasins. However, their house forms and overall technology are virtually indistinguishable from the Anasazi. Their habitations were initially circular pit-houses but they began to adopt rectangular stone-built pueblo homes above ground.
Marwitt (1970) defined local or geographic variations within the Fremont culture area based largely on differences in ceramic production and geography. Marwitt's subdivisions are the Parowan Fremont in southwestern Utah, the Sevier Fremont in west central Utah and eastern Nevada, the Great Salt Lake Fremont stretching between the Great Salt Lake and the Snake River in southern Idaho, Uinta Fremont in northeastern Utah, and arguably the San Rafael Fremont in eastern Utah and western Colorado. (The latter geographic variant may well be indivisible from the San Juan Anasazi.)
MESA VERDI, COLORADO
Mesa Verdi was home to the Anasazi Indians for more than 1,000 years. The people that first built their houses here at the time of the Roman Empire farmed the mesas, plateaus, river bottoms, and canyons. They created a thriving, populous civilization that eventually raised towers and built hundred-room cities in the cliffs and caves of Mesa Verde.Anthropologists Nicole Torres and Steven Stuart explore Mesa Verde
KIVA - Ceremonial Chamber
Anasazi cliff dwellings contain petroglyphs
Steven and Nicole
Archeological evidence suggests that the Moab area and surrounding country was inhabited by the Anasazi (in Navajo language, the ancient ones). The present town of Moab sits on the ruins of pueblo farming communities dating from the 11th and 12th centuries. These Anasazi Indians mysteriously vacated the Four Corners area around 1300 AD, leaving ruins of their homes scattered throughout the area. The villages were never inhabited again. They were "burned, possibly by the inhabitants, shortly before abandonment.
It is impossible to find a cause as to why they left. But there appear to be several causes that contributed. First, the climate during the Pueblo III period was somewhat unstable with erratic rainfall patterns and periods of drought. This weather problem climaxed with a thirty-year drought starting about 1270 that coincided with a cooling trend that significantly shortened the growing season. Perhaps the expanding population had pressed the limits of the land's capacity to support the people so that they were unable to survive the climatic upheavals of the thirteenth century.
Steve on the Top of the Mountain
Could they have been driven out by nomadic tribes, such as Utes or Navajos? There is no direct evidence that either group, or any other like them, was in the area that early. There is mounting evidence, however, that the Numic-speaking peoples, of whom the Utes and Paiutes are part, had spread northwestward out of southwestern Nevada and were in contact with the Pueblo-like peoples of western Utah by A.D. 1200. It is certainly possible that they were in San Juan County shortly after that. Ute and Paiute sites are very difficult to distinguish from Anasazi campsites, and we may not be recognizing them.
Navajos were in northwestern New Mexico by 1500, but we do not know where they were before that. Perhaps the answer to the Anasazis' departure from Utah lies in a combination of the bad-climate and the arriving-nomads theories.
Archaeological cultural units such as "Anasazi", Hohokam, Patayan or Mogollon are used by archaeologists to define material culture similarities and differences that may identify prehistoric socio-cultural units which may be understood as equivalent to modern tribes, societies or peoples. The names and divisions are classificatory devices based on theoretical perspectives, analytical methods and data available at the time of analysis and publication. They are subject to change, not only on the basis of new information and discoveries, but also as attitudes and perspectives change within the scientific community. It should not be assumed that an archaeological division or culture unit corresponds to a particular language group or to a socio-political entity such as a tribe.
When making use of modern cultural divisions in the American Southwest, it is important to understand three limitations in the current conventions:
- Archaeological research focuses on items left behind during people's activities; fragments of pottery vessels, human remains, stone tools or evidence left from the construction of dwellings. However, many other aspects of the culture of prehistoric peoples are not tangible. Languages spoken by these people and their beliefs and behavior are difficult to decipher from physical materials. Cultural divisions are tools of the modern scientist, and so should not be considered similar to divisions or relationships the ancient residents may have recognized. Modern cultures in this region, many of whom claim some of these ancient people as ancestors, contain a striking range of diversity in lifestyles, social organization, language and religious beliefs. This suggests the ancient people were also more diverse than their material remains may suggest.
- The modern term 'style' has a bearing on how material items such as pottery or architecture can be interpreted. Within a people, different means to accomplish the same goal can be adopted by subsets of the larger group. For example, in modern Western cultures, there are alternative styles of clothing that characterized older and younger generations. Some cultural differences may be based on linear traditions, on teaching from one generation or 'school' to another. Other varieties in style may have distinguished between arbitrary groups within a culture, perhaps defining status, gender, clan or guild affiliation, religious belief or cultural alliances. Variations may also simply reflect the different resources available in a given time or area.
- Defining cultural groups, such as the Ancient Pueblo peoples, tends to create an image of territories separated by clear-cut boundaries, like modern state lines. These simply did not exist. Prehistoric people traded, worshipped and collaborated most often with other nearby groups. Cultural differences should therefore be understood as 'clinal', "increasing gradually as the distance separating groups also increases." (Plog, p. 72.) Departures from the expected pattern may occur because of unidentified social or political situations or because of geographic barriers. In the Southwest, mountain ranges, rivers and, most obviously, the Grand Canyon can be significant barriers for human communities, likely reducing the frequency of contact with other groups. Current opinion holds that the closer cultural similarity between the Mogollon and Ancient Pueblos and their greater differences from the Hohokam and Patayan is due to both the geography and the variety of climate zones in the Southwest.
Ancient Pueblo People, or Ancestral Puebloans is a preferred term for the cultural group of people often known as Anasazi who are the ancestors of the modern Pueblo peoples. The ancestral Puebloans were a prehistoric Native American civilization centered around the present-day Four Corners area of the Southwest United States.
Archaeologists still debate when a distinct culture emerged, but the current consensus, based on terminology defined by the Pecos Classification, suggests their emergence around 1200 B.C., the Basketmaker II Era.
The civilization is perhaps best-known for the jacal, adobe and sandstone dwellings that they built along cliff walls, particularly during the Pueblo II and Pueblo III eras.
The best-preserved examples of those dwellings are in parks such as Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Hovenweep National Monument, Bandelier National Monument, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument. These villages, called pueblos by Mexican settlers, were often only accessible by rope or through rock climbing.
The Ancestral Puebloans are also known for their unique style of pottery, today considered valuable for their rarity. They also created many petroglyphs and pictographs.
The Ancestral Puebloans migrated from their ancient homeland for several complex reasons. These may include pressure from Numic-speaking peoples moving onto the Colorado Plateau as well as climate change which resulted in agricultural failures.
Confirming evidence for climatic change in North America is found in excavations of western regions in the Mississippi Valley between A.D. 1150 and 1350 which show long lasting patterns of warmer, wetter winters and cooler, dryer summers.
Most modern Pueblo peoples (whether Keresans, Hopi, or Tanoans) and historians like James W. Loewen, in his book Lies Across America, assert these people did not "vanish," as is commonly portrayed, but merged into the various pueblo peoples whose descendants still live in Arizona and New Mexico.
This perspective is not new and was also presented in reports from early 20th century anthropologists, including Frank Hamilton Cushing, J. Walter Fewkes and Alfred V. Kidder.
Many modern Pueblo tribes trace their lineage from settlements in the Anasazi area and areas inhabited by their cultural neighbors, the Mogollon. For example, the San Ildefonso Pueblo people believe that their ancestors lived in both the Mesa Verde area and the current Bandelier.
The term "Anasazi" was established in archaeological terminology through the Pecos Classification system in 1927. Archaeologist Linda Cordell discussed the word's etymology and use:
- "The name "Anasazi" has come to mean "ancient people," "ancient ones", although the word itself is Navajo, meaning "enemy ancestors." It is unfortunate that a non-Pueblo word has come to stand for a tradition that is certainly ancestral Pueblo.
The term was first applied to ruins of the Mesa Verde by Richard Wetherill, a rancher and trader who, in 1888-1889, was the first Anglo-American to explore the sites in that area. Wetherill knew and worked with Navajos and understood what the word meant.
The name was further sanctioned in archaeology when it was adopted by Alfred V. Kidder, the acknowledged dean of Southwestern Archaeology. Kidder felt that is was less cumbersome than a more technical term he might have used. Subsequently some archaeologists who would try to change the term have worried that because the Pueblos speak different languages, there are different words for "ancestor," and using one might be offensive to people speaking other languages.
Some modern Pueblo peoples object to the use of the term Anasazi, although there is still controversy among them on a native alternative. The modern Hopi use the word "Hisatsinom" in preference to Anasazi. However, Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department (NNHPD) spokeman Ronald Maldonado has indicated the Navajo do not favor use of the term "Ancestral Puebloan." In fact, reports submitted for review by NNHPD are rejected if they include use of the term.