Investigations of small structures in the Citadel District of Wupatki National Monument

Ruth Ellen Lambert
Dept. of Anthropology, University of New Mexico
July, 2006


Small structures associated with the remains of prehistoric agricultural societies are often assumed to have been field houses that are related to agricultural activities. In Wupatki National Monument, an archaeological survey identified numerous small structures in the vicinity of large sites and agricultural features such as fields, terraces, rock alignments, and water catchments. Although the use of these small structures has been questioned, generally they are presumed to have been field houses. This study investigates the use of small single-space structures to understand their role in the prehistoric settlement in the Citadel District of the Monument. Eight sites were selected based on their potential to address questions of structure use and duration of occupation. Sixteen structures and features were tested at the eight sites and architectural, artifact, and botanical information were collected during excavation. Testing indicates that structures were used for short periods as most subsurface remains were minimal. The majority of structure uses were agricultural and occupation was related to day or seasonal activities; however, test data indicate that many of the structures were not occupied, but were used as gardens, water catchments, and storage locations. Relative chronological information indicates that agricultural activities were well established prior to the eruptions of Sunset Crater. Finally, study data suggest that uses at some structures changed over time and that non-agricultural structures were reused for agricultural purposes, and that seasonal agricultural structures were later used as agricultural day-use structures. The shift in duration of occupation of agricultural structures from seasonal uses to day-use appears to coincide with the deposition of Sunset Crater cinders in the study area by A.D. 1100. These data suggest that following the cinder deposition in the study area, agricultural patterns shifted from dispersed agriculture with associated seasonal occupation located near the agricultural fields to a day use pattern with habitation at larger sites and day trips to fields and gardens.