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The zooarchaeology of great house sites in the San Juan Basin of the American Southwest

By Shaw Badenhorst

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This dissertation considers animal remains from great houses in the San Juan Basin of the American Southwest. The archaeofauna from an outlying great house, Albert Porter Pueblo in the central Mesa Verde region, occupied between Pueblo II and III (A.D. 1020-1280), indicates that turkey increased in importance over time compared to cottontails. Artiodactyls are not common in the assemblage, suggesting continuous hunting pressure on large game. Only subtle differences were noted between faunas from the great house when compared to residential units. Most notably, turkeys are more common in the great house during all time periods compared to surrounding residences. Ritual animals were located in all contexts, suggesting that everyone in the settlement had access to ceremonies. The mounds from Pueblo Bonito, a great house in Chaco Canyon dating to Pueblo II (A.D. 1050-1105) were recently re-excavated by reopening Neil Judd’s excavations from the 1920s. The fauna from the mounds is dominated by cottontails. The frequency of deer in the assemblage is similar to other Classic Bonito faunas from Chaco Canyon. The overall composition of the fauna is similar to other great houses and small sites within Chaco Canyon. Most of the artiodactyl remains are from young animals, a pattern that is consistent with intensive hunting. A regional overview of faunas dating from Basketmaker II to Pueblo III (A.D. 1-1300) indicates that cottontails increased over time, whereas artiodactyls decline. Turkey became important in the northern San Juan Basin during Pueblo III. A number of processes resulted in variations in animal usage over time. Highly prized artiodactyls were intensively hunted as human populations grew over time. Some taxa are associated with particular environments. For example, conditions in the northern San Juan Basin favour cottontails and turkeys, whereas in the drier southern portions, jackrabbits are more common. Economic and ritual usage of animals at great houses in the San Juan Basin was similar to that at contemporaneous settlements. No evidence was found to contradict the interpretation that farming communities in the San Juan Basin were organised by a peer-polity form of interaction during Pueblo II and III.


Katie Carroll

Date 2008
Pages 342
Publisher Simon Fraser University
Department Department of Archaeology
Degree Ph.D.
Language English
University Simon Fraser University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal remains
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animals in culture
  4. History
  5. Hunting
  6. Native Americans
  7. Nature
  8. Physical environment
  9. United States of America
  10. Wild animals
  11. wildlife
  12. Zooarchaeology