Multidisciplinary Studies of Anthropogenic Change, Subsistence, Social Organization, Regional Interaction, and Technology at the Las Capas Site, BC 1200-400, Southern Arizona

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Recent research at the Las Capas site (AZ AA:12:111) near Tucson, Arizona, has resulted in discoveries about Early Agricultural Period (B.C.1250-A.D.50) foraging, horticulture, and hunting in southern Arizona, for which there exists no known ethnographic analog. To date, 3,153 excavated features have yielded thousands of analyzed flotation, pollen, and soil samples, tens of thousands of analyzed osteological specimens, and hundreds of thousands of artifacts. The combined effort makes Las Capas arguably the most intensively studied archaeological site in the United States. This publically-funded project encompassed a broad range of analytical efforts. This poster session presents the findings of specialists from the leading edge of the fields of AMS-dating, archaeozoosteology, ceramic analysis, lithic analysis, ground stone analysis, human archaeoosteology, marine shell analysis, mortuary analysis, ostrocode analysis, paleoethnobotany, palynology, pedology, and stratigraphic geochronology. The occupants of Las Capas were among the earliest practitioners of maize horticulture in the United States, and combined gardening and irrigation with a system of extensive foraging, logistical and residential mobility, and long distance travel or exchange.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-12 of 12)

  • Documents (12)

  • Agriculture at Las Capas: Tales Told by the Canals (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Fred Nials.

    Las Capas is an Early Agricultural period site in the Tucson Basin, Arizona. Canal irrigation began at the site as early as 1200 BC and the canal system encompasses more than 50 hectares. Agricultural features are unusually well-preserved, and more than 250 canals of various sizes and over 1000 bordered fields were exposed in multiple stratigraphic levels during excavation. The unusual degree of preservation provides an exceptional opportunity to examine the mode of construction, hydrology,...

  • Anthropogenic Effects on Soil Quality of the Las Capas Irrigation System (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jeffrey Homburg. Fred Nials. James Vint.

    A soil quality study was conducted at the Las Capas site to document and evaluate the soil productivity and hydraulic soil properties of this ancient agricultural irrigation complex. This site presents an unprecedented opportunity to study the complete configuration and evolution of the oldest irrigation system documented in the Southwest to date. Mechanical stripping permitted earthen berms around small field grids to be identified so that soil samples could be collected in relation to nearby...

  • Bioarchaeology at Las Capas: Uniformity and Continuity within the Early Agricultural Period (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only James Watson. Rachael Byrd.

    Investment in cultigens and early irrigation in the Sonoran Desert (circa 3600 BP) signal a major shift in subsistence strategy identified as the Early Agricultural Period (EAP). The EAP is also recognized as a period of significant social transformation, and Las Capas (LCA) has played a critical part in our redefinition of this period. We examine how biocultural signatures from the LCA mortuary sample compare over the site’s occupation and within broader patterns of the EAP. Our results...

  • Environmental History of an Early Agricultural Period Irrigation Canals Network at Las Capas (Site AZ AA:12:753 [ASM]), Tucson, Arizona (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Manuel Palacios-Fest. James Vint. Fred Nials. David Dettman. Dirk Baron.

    The Santa Cruz Drainage Basin contains a rich record of prehistoric irrigation for at least 3200 years. Archaeologists and paleoecologists have identified the evolution of this agricultural technology from opportunistic to systematic canal operation. The present study documents the first detailed analysis of a networked canal system during the Early Agricultural Period (1200 BC – AD 50) using ostracodes, micro-mollusks, calcareous algae and the geochemical signatures of ostracode (Ilyocypris...

  • Exploring Early Agricultural Technological Traditions at Las Capas with Experiments (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jenny Adams.

    Experiments conducted in concert with the analysis of ground stone artifacts recovered from Las Capas, AZ AA:12:111, (ASM) explored important early agricultural activities including planting and harvesting maize, processing maize, and making stone and fired-clay pipes. Results from the experiments combined with models developed from ethnographic references created workable correlates for evaluating features and tools associated with these activities. Las Capas style fields were planted with two...

  • Farmaging and the Limitations of Storage during the Early Agricultural Period at Las Capas (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael Diehl.

    The charred macroplant assemblage from Las Capas yielded one domesticate (Zea mays), and forty-six wild plant taxa endemic to the greater Tucson Basin of southern Arizona. These 47 taxa, their ubiquities, and their natural ranges of occurrence, indicate that the San Pedro phase and Early Cienega phase occupants of Las Capas were primarily dependent upon wild foods. Agriculture was used to mitigate the risks of food shortfalls associated with the alternative strategy of foraging for wild food...

  • Figurines and Farmagers (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only James Heidke.

    Two temporally-sensitive fired clay figurine styles were identified among the 282 fragments recovered from the Early Agricultural period archaeological site known as Las Capas, located in Tucson, Arizona. The earlier style was only recovered from the 1220-1000 B.C. stratum, while the later style was just recovered from the 930-730 B.C. strata. Virtually all fragments were found in domestic trash deposits. Previous interpretations of similar figurines relied on the assumption that they represent...

  • Phytolith Analysis of Sediments from Early Agricultural Fields at Las Capas, Arizona (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Chad Yost.

    Phytolith analysis of field sediments at the Early Agricultural site of Las Capas document a rich microfossil record of the plant communities that grew in farmed irragric soils and the local environment. Although irrigation water tapped from the Santa Cruz River carried a significant load of naturally derived phytoliths, the signature of cultivated and encouraged plants was clearly recognizable among the diverse identified genera and species. Maize is well-represented, but there is a strong...

  • Refinement of Early Agricultural Site Chronology in the Tucson Basin (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only James Vint.

    A sample of 140 radiocarbon dates from 14 Early Agricultural sites was used to model the chronology of settlements in the Tucson Basin using OxCal v.4.2.3; one site in northern Sonora was also included in this analysis. The sites range in age from about 2100 BC to 700 BC, spanning two phases of the Late Archaic/Early Agricultural period: the "Silverbell Interval" (ca. 2100-1200 BC) and the San Pedro Phase (ca. 1200-800 BC). Most dates are AMS assays of maize kernels, cupules, or cobs, other...

  • The Use of Shell Ornaments at Las Capas, an Early Agricultrual Site in Southern Arizona (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christine Lange.

    Recent excavations at the site of Las Capas, located along the Santa Cruz River in the Tucson Basin in southern Arizona, have given us an opportunity to examine an Early Agricultural period site in this area. Along with other pieces of material culture such as flaked stone and ground stone tools, ornaments manufactured from marine shell were also part of the lifeway of the local inhabitants. Deriving from locales in California and northern Mexico, where established marine shell ornament...

  • Vertebrate Faunal Assemblages and Bone Tool Use in the Early Agricultural Period (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jenny Waters. Janet Griffitts.

    Researchers have recovered large faunal assemblages containing several hundred bone artifacts at Las Capas, a San Pedro phase site in Tucson, Arizona. Artifacts include utilitarian and non-utilitarian objects with a variety of technical and symbolic uses. Excavations at Los Pozos, a large Cienega phase site in the Tucson Basin, yielded a very large collection of animal bone with a rich bone artifact assemblage. Bone technologies were often used to make items from plant fibers, wood, animal...

  • Who Goes There? Tracing San Pedro Phase Migration and Social Dynamics in the Borderlands with a Revised Projectile Point Typology (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jane Sliva.

    The projectile point assemblage from Las Capas (AZ AA:12:111 [ASM]) provides a case study for using a social dynamics model to explain shifts in point design during the San Pedro phase (1200-800 B.C.) in the Tucson Basin. Available evidence indicates that the population of Las Capas and the residents of a possibly related settlement directly across the Santa Cruz River maintained a separate projectile point design orientation from other settlements in the northern Tucson Basin during the early...