Archaeological Investigations at Lee Canyon: Kayenta Anasazi Farmsteads in the Upper Basin, Coconino County, Arizona

Editor(s): Stephanie M. Whittlesey

Year: 1992


The following report presents the results of archaeological data recovery carried out at two Kayenta Anasazi sites, AZ I:1:15 (ASM) and AZ I:1:24 (ASM), located at Lee Canyon in the Upper Basin, Coconino County, Arizona. The work was conducted in response to a realignment of State Route 64 by the Arizona Department of Transportation. During archaeological testing by Statistical Research, Inc., masonry structures and agricultural features at the two sites were located, suggesting the potential to study prehistoric subsistence and settlement patterns on this portion of the Colorado Plateau.

The research conducted for this project confirms the potential of small rural sites in understanding prehistory. The main components at the sites represent occupations during the A.D. 1100s, although earlier and later components are present at both. The sites were apparently small farmsteads occupied for the greater part of the year by a farming people who practiced a diversified and balanced subsistence strategy in which collection of pinyon nuts and other wild resources was a significant component. Occupation was brief, however, and not intensive. Excavation confirmed the presence of an agricultural field and check dams for sediment and water control at AZ I:1:24, the first such feature to be recorded in the Upper Basin. Corn was cultivated, and other cultigens and encouraged wild plants may also have been raised. AZ I:1:24 is located in a highly restricted zone of excellent agricultural potential that may be unique to the Upper Basin; fertile, well-drained soils, relatively high precipitation, and local topographic conditions encouraging floodwater runoff farming are present. Differences in subsistence and settlement practices between the two investigated sites indicate that the Kayenta Anasazi practiced a fluid and flexible subsistence-settlement system that was readily adapted to local conditions.

The research also contributed to an understanding of cultural affiliation and exchange issues. Although Cohonina ceramics are present, the material evidence points toward Kayenta Anasazi affiliation of the residents at both sites. Petrographic study of ceramics suggests the absence of a locally produced undecorated ceramic tradition, but also indicates that some of the Tsegi Orange are may have been locally made. Manufacture of Kayenta Anasazi and Cohonina ceramics using similar materials suggests that either ceramic technological information was shared, or that the same kinds of materials were exploited by potters living in the Upper Basin. Little evidence for widespread contact with neighboring groups is seen in either the ceramics or other categories of material culture, although some pottery from the Sinagua and Prescott areas was recovered in limited quantities.

The Lee Canyon sites and the archaeology of the Upper Basin as a whole corresponds with a general model in which a nonhierarchical, dispersed settlement system served as the basis for exploiting a local resource territory. The Kayenta Anasazi of the Upper Basin may have responded to the beginnings of environmental uncertainty by increasing dependence on agriculture in those limited areas of the basin where local conditions were optimal; that this response ultimately failed is indicated by decreasing population and eventual abandonment of the Upper Basin during the thirteenth century.

Cite this Record

Archaeological Investigations at Lee Canyon: Kayenta Anasazi Farmsteads in the Upper Basin, Coconino County, Arizona. Stephanie M. Whittlesey. 1992 ( tDAR id: 427774) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8427774

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -113.176; min lat: 35.147 ; max long: -111.286; max lat: 36.994 ;

Record Identifiers

Project No.(s): H 2015 01D

Technical Series No. (s): 38

SRP Library Barcode No.(s): 00090772

Project No. (s): FFLH-0331 (16)

Contract No.(s): 90-30

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