When the Gate Locks Behind You: Visiting Great House Communities in SW Colorado

Today the 2017 Field School went on a field trip around rural Colorado to look at three Pueblo communities. It was quite the educational journey!

We started at Lowry Ruins, which is currently on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land and can be viewed by the public! Lowry Pueblo was first excavated by Paul S. Martin through support by the Chicago Field Museum starting in 1930. His methods of excavation are not the standard now, but back then was seen as innovative. He would moves tons of dirt a day by using a system of mine carts to dump excess in nearby Cow Canyon. So the smaller artifacts that are normally seen through the screening process were not kept and the detailed stratigraphic record normally taken were not recorded.

There are several interesting elements to Lowry Ruins, one was the debate of Chaco Outlier or not. It matched several known Chacoan elements such as banding, T-Shaped doorways, core-and-veneer masonry, a great kiva, and a Chaco road. What did not align with Chaco elements were the dimpling on the stone masonry and the blockiness of those stones. Dimpled stone masonry was only seen after A.D. 1140, but there are tree-ring samples that date way earlier then that type of masonry! What could this mean? Well, trees were a valuable resource and were not as accessible as they were say on the East Coast. A common practice was to “recycle” beams into new structures. This is most likely what happened here at Lowry Pueblo. Another interesting thing about Lowry were the two kivas. There was Kiva A, which was a later kiva. This kiva was revealed to be sitting on top of a decommissioned kiva, Kiva B, which was earlier. I could go on and on about all of the details at Lowry, but there is two other communities to visit!

Dr. Ryan explaining Lowry
Dr. Ryan speaking about Chacoan influences
Lowry Ruins



Albert Porter Pueblo was our next stop. This is owned by The Archaeological Conservancy and is not available to the public for viewing. It was excavated by Crow Canyon from 2001 to 2004 and is now backfilled for protection from the elements/stability reasons. What was really neat about the excavations at Albert Porter Pueblo was the use of Electrical Resistivity Survey to find anomalies to better target excavation units. The survey results revealed some of the best anomalies that Dr. Ryan had ever seen! The great house on site was at least two-stories and within four decades, the great house expanded to the east of the original great house core. There were several kivas but no evidence of a great kiva. There were also smaller houses, similar to the ones just outside Chaco Canyon. Inside one of the small houses was a copper bell, which is a rare item and interesting to see in the smaller house and not in what many archaeologists consider the “elite housing” or the great house. There was also a tower on the edge of the site, the uses unknown.

Finally, we stopped at the Woods Canyon Pueblo. It is along a canyon head so it was constructed around the Pueblo III time, later than Albert Porter and Lowry Pueblos. There was no great house, but there was abundant architecture. The buildings would have extended even over the edge slightly! We got to see an intact wall along one of the edges. This was another site that is not open to the public so there are no pictures of the views or what remains.

The Field School of 2017

Later this evening, we had a talk about human osteology.

It wouldn’t be field school without some adventure!



Author: Crow Canyon College Field School

Mission The mission of the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center is to advance and share knowledge of the human experience through archaeological research, education programs, and partnerships with American Indians.

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