Documenting the Lives of the Ancient Pueblo People
Kaibab National Forest, Arizona, 2000
by Connie Reid, FS Archaeologist
I have always found PIT projects to be a bit of an adventure, and this project was no exception. This year’s calamities included five flat tires, a freak rainstorm, and a backed-up sewer system at the work center where we were camped. But, as always, the PIT volunteers were cheerful and accommodating in spite of these inconveniences. It’s that wonderful enthusiasm that makes this program such a success. Volunteers from coast to coast assisted the Kaibab National Forest heritage team in recording sites located on the North Kaibab Ranger District. The district borders the north rim of the Grand Canyon, in the heart of red rock country. The primary focus of the project was to record Pueblo period village sites. The Ancestral Pueblo people, formerly known as the Anasazi, were a farming culture who built masonry homes, made elaborate pottery, and farmed the arid lands of the Colorado Plateau more than 1,000 years ago. By the latter portion of the 13th century, they had abandoned the area. Pueblo period sites number in the thousands in the area, even at elevations in excess of 6,000 feet. We focused on recording large, multiroom pueblo sites. These are exciting places to work, because features are often still clearly visible on the ground surface. Room blocks, courtyards, and middens are readily discernible, as are scatterings of pottery sherds, many with impressions or painted designs, and a variety of stone artifacts. All of these finds make site recording both a challenge and a lot of fun.
Surprisingly, little formal study has been focused on north rim pueblo sites outside of Grand Canyon National Park. During this project, we collected ceramic samples at each site in an attempt to gain a better understanding of ceramic distributions across the north rim. Volunteers patiently recorded architectural layouts and washed and sorted ceramic sherds. This research effort will eventually help us answer questions about population migrations, trade networks, and settlement patterns, and, of course, better address the most commonly asked question, “Why did the Pueblo people abandon the area and where did they go?”
The prehistoric archaeology of the Colorado Plateau draws visitors from around the world, so it’s not surprising that our 2000 PIT project was very popular with applicants. We received well over a hundred applications for 16 slots and decided to conduct a second session to accommodate more participants. We wanted to select everyone, but to maintain the high-quality experience we like to provide for our PIT volunteers, we had to limit it to 16 per session. So, to those of you who weren’t selected, we urge you to apply again. We plan to repeat the project during the fall of 2002. To those of you who did participate, thank you! Your efforts were greatly appreciated.