Sunset Crater Archaeology: The History of a Volcanic Landscape, Stone, Shell, Bone, and Mortuary Analyses

Editor(s): Mark D. Elson

Year: 2006


The U.S. 89 Archaeological Project investigated 41 prehistoric sites located approximately 30 km north of Flagstaff, Arizona. All sites were on Coconino National Forest (CNF) land, specifically the Peaks Ranger District. The project was conducted hy Desert Archaeology, Inc., personnel for the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) prior to widening and improvement of 26.7 km (16.6 miles) of U.S. 89, between the southern boundary of Wupatki National Monument in the north, and the town of Fernwood in the south. Archaeological fieldwork occurred over two primary field seasons in 1997 and 1998, with a very brief field season in 1999. A total of almost 12 person-years of labor was expended on the fieldwork.

The U.S. 89 project area crosses diverse environmental zones, ranging from juniper-sage grasslands in the north at approximately 5,700 ft (1,737 m) asl, to ponderosa pine forests at over 7,200 ft (2,195 m) asl in the south. Mixed pinyon pine and juniper woodlands comprise the middle elevations. Five elevation zones were defined, using increments of 500 ft as a proxy for changes in precipitation, temperature, and vegetation. Additionally, all project area sites are within 25 km of Sunset Crater, with the closest sites only 5-6 km west of the volcano. Sunset Crater erupted for a very short period (months to a few years) sometime between A.D. 1050 and 1125. Basalt lava from the eruption covered an area of approximately 8 km2, while another 2,300 km2 was covered by cinder and ash deposits. Sunset Crater cinders were found on all project area sites. An isopach map of cinder depth constructed for this project indicates that, minimally, the U.S. 89 sites were covered with from 5-50 cm of volcanic material, which had a significant impact on prehistoric settlement, subsistence, and economic systems. Prehistoric adaptation to environmental variability, as well as to the Sunset Crater eruption, were primary research themes.

This volume presents the analyses of the non-ceramic artifacts from the 41 investigated sites. These artifacts comprise approximately 16.5 percent of the 98,329 total recovered artifacts: 15,610 pieces of flaked stone, 1,163 pieces of ground stone, 96 bone tools, 70 pieces of shell, and 237 miscellaneous artifacts, which include stone beads, jewelry, and pieces of pigment. Additionally, 3,493 pieces of unworked animal bone were also recovered.

Cite this Record

Sunset Crater Archaeology: The History of a Volcanic Landscape, Stone, Shell, Bone, and Mortuary Analyses. Mark D. Elson. 2006 ( tDAR id: 428159) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8428159

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Cohonina Sinagua

Chipped Stone Fauna Ground Stone Human Remains Projectile points Shell

Site Name
Ant Hill AR-03-04-02-1534 AR-03-04-02-1539 AR-03-04-02-1541 AR-03-04-02-1594 AR-03-04-02-1640 AR-03-04-02-1692 AR-03-04-02-1693 AR-03-04-02-1716 AR-03-04-02-1798 AR-03-04-02-2036 AR-03-04-02-2109 AR-03-04-02-2229 AR-03-04-02-2256 AR-03-04-02-2258 AR-03-04-02-2591 AR-03-04-02-2708 AR-03-04-02-2753 AR-03-04-02-2755 AR-03-04-02-2756 AR-03-04-02-2757 AR-03-04-02-2758 AR-03-04-02-3352 AR-03-04-02-3664 AR-03-04-02-3665 AR-03-04-02-3666 AR-03-04-02-3673 AR-03-04-02-3675 AR-03-04-02-3678 AR-03-04-02-3679 AR-03-04-02-3788 AR-03-04-02-3789 AR-03-04-02-3791 AR-03-04-02-3792 AR-03-04-02-3794 AR-03-04-02-3795 AR-03-04-02-3796 AR-03-04-02-3797 AR-03-04-02-3873 AR-03-04-02-4105 AR-03-04-02-4106 AR-03-04-02-4117 AZ I:10:10 (ASM) AZ I:10:101 (ASM) AZ I:10:104 (ASM) AZ I:10:105 (ASM) AZ I:10:107 (ASM) AZ I:10:108 (ASM) AZ I:10:109 (ASM) AZ I:10:110 (ASM) AZ I:10:112 (ASM) AZ I:10:113 (ASM) AZ I:10:114 (ASM) AZ I:10:12 (ASM) AZ I:10:120 (ASM) AZ I:10:121 (ASM) AZ I:10:122 (ASM) AZ I:10:13 (ASM) AZ I:10:14 (ASM) AZ I:10:15 (ASM) AZ I:10:16 (ASM) AZ I:10:17 (ASM) AZ I:10:18 (ASM) AZ I:10:19 (ASM) AZ I:10:20 (ASM) AZ I:10:22 (ASM) AZ I:10:38 (ASM) AZ I:10:60 (ASM) AZ I:10:61 (ASM) AZ I:10:62 (ASM) AZ I:10:63 (ASM) AZ I:10:69 (ASM) AZ I:10:71 (ASM) AZ I:10:86 (ASM) AZ I:10:90 (ASM) AZ I:10:91 (ASM) AZ I:10:92 (ASM) AZ I:10:93 (ASM) AZ I:10:94 (ASM) AZ I:10:96 (ASM) AZ I:10:97 (ASM) AZ I:10:99 (ASM) AZ I:6:5 (ASM) AZ I:6:6 (ASM) Bachelor House Basalt Ridge Borrow Clay House Corn Rock Deadman's Edge Deadman Flat Dean Divide Elk Full House Homestead Lenox Annex Lenox Park Little Elk NA 18,417 NA 18,621 NA 18,625 NA 18,630 NA 18,680 NA 181 NA 19,007 NA 20,700 NA 21,087 NA 21,089 NA 21,090 NA 21,091 NA 21,092 NA 21,103 NA 21,104 NA 21,131 NA 25,751 NA 25,752 NA 25,753 NA 25,754 NA 25,755 NA 25,756 NA 25,762 NA 25,764 NA 25,766 NA 25,767 NA 25,769 NA 25,770 NA 25,771 NA 25,772 NA 25,773 NA 25,774 NA 25,775 NA 25,776 NA 25,777 NA 25,779 NA 25,780 NA 25,949 NA 25,996 NA 420 NA 860 North End Plainview Road House Seven Slope Snag Show More

Site Type
Archaeological Feature Burial Pit Domestic Structure or Architectural Complex Domestic Structures Fieldhouse Funerary and Burial Structures or Features Pit

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1050 to 1125 (Eruption dates for the Sunset Crater.)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -111.624; min lat: 35.317 ; max long: -111.471; max lat: 35.706 ;

Record Identifiers

Anthropological Papers No.(s): 31

TRACS No.(s): 089 CN 434 H2022 02D

Contract No.(s): 97-41

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Contact(s): Salt River Project Cultural Resource Manager