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The Depopulation Of Sand Canyon Pueblo, A Large Ancestral Pueblo Village In Southwestern Colorado

Kristin A. Kuckelman

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Archaeologists in the Mesa Verde region of the American Southwest have long sought the catalysts of the complete depopulation of the region by Pueblo farmers in the late thirteenth century. Ten years of excavations by the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center at Sand Canyon Pueblo, a large village that was occupied from approximately A.D. 1250 to 1280, yielded abundant data regarding the depopulation of the village and shed new light on causes of this intriguing regional emigration. Comparative analyses of faunal and archaeobotanical remains from middens vs. abandonment assemblages reveal a shift from farming to hunting and gathering that coincided with the onset of the Great Drought about A.D. 1276. Osteological and taphonomic analyses of human remains found in abandonment contexts reveal details of an attack during which many residents were killed and that ended the occupation of the village. These findings from Sand Canyon Pueblo suggest that climate-induced food stress and consequent violent conflict contributed to the depopulation of the Mesa Verde region in the late A.D. 1200s.