Message #222:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: CU Students Run Through The Dip At Bluff
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 22:25:52 -0700

[ There is a neat little pond in Bluff where archaeologists can skinny
dip -- but I don't think Lekson meant....... -- SASIG Ed.]

Ancient Pueblo Great House In Utah Yielding Secrets To CU-Boulder

A cooperative excavation of a two-story Pueblo community building in
Bluff, Utah, last summer indicates the ancient stone structure may have
been built during three separate construction episodes over time,
according to researchers. The 100-foot-long building, known as a "great
house," may have been inhabited by several elite Pueblo families at any
one time, according Stephen Lekson of the University of Colorado Museum.
CU-Boulder students are returning June 2 for a second season of
excavations at the site, which is linked to the mighty Chaco culture
that dominated much of the Southwest roughly a thousand years ago. Known
as the Bluff Great House, the Anasazi site also harbors the remains of a
great kiva and series of prehistoric roads, said Lekson. The 7.5-acre
site is located in the Four Corners region about 30 miles from the
Colorado border. The project was undertaken by CU-Boulder in cooperation
with the Southwest Heritage Foundation -- a nonprofit corporation
founded to support the project -- and Abajo Archaeology, a private
contract firm in Bluff. An $18,000 grant from the National Geographic
Society will fund the work this field season, said Lekson. The project
is co-directed by the husband-and-wife team of Lekson and CU-Boulder
assistant anthropology Professor Catherine Cameron. "We now have an
enormously better idea of what the Great House was like," said Lekson.
"The earliest construction appears to be much more Chacoan than
subsequent construction events." Although not as carefully crafted, the
Bluff Great House is architecturally similar to great houses at Chaco
Canyon, a series of Pueblo ruins in northern New Mexico that dominated
the culture of the region from A.D. 900 to 1150. The Bluff site appears
to have been one of the most distant "outposts" under Chacoan influence.
The archaeology field team includes 13 CU-Boulder students and four crew
leaders who will continue excavating portions of the great house, a
great kiva, trash middens and a series of berms circling the site that
appear to mark ancient roadways. The students will rotate around the
excavations weekly and will spend time each week studying ceramics and
stone tools with Abajo Archaeology professionals. "We want to make sure
our students get dipped into a little bit of everything in terms of
experience," said Lekson, who noted some students also may work with the
U.S. Bureau of Land Management on a mapping survey of area Pueblo sites.
The 1996 team collected thousands of pottery sherds from the
debris-filled berms and middens surrounding the Bluff site that are
helping to determine when it was occupied and learn more about the
ancient people. The pottery fragments at Bluff appear to date from about
A.D. 600. to 1300, and at least one partial potsherd suggests "stylistic
emulation," indicating local people were copying pottery styles from
Chaco Canyon, said Cameron. Animal bones collected from the great house
and middens in 1996 indicate the most commonly hunted animals were
cottontails, jack rabbits, deer and turkey. Lekson also hopes to
investigate whether a prehistoric road leading southeast from the great
house toward Chaco Canyon 125 miles away passes by Teec Nos Pos, a
northeast New Mexico Navajo community adjacent to another great house
ruin. One major question is whether "priests" from Chaco traveled to
places like Bluff to help establish outlying sites, or if Bluff
inhabitants were so impressed by the powerful Chaco culture they decided
to replicate it locally, Cameron said. Although the Chaco influence
stretched over some 40,000 square       miles of the Southwest -- an
area about the size of Ohio -- during its zenith in the early 1100s the
culture abruptly disappeared by about 1150. Archaeologists have
theorized the collapse may have been caused by drought, warfare or
internal political strife. A 1996 test pit indicates the Bluff site's
great kiva originally may have been built with upright stone slabs, then
later remodeled into a smaller structure with masonry lining the walls,
she said. The researchers hope to date the building episodes of the
subterranean religious structure and great house this summer. As part of
the field school, CU-Boulder will bring in other archaeologists for
guest lectures and the students will make weekend field trips to other
Pueblo archaeological sites in the Southwest, including Chaco Canyon.
The Bluff Great House appears to have contained several dozen rooms and
a large community storage area, said Lekson. In contrast, Pueblo Bonito,
a great house in Chaco Canyon, was five stories tall and contained 800
rooms. One unanswered question is whether great houses like Bluff were
"dropped into" existing communities or built to bring local people
together into a cohesive group, he said.

For Immediate Release May 29, 1997
Contact: Catherine Cameron (303) 492-0408
Stephen Lekson (303) 499-6138
Jim Scott (303) 492-3114
University of Colorado at Boulder