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DOUG McFADDEN leads archaeologists on a tour of a few of the 100 ground features he discovered on the KANE RANCH which claims a big portion of the ARIZONA STRIP.

The VIRGIN ANASAZI are a mystery, in the big World view, there is Chaco Canyon in Northwest New Mexico as the apex of the Anasazi Culture featuring large great houses like Pueblo Bonito, the crown jewel, which was representative of the finest in Pueblo construction. Next comes the Mesa Verde Anasazi who built large cities in the defensive caves of southwest Colorado, like Cliff Palace. Then we have the Kayenta Anasazi of northwestern, Arizona, who are seen as the country cousins. Along the Arizona Strip blending into South Western Utah we find another group THE VIRGIN, similar in Anasazi material culture to the Kayenta, but different in architecture and layout and a ceramic tradition that varied from their kissing cousins the Kayenta Anasazi both in construction and style. It’s controversial and what folks disagree on, differs, but some believe the Kayenta and Virgin are the same. Others wonder to themselves, “Did the Virgin influence the Kayenta?” or just the opposite as everyone else believes!
BLACK MESA BLACK and WHITE, a rare KAYENTA ceramic found on the VIRGIN site compounds the question who influenced who, the KAYENTA people whose material culture is predominant just ten miles to the east or the VIRGIN tradition which extends north into Nevada?
I’m touring a Virgin farming community with Utah Archaeologist Doug McFadden who has studied this parcel of the Kane Ranch off and on over 20 years and he has found lots of sign that these farmers were masters of their own world and not influenced by the outside world, “There’s no farming in the Kanab area”, says McFadden who has found about a 100 sites where these farmers have constructed field houses, wind breaks, check dams, drainage terraces, storage bins and one huge row house. “That’s what makes this pretty exciting”! “This wasn’t happening anyplace else!” Still more unique for these farmers he believes everyone stored their surplus here so they could help out others with shortages. There is little pottery on the site so McFadden thinks the pit house occupation was short and perhaps unsuccessful he believes the Kane Ranch area was farmed during the late Pueblo II period or 1100-1150 AD. Archaeologist Helen J. Fairley, who wrote the book: The prehistory and aboriginal history of the Arizona Strip, differs by saying the site might date as early as 1050 and she points out the two trails leading off the Vermillion Cliffs and the Paria Plateau that allowed prehistoric man to farm the basins below and try to control rainfall and irrigate the land.
ARCHAEOLOGISTS point out the trails leading to the top of the KAIBAB PLATEAU allowing seasonal visits from prehistoric man and later allowed cowboys to push cattle on top during the summer and back to the valley floor during the winter months. Saddle Mountain (top photo above man pointing) provided pathways down to the Colorado RiverThis seasonal double strategy allowed man to follow his game and sprinkle some seed in the lowlands in early spring and seed again in the uplands in the late spring. McFadden wondered why there where so many field houses until he spent a day in a lightning storm and found how exposed one could be there and it would help to get out of the sun or wind while farming when not home. Drought finally got these folks, pushed them toward the drainage and water. Forced to hunt for more food, they might have run into competition with the Southern Paiute or other hunter/gather nomad groups, and warfare or raiding groups may have forced migration and aggregation into larger groups. So much is not understood and in fact little study has taken place in the Arizona Strip Regions, even less has been published or agreed on. Early independent studies in the Strip and Southern Utah raised interest but archaeologist working in isolation in remotes sites found it important to collaborate with other southwest archaeologist working elsewhere and to compare notes and soon the Virgin cultures was found along the Virgin River in Southern Nevada and its expansion questioned whether the Virgin did influence the Kayenta and posed many research questions.

AUGUST 2011 PECOS CONFERENCE was held south of Jacob Lake on forest land near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon….
The Pecos Conference, first proposed in 1927, by Alfred Kidder started out as twenty archaeologist sitting in chair around a pine tree. Each year since archaeologist leave the field in early August and meet up in a cool spot with hundreds of other southwest archaeologist, students, teachers, vocational archaeologist and delivery papers, chat up people about other sites, talk about terminology and try get everyone on the same page. The work of the conference might condense the best of everyone’s work on a specific topic and generate the latest Bible for folks to follow, this generates politics and factions…but a bluegrass band and beer truck and BBQ can frequently take care of any hard feelings about a culture dead and gone by 1200 AD…
TEMPER makes the real difference in determining whether a ceramic is from the Kayenta or Virgin tradition, temper is the glue that holds the clay together, and the Virgins broke up sandstone full of crystals and the Kayenta didn’t…Some of the 350 2011 Pecos participants are given opportunity to view the differences between tempers.

No one really noticed the archaeology of this region until they started to talk of placing a dam across Glen Canyon and creating Lake Powell or flooding Lake Mead, everything done since has been one step ahead of the bulldozers or water. In 2005 Stewardship of the 850,000 acres by the Grand Canyon Trust began with the purchase of the Kane and Two Mile ranch allotments. Those ranches sharing a 110 mile border with the northern edge of Grand Canyon National Park, the ranches extend over most of the Kaibab Plateau from Kanab Creek to the west and down the rolling eastern monocline as the Plateau transitions into the Marble Platform. The ranches continue east across the House Rock Valley to Lees Ferry and northward across the entire Paria Plateau and into Paria Canyon, virtually touching the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument at its northernmost reaches. We tour the Kane Ranch turn-of-the-century Ranch house, completely redone inside, sandstone walls and steps, beautiful conference table and a log cabin out house which has been replaced by a totally solar bathroom over the hill.

KANE RANCH historic ranch 850,000 acres are managed by the Grand Canyon Trust

Wild Bill Hickok stopped at the Kane Ranch to resupply and drink his fill and he moved on along the massive Vermillion Cliffs where today many transplanted Condor have spread their wings to restore the regions biodiversity. Fishermen flock to Lee Ferry for fishing and beer (huge selection, great cheeseburgers) and the wifi hotspot, tourists stop for lunch, check email, gas-up and move on for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The Anasazi (“Ancient Ones”), thought to be ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians, inhabited the Four Corners country of southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and northern Arizona from about A.D. 200 to A.D. 1300, leaving a heavy accumulation of house remains and debris. Recent research has traced the Anasazi to the “archaic” peoples who practiced a wandering, hunting, and food-gathering life-style from about 6000 B.C. until some of them began to develop into the distinctive Anasazi culture in the last millennium B.C. During the last two centuries B.C., the people began to supplement their food gathering with maize horticulture. By A.D. 1200 horticulture had assumed a significant role in the economy.

Because their culture changed continually (and not always gradually), PECOS researchers have divided the occupation into periods, each with its characteristic complex of settlement and artifact styles. Since 1927 the most widely accepted nomenclature has been the “Pecos Classification,” which is generally applicable to the whole Anasazi Southwest. Although originally intended to represent a series of developmental stages, rather than periods, the Pecos Classification has come to be used as a period sequence:

Basketmaker I: pre-1000 B.C. (an obsolete synonym for Archaic)

Basketmaker II: c. 1000 B.C. to A.D. 450

Basketmaker III: c. A.D. 450 to 750

Pueblo I: c. A.D. 750 to 900

Pueblo II: c. A.D. 900 to 1150

Pueblo III: c. A.D. 1150 to 1300

Pueblo IV: c. A.D. 1300 to 1600

Pueblo V: c. A.D. 1600 to present (historic Pueblo)

As the Anasazi settled into their village/farming lifestyle, recognizable regional variants or subcultures emerged, which is combined into two larger groups. The eastern branches of the Anasazi culture include the Mesa Verde Anasazi of southeastern Utah and southwestern Colorado, and the Chaco Anasazi of northwestern New Mexico. The western Anasazi include the Kayenta Anasazi of northeastern Arizona and the Virgin Anasazi of southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona. To the north of the Anasazi peoples – north of the Colorado and Escalante rivers – Utah was the home of a heterogeneous group of small-village dwellers known collectively as the Fremont.



SHOVELBUM.ORG, do you have talent with a shovel-can you dig? Do you have a desire to see what’s in the next shovel?

PECOS papers covered test studies made along the Colorado River inside the Grand Canyon, Petroglyph studies of Sandal Designs and temper differences between VIRGIN ceramics and the KAYENTA ceramics that can look very much the same but have fundamental differences.
EVERY FIFTH YEAR for more than 75 years the PECOS Conference is held at the PECOS PUEBLO north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, it is scheduled there for 2012. There is a 1213 proposal for Flagstaff and a 1214 proposal for PRESCOTT, but money is tight and sponsors are few and far between. New sponsors should be sought-perhaps in Utah, Colorado or New Mexico.



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2 responses

  1. Cathi Britz

    Awesome article! I love researching about all the pottery I have collected over the years up around the Coral Pink Sand Dunes / Cane Beds, AZ area. I do see glimmering “crystals” is some pieces while not others, Im happy this article gave me more information on that!

    May 13, 2020 at 12:18 AM

    • WARNING TO THE PUBLIC: Federal law carries heavy fines for picking up and carrying off pottery and sherds. BLM Rangers will handcuff you and empty your pockets, the first sherd (broken piece of pottery) will cost you $500, thereafter each additional piece of pottery will cost you an additional $50… Feel free to pick up and look over but place it back on the ground where you found it. No digging, bigger fines, much bigger…

      September 14, 2020 at 2:18 PM

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