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Dynamic Communities on the Mesa Verde Cuesta

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2019

Kelsey M. Reese*
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA
Donna M. Glowacki
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA; Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Cortez, CO 81321, USA
Timothy A. Kohler
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA; Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Cortez, CO 81321, USA
*Corresponding
(kreese1@nd.edu, corresponding author)

Abstract

This article systematically and quantitatively characterizes interaction dynamics and community formation based on changes in spatial patterns of contemporaneous households. We develop and apply a geospatial routine to measure changing extents of household interaction and community formation from AD 600 to 1280 on the Mesa Verde cuesta in southwestern Colorado. Results suggest that household spatial organization was shaped simultaneously by the maintenance of regular social interaction that sustained communities and the need for physical space among households. Between AD 600 and 1200, households balanced these factors by forming an increased number of dispersed communities in response to population growth and variable environmental stressors. However, as population rebounded after the megadrought of the mid-1100s, communities became increasingly compact, disrupting a long-standing equilibrium between household interaction and subsistence space within each community. The vulnerabilities created by this change in community spatial organization were compounded by a cooler climate, drought, violence, and changes in political and ritual organization in the mid-1200s, which ultimately culminated in the complete depopulation of the Mesa Verde cuesta by the end of the thirteenth century.

Este artículo investiga las dinámicas de la formación comunitaria a través de un análisis de los cambios diacrónicos en los patrones espaciales de las viviendas contemporáneas. Desarrollamos y aplicamos una rutina geoespacial para medir las extensiones y los patrones de interacción entre las viviendas desde dC 600 hasta 1280 en la cuesta Mesa Verde en el sudoeste de Colorado. Los resultados implican que la organización espacial entre las viviendas fue determinada simultáneamente por el mantenimiento de la interacción social habitual que sostenía las comunidades y por la separación espacial suficiente para la subsistencia de los grupos domésticos. Entre dC 600 y 1200, los grupos domésticos mantuvieron el equilibrio entre estos dos factores a través la formación de comunidades adicionales con asentamientos dispersos para mitigar varias presiones demográficas y ecológicas. Sin embargo, con el resurgimiento de la población después de la megasequía a mediados del siglo XII, las comunidades se volvieron cada vez más concentradas, alterando en cada comunidad el equilibrio existente entre la interacción de los grupos domésticos y sus espacios de subsistencia respectivos. Este cambio de la organización espacial de las comunidades generó vulnerabilidades que iban agravándose por los factores de un clima más frío, la sequía, la violencia, y otros cambios en la organización política y ritual a mediados del siglo XIII. La interacción entre estas presiones sociales y ambientales desembocó en la despoblación total de la cuesta Mesa Verde antes del fin del siglo XIII.

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Reports
Copyright
Copyright © 2019 by the Society for American Archaeology 

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