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64 CHAPTER FOUR Temporal Rhythms of Population Circulation The temporal rhythms of movement are one of the most difficult parameters of systems of population circulation to measure archaeologically. This problem is particularly troubling due to the importance of understanding timing when modeling the effects of circulation on the longterm formation and composition of residential groups, communities, and larger social networks. Much of the difficulty in assessing residential mobility and other movements in the archaeological record derives from the fact that our chronological methods are often too imprecise to adequately capture processes that occurred on intervals of a generation or less, such as those noted in the ethnographic cases summarized in chapter 2. Some recent attempts at estimating ancient residential mobility in the Southwest have had great success (Varien 1999a; Varien and Ortman 2005), however, illustrating that in strong archaeological cases with well-developed chronologies, which I would argue includes the El Morro Valley, delineation of temporal patterns of movement is possible and yields novel insights into ancient settlement and social systems. In this chapter, I utilize a variety of data types and methods to examine two parameters of movement, frequency and timing, in order to understand how temporal variation in movement influenced the formation of local social systems in the El Morro Valley. Estimating the Frequency of Population Circulation Site occupation span is a good measure of the frequency of residential movement in mobile, agricultural societies (Hamnett 1977; Varien and Temporal Rhythms of Population Circulation 65 Ortman 2005; Watson 1985; Whittle 1997). As people move between sites more frequently, the average occupation span of individual sites is reduced, especially if sites are not reoccupied and if the primary unit of movement corresponds with the unit of residence. The archaeological study of site occupation spans is difficult, however, as most dating methods are too imprecise to identify changes over short periods of time or because precise methods, such as tree-ring dating, usually do not directly date the activities of interest (i.e., the dates of site construction and abandonment ). Recently archaeologists have successfully used pottery accumulation studies to provide estimates of site occupation spans in a variety of areas (see summary in Varien and Mills 1997). Mark Varien and colleagues’ studies (Varien 1999a; Varien and Ortman 2005; Varien and Potter 1997) of site occupation length in the central Mesa Verde region have been among the most prominent and well illustrate the utility of using pottery accumulation measures to track changes in residential mobility. Their research approximates site occupation spans by estimating the total number of cooking pots discarded during the occupation of a site and dividing that total by the average number of pots used per year by each household residing at the site. The total number of pots is usually estimated by dividing the total weight of pottery by the average weight of vessels from the analyzed time period. Population estimates are derived using a combination of methods, such as counting the number of habitation rooms or hearths (Varien 1999a) Among these variables, the most difficult to define is the average number of cooking pots discarded in a year. Although most studies have relied on ethnographic estimates (see Varien and Mills 1997), Varien (1999a:62– 88) relied on a strong archaeological case, the Duckfoot site, a nearly completely excavated small Pueblo I period hamlet with hundreds of treering dates spanning nearly the entirety of its occupation span from AD 850 to 880 (Varien 1999a:62–88). Using the estimate of average cooking pot discard from Duckfoot, Varien was then able to estimate occupation spans for a number of sites in the Mesa Verde region dating to a variety of time periods (Varien 1999a:89–111; Varien and Ortman 2005). These studies indicate that Pueblo III period (AD 1150–1300, contemporaneous with the occupation of the El Morro Valley) sites in the Mesa Verde region were lived in for one to four generations (10–80 years). Analyses of Mesa Verde habitation sites occupied during the Basketmaker III through Pueblo III periods (AD 750–1300) indicate that average occupation spans increased over time as the frequency of residential mobility declined (Varien and Ortman 2005). Varien’s methods represent a breakthrough in Southwest archaeology as they enable a move beyond estimates of occupation spans based on 66 population circulation and zuni communities average structure use-life, which are often used to help control for the influence of variation in site occupation lengths in population studies (e.g., Schlanger 1988; Wilshusen 2002) and...


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