Rock Art Ranch Field School Findings ~ 2012 Update
by Chuck Adams and Rich Lange
photo by Rich Lange
Each summer, sixteen students from universities around the country participate in the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology Archaeological Field School co-sponsored by ASM at the rustic Rock Art Ranch near Joseph City in northern Arizona. The field school is directed by Chuck Adams (Arizona State Museum and UA School of Anthropology), Vincent LaMotta (University of Illinois-Chicago and former UA PhD student), and Rich Lange (Arizona State Museum). Below is a summary of findings from the first two summers of fieldwork.
Students at work at Rock Art Ranch
Photo by Chuck Adams
Rock Art Ranch is located 25 miles south and east of Winslow and Homol’ovi State Park, where Adams and Lange conducted research from 1985-2006. We felt that this new area might help provide additional context on the period preceding the late pueblo period (1260 to 1400 CE) at Homol’ovi. The field school has excavated in two sites. At one we have uncovered two rooms and an extensive outside work area dating about 1200 CE and a pit house and storage pit dating to before the appearance of pottery or before 500 CE. At the second we uncovered a possible kiva (ceremonial structure). We also tested burned surface features at two pre-ceramic sites that were radiocarbon dated to 100 BCE and 500 CE.
Metates from Rock Art Ranch
Photo by Chuck Adams
The field school has also surveyed 1800 acres of the Rock Art Ranch property. We recorded where we have recorded nearly 50 new sites on 3 sq. miles in the area between the ranch and the both sides of the first major canyon to the west—Chimney Canyon. Within 200 meters of the canyon edge, we recorded 15 sites having extensive scatters of fine bifacial thinning flakes and fragments of shallow basin metates. Tools are also abundant including scrapers, bifaces, drills and projectile points. The points suggest groups were hunting, gathering and living in the area during late Paleoindian (8000–6000 BCE), Middle Archaic (4000–1500 BCE) and early Basketmaker (800 BCE–500 CE) periods. More than 35 of the survey sites have pottery dating to 600–1230 CE. The similarity of their assemblages with sites at Homol’ovi suggests groups were living in both areas at the same time and were likely in contact. In addition the 25 sites dating 1100–1230 CE show an intensive use of upland sand dune areas and lowland alluvial flats for farming with small pueblos surrounding the farming areas on tops of hills or ridges, including those excavated.
Looking up Chimney Canyon
Photo by Rich Lange
Our impression is that the study area has been lightly used or occupied almost continuously for the past 10,000 years, but never intensively occupied. Exchange for flaked stone and pottery suggest longstanding boundaries between regional cultural traditions. At various times, populations from these different traditions moved into the area for a while and left their mark on the landscape. Pre-ceramic groups show these connections and boundaries through lithic assemblages—lots of petrified wood and no obsidian, suggesting connections to the east; whereas ceramic-using groups are dominated by decorated pottery traded from the north but also with strong contacts to the south for their everyday utility wares. Amazingly, yellow pottery so common at the Homol’ovi pueblos is nearly absent on the ranch with no obsidian recovered and only one lonely yellow ware bowl rim.
Preliminary analysis of the micro-environment of Chimney Canyon indicates water is trapped as shallow as 5 ft beneath sand dunes that fill it and would be accessible through simple wells. In addition cottonwoods, hackberry, and willows in the canyon would provide much needed building and firewood materials.