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Hunter Gatherer Archaeology of the Colorado High Country

By Mark Stiger

Publication Year: 2008

"Stiger shows how the high country's most common site type, the shallow multi-component lithic scatter, also can contribute essential information."—Journal of the West "A unique and thorough contribution."—David A. Breternitz, Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado. Hunter-Gatherer Archaeology of the Colorado High Country offers data on 8,000 years of cultural change across a wide area of western Colorado and updates archaeological methodology in the mountain West. Synthesizing research from several important, previously neglected sites, the book anchors its findings in a massive body of data that Mark Stiger gathered over eight years at Tenderfoot - a large lithic-scatter site once categorized as insignificant. Advances in spatial analysis, theoretical approaches, and excavation methods have allowed lithic-scatter sites, once considered less revealing than intact structures and similar sites, to yield startlingly rich cultural evidence. Presenting artifactual data that reflects changes in houses, game drives, fire pits, stone tools, and debitage, Stiger explains the cultural sequence in the Upper Gunnison Basin and its connections to changes across the West.  He relates environmental and cultural changes, relying on paleoenvironmental evidence, changes in floral and faunal usage patterns, and data recovered in multi-year, repetitive surface collections.  An overview and critique of past research in the region complements discussion of the advantages of horizontally extensive block excavations and other contemporary ways of excavating and analyzing surface sites. Stiger's findings hold promise for future research, as high-altitude surface sites are common, under-researched, and relatively well-preserved. The advances in archaeological method and theory that enabled Stiger's outstanding results in the Upper Gunnison Basin will allow many other Western sites to yield fascinating evidence.

Published by: University Press of Colorado

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-xii


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pp. xiii-xix


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pp. xxi-xxii

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

As a long-time advocate of the abandonment of interpretative conventions in favor of research and scholarship aimed at improving our inferential methods, I am very pleased to have been asked to write the...

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pp. xxv

This book is about lithic-scatter archaeology in the Rocky Mountains. Lithic scatters in the West are ubiquitous, found during almost every archaeological survey. These sites are also usually a low priority in mitigation or research projects when sites in rockshelters and prehistoric agricultural villages...

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pp. xxvii-xxviii

The data described in these pages came from several excavations I directed over many years. The field crews at Western State College, Dolores Archaeological Program, and the Corps of Engineers Abiquiu Archaeological...

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pp. xxix-xxx

Archaeologists working in the Colorado mountains tend to be an odd lot. Some are here by choice; some have been forced here by circumstances beyond their control. Some see the mountains as a land of opportunity...

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1. The Archaeology of Colorado's High Country

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pp. 1-12

This section describes several of the larger, better-reported archaeological projects in Colorado's high country (Figure 1.1). This description will give the reader a sense of which kinds of sites archaeologists have thought to be most useful for research. I also briefly describe the research approaches and conclusions drawn by the investigators. I then describe work done in the Upper...

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2. Current Perspectives in Colorado High-Country Archaeology

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pp. 13-32

This section surveys current approaches and perspectives in Colorado mountain archaeology, including the research domains considered important by Guthrie et al. (1984) and the Mountain tradition as proposed by Black (1991). The concept of social relationships is explored....

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3The Upper Gunnison Basin

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pp. 33-46

It is no exaggeration to state that the Upper Gunnison Basin is, in many aspects, unique. Its geological formations are highly varied, and some are rare, such as the double ring dike at Hartman's Rocks. The area is marked with features formed by volcanic activity of many types, some that occurred 25 million years ago, and some that covered gigantic...

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4. Prehistoric Use of Fauna in the Upper Gunnison Basin

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pp. 47-58

The faunal remains recovered from dated prehistoric contexts in the Upper Gunnison Basin are reported in Appendix D. We have reported the larger animals by element; we have condensed the medium-sized animals into species only; we have collapsed the small animals into gross...

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5. Floral Exploitation in the Upper Gunnison Basin

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pp. 59-62

The variety of taxa represented in the archaeological record of the Basin, as shown in Appendix E, is not as broad as what might be recovered from an Anasazi site, possibly due to either poorer preservation of these materials on early sites or to relatively little use of plant species by early people...

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6. Interpretation of Artifacts

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pp. 63-133

Some recent approaches to lithic analysis have shifted from traditional content descriptions to a more complex organizational perspective. Central to the latter way of viewing assemblages is examination of the role or roles that artifacts played relative to behavioral systems and relative to each other within these systems...

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7. Interpretation of Features

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pp. 101-116

We have discovered a variety of firepits in the Upper Gunnison Basin. Rock-lined firepits, unlined firepits, and fire-cracked-rock-filled firepits are found with wide ranges of diameters and depths. This morphological diversity is temporally patterned, with some firepit types restricted to time periods....

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8. About Surface Sites

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pp. 117-128

Surface materials are important because archaeologists make many research judgements based on surface information. Surface indications guide decisions about which sites to excavate-which site is likely to yield the most significant subsurface material and which site does not offer significant research...

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9. Site Comparisons

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pp. 129-154

Intersite comparisons suffer from the use of incongruent methods among sites. For instance, some investigators used ¼-in mesh for screening removed soil; at Tenderfoot we used 1/8-in mesh across the entire excavation block. Obviously, the recovery rate of small flakes and bones is higher when the finer mesh is used, and small pieces become very important in understanding...

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10. Summary and Conclusions

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pp. 155-174

Sometimes it seems that the most controversial questions (or answers) in archaeology are those that address a prehistoric population's origin and demise. For instance, for many years we have asked, Were the Paleoindians the first people in the New World, or were there some...

Appendix A. Tenderfoot Feature Descriptions [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 175-214

Appendix B. Lithic Sources in the Upper Gunnison Basin

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pp. 215-222

Appendix C. Identified Sources of Archaeological Obsidian Found in Colorado

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pp. 223-228

Appendix D. Faunal Remains Found in the Upper Gunnison Basin,by Provenience

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pp. 229-234

Appendix E. Floral Remains Found in the Upper Gunnison Basin,by Provenience

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pp. 235-240

Appendix F. Burial Assemblages from Archaic and Basketmaker II Contexts

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pp. 241-244

Appendix G. Hafted Stone Tools in the Ethnographic and Archaeological Records

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pp. 245-250

Appendix H. Tenderfoot Tool Illustrations [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 251-270

Appendix I. Ethnographic Record of Fuel and Firepit Use

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pp. 271-276

Appendix J. Experimental Firepit Construction

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pp. 277-280

Appendix K. Descriptions of Features at Abiquiu and Casa de Nada

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pp. 281-288

References Cited

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pp. 289-310


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pp. 311-318

E-ISBN-13: 9780870816994
E-ISBN-10: 0870816993
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870819100
Print-ISBN-10: 0870819100

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 92 b&w photos, 66 line drawings, 4 maps, 20 tables
Publication Year: 2008