Spruce Tree House: The Social History of a Thirteenth-Century Cliff Dwelling

Author(s): Joel Brisbin; Kay Barnett; Donna Glowacki

Year: 2015


As one of the best preserved ancestral Pueblo sites in the Southwest, Spruce Tree House presents a unique opportunity to examine aggregation during the 1200s; a time fraught with significant social and religious changes, intensifying intraregional violence, and extreme climatic conditions that ends with widespread Pueblo exodus from the region. This paper presents our fine-grained reconstruction of how Spruce Tree House developed over time based on detailed architectural documentation and a complete tree-ring record and discusses important social organizational change to ascertain how stressful periods, such as the late 1200s, impacted settlement development and growth. Our reconstruction shows that much of the expansion and construction occurred in and after the 1240s with significant remodeling that reconfigured social relationships. Village growth in the alcove extended from North-to-South, and vertical expansion was a late development as most second and third story rooms were built years after the first story rooms. Even as the village grew and changed, residents continued to replicate specific architectural configurations, both defensive and ceremonial, indicating the intentional maintenance of key organizational canons regardless of the social changes happening. Evidence of conflict in the mid-1200s centered on important ceremonial structures suggests some relationships within the village were contentious.

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Cite this Record

Spruce Tree House: The Social History of a Thirteenth-Century Cliff Dwelling. Joel Brisbin, Kay Barnett, Donna Glowacki. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396225)

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1200 to 1300

Spatial Coverage

min long: -108.663; min lat: 37.086 ; max long: -108.309; max lat: 37.34 ;