Remaking the Mazeway: Skeletal and archaeological evidence for a variant Ancestral Pueblo mortuary rite at Wallace Ruin (USA)
Bradley, Cynthia Smith
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis presents the results of a multi-disciplinary investigation of a variant Ancestral Pueblo mortuary rite at Wallace Ruin, southwest Colorado (USA). This multi-storey building is one of four Lakeview Group great houses connected to the Pueblo II regional system centred at Pueblo Bonito of Chaco Canyon some 100 km to the south. From c. AD 1060-1150, Wallace Ruin functioned as a ritual-economic centre with a small residential component. Then, habitation of this great house, the Lakeview Group and all domiciles within 10 kilometres ceased. However, three or more decades later at least six rooms were used as a non-residential, Pueblo III mortuary facility for a minimum of 32 individuals. This utilisation was in marked contrast to the enduring Ancestral Pueblo practice of residential burial, usually in the extramural midden. The interrogation of several hypotheses regarding this anomaly entails a bioarchaeological approach that integrates skeletal evidence with spatial analyses regarding diachronic mortuary location choices at Wallace Ruin. Taphonomic methods that segregate bone displacements during corpse decomposition in a filled versus a void space provide accurate determinations of the depositional versus discovered mortuary microenvironments. The diachronic analysis of data from roughly 200 San Juan Region sites reveals additional ways in which Wallace’s Pueblo III mortuary program departs from longstanding communities of practice, whether great house or domicile. Chief among these are the use of a surface room floor and the postural arrangement of supine bodies with knees upright. These results, in combination with material culture evidence, form the basis of this thesis: The Pueblo III mortuary program at Wallace Ruin is a variant rite that entails a Mesa Verde Region reformulation of a Pueblo Bonito house society. The sanctioned retrieval of objects of memory offers a plausible explanation for intentional intrusions into two mortuary contexts. Beyond addressing questions concerning Wallace Ruin, a major contribution of this study includes advancement of the house society model as an interpretive scheme for evaluating Mesa Verde Region socio-ritual dynamics. This research also demonstrates the effectiveness of anthropologie de terrain (Duday, 2006) to retrospectively determine the original status of Ancestral Pueblo mortuary microenvironments. The refinement developed for this study, in which Range of Motion criteria are used to detect large-scale movements of lower limbs during corpse decomposition, is suitable for bioarchaeological analyses the world over.
PhD in Archaeology