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ASM Occasional Electronic Papers No. 1: Homol'ovi IV

Chapter Nine:
Ground Stone: A Behavioral Perspective

William Walker

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Introduction

The ground stone assemblage recovered from this site represents a theoretical challenge for ground stone research. By conventional standards this site's ground stone assemblage is a poor one. Most artifacts derive from various kinds of secondary refuse deposits (sensu Schiffer 1976). A large number come from plaza strata (143 cases) while a much smaller number (48 cases) derive from the fill and floor contexts of the structures (see Table 9.1). The fragmentary and incomplete nature of these data suggests that ground stone analysts need to begin looking beyond the primary use contexts of their artifacts (e.g., grinding, abrading or chopping activities) to other behaviors and problems.

Table 9.1 Artifact Frequency and Provenience

Structure

2

4

5

10

201

301

404

Plaza Fill

N=

Misc. (Hearth refuse)

05

-

-

01

15

-

-

45

66

Misc. Unknown

02

-

-

02

02

-

01

45

52

Manos

-

-

-

01

05

02

02

25

35

Abraders

-

-

-

-

02

-

-

08

10

Metates

01

-

-

-

-

01

-

05

07

Possible Piki

-

-

-

-

01

-

-

05

06

Polishing Stones

-

-

-

-

01

-

-

04

05

Palettes

-

-

-

-

01

-

-

03

04

Hoes

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

03

03

Axes

-

-

-

-

-

01

-

-

01

Maul

01

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

01

Stone Bowl

-

-

-

-

-

01

-

-

01

Total

09

-

-

04

27

05

03

143

191

There are only a few whole artifacts in this assemblage. The majority are fragmentary and amorphously-shaped stones recognized solely by the presence of worn or shaped surfaces. Many have been burned and more than 50% of these fragments fall within the typological category "miscellaneous," which includes both the hearth refuse and unknown categories.

This Homol'ovi IV assemblage challenges us to consider alternative empirical observations that link behaviors such as reuse, recycling and discard to the study of human activities and the past. Only a handful of published papers have addressed the secondary uses and depositional behaviors associated with ground stone assemblages (Adams 1994; Hayden 1987b; Schlanger 1991). Such data expose the importance of the use and reuse of ground stone artifacts in walls, roasting pits, hearths, and various unknown tasks involving expedient grinding.

The reconstruction of an artifact's entire life history highlights the immediate processes forming the archaeological record and frequently the behaviors of individuals and groups that do not occur in the acquisition and primary use-life stages of an object. By focusing on the lesser known behaviors associated with these artifacts, such as reuse and discard, we can explore the ground stone variability in wall and roof fall, middens, and floor fill. These contexts provide clues to the timing of events in the growth and abandonment of the site.

The Assemblage

The remnants of a range of traditional ground stone artifact types were recovered from this site. These included metates, manos, flat and grooved abraders, axes, mauls, hoes, palettes, polishing stones, griddles, and an argillite stone bowl. The majority of the assemblage is composed of worn out and reused artifacts. The relative richness (sensu Kintigh 1984) of the assemblage is heavily skewed towards miscellaneous unidentifiable fragments (50%+). This variability highlights the effects of sample size, differential discard rates, and probably a significant amount of prehistoric reuse and reclamation activities (see Schiffer 1987).

Ninety-four percent of the ground stone artifacts are fragmentary, defined in this case as absence of more than half of the original artifact. Nevertheless, even the whole (n=11) artifacts did not necessarily represent good examples of grinding technology. Instead their wholeness may indicate they had specialized secondary uses such as construction materials, ritual offerings, or hearth architecture. Two manos, for example, recovered from wall and roof contexts, may have been reused as wall stones. Whole objects include one worn mano, four polishing stones, one severely battered maul, one argillite bowl, and four abraders. Among the best representatives of artifacts discarded at the end of their primary uses are two pebble polishing stones that, like the worn out quartzite maul, were not well suited for the specialized secondary uses mentioned above. The uses of the argillite bowl remain largely unknown, but it is argued that its deposition was ceremonial in nature.

Slightly more that half of the artifacts recovered were classified as miscellaneous. This category was subdivided into three classes: piki/griddle remains, hearth feature refuse, and miscellaneous unidentified.

In addition to reuse activities, evidence from the last occupied structures suggests that abandonment and reclamation processes also accounted for the lack of pristine primary tools. These structures appear to have been constructed last, based on their stratigraphic relationship with the plaza fill and the abuttment/bonding of their walls with structures higher up the slope (see chapters on architecture and chronology). These data indicate that the oldest structures were constructed on the top of the butte and through time whole tiers of rooms were built across the faces of the hill at lower and lower elevations.

Within the excavated structures there were no deep midden deposits comparable to the ceramic bowl dump found on the northeast edge of the plaza. Instead, the majority of artifacts were found in wall fall and roof collapse deposits as well as deposits washed down from higher on the butte. Grinding features had been prehistorically dismantled at the time of abandonment. Metates had been removed from milling bins, such as structure 301, and even some of the bins themselves appear to have been salvaged for use elsewhere (see structure 2). The presence of two large pueblos, Homol'ovi I, Homol'ovi III, and Chevelon constructed about the time of Homol'ovi IV's abandonment, suggests the possibility that people from Homol'ovi IV moved with their more valuable ground stone implements to Homol'ovi I, the closer of these sites. Alternatively, the occupants of Homol'ovi I and later Homol'ovi II could have salvaged usable materials including ground stone from Homol'ovi IV.

Structure 201 was exceptional for the sheer volume of its artifacts. Most of these objects fall under the miscellaneous category of hearth refuse, including burnt and abraded objects that have been used in fires.

The floor of structure 301 contained a well-fashioned argillite bowl. XRF analysis indicates the bowl came from argillite sources in the Verde or Prescott Valley area. This bowl may have been an abandonment offering as it would have been valuable, esily transported and, though small, not easily lost. The remainder of the floor assemblage was lost due to extensive vandalism of the room.

Many of the artifacts were burned. Eleven of the recovery units contained both unburned and burned pieces. This suggests that the burning occurred before deposition and that artifacts found in association may not have been used together prior to discard.

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