Violent Injury and Death in a Prehistoric Farming Community of Southwestern Colorado

The Osteological Evidence From Sleeping Ute Mountain

Authored by: Patricia M. Lambert

The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  December  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415842198
eBook ISBN: 9781315883366
Adobe ISBN: 9781134677979


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This is a bioarchaeological study of violence that occurred over a 200-year period (ad 1075— 1280) in a farming community on the southern piedmont of Sleeping Ute Mountain in southwestern Colorado (Figure 17.1). Now within the tribal lands of the Ute Mountain Ute, the region was occupied prehistorically by Ancestral Puebloan farmers and their forebears. This is an arid, high desert landscape characterized by low shrubs and ephemeral drainages. Like many other areas of the American Southwest, rainfall is relatively low and the region is subject to episodic drought (Dean and Van West 2002). Prehistoric farmers had to rely on dry farming and floodwater from ephemeral drainages to irrigate their fields. Even in good years it was a marginal environment, particularly in comparison to other, more populous areas nearby, such as McElmo Canyon and Mesa Verde (Kuckelman 2002; Wilhusen 2002), and probably served as an outlet for population overflow from these areas (Billman 2003). Cowboy Wash, the geographic focus of this study, is one of a number of intermittent drainages on the southern piedmont that attracted human settlement during the Puebloan period (Huckleberry and Billman 1998). A small farming community was founded here around ad 1075 (Billman 2003; Huckleberry and Billman 1998), and it is in three distinct formulations ofthis community that violent injuries and events described below took place. Given the marginal nature of the southern piedmont environment, it is perhaps not surprising that climate played an important role in its occupation and use by Puebloan farmers — and in the violence that surrounded the final abandonment of Cowboy Wash and the surrounding region by Puebloan farmers at the end of the thirteenth century (Billman et al. 2000; Kuckelman 2002; LeBlanc 1999).

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