Chronological Analysis of Tsegi Phase Sites in Northeastern Arizona

TitleChronological Analysis of Tsegi Phase Sites in Northeastern Arizona
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication1967
AuthorsDean, JS
Academic DepartmentAnthropology
UniversityUniversity of Arizona

Dendrochronology provides two basic types of information useful for archaeological interpretation: chronological-archaeological and nonchronological. The former derives from the assignment of absolute dates of prehistoric remains through the use of techniques of dendrochronological analysis. Nonchronological information of two types, cultural-historical and environmental, may be derived from archaeological tree-ring collections. Cultural-historical information involves the recognition of unique historic events and the identification of certain cultural practices, such as the stockpiling or reuse of timbers. Recoverable environmental data include the prehistoric distributions of various species of tree and paleoclimatic reconstructions derived from dendroclimatic analyses. Most archaeological use of dendrochronological data has emphasized the chronological-archaeological aspect. This orientation produced a large number of absolutely dated sites that have been compared with one another to isolate contemporaneous regional variation and to study the processes and rates of culture change. However, the nonchronological aspects of the data have been neglected, and the full potential of dendrochronology for archaeological interpretation has rarely been achieved. This paper present the results of several experiments designed to explore and illuminate the contributions made by dendrochronological analyses to archaeological interpretation. Two “cliff dwellings” in the Tsegi Canyon of northeastern Arizona were selected for this experiment, primarily because their large size and excellent preservation guaranteed the existence of many in situ timbers. Classificatorally, Betatakin and Kiet Siel are contemporaneous and are assigned to the Tsegi Phase, dated between 1200 and 1300. Attempts were made to sample every suitable timber in these sites. When combined with earlier collections, total samples of 292 specimens from Betatakin and 540 specimens from Kiet Siel are available for laboratory analysis. These collections are augmented by comprehensive notes on the provenience and condition of each timber and by detailed architectural data. Intensive analyses of the tree-ring dates, the species assemblages, the nature of the terminal rings, and the prehistoric utilization of timbers provide a body of data fundamental to a number of inferences. These inferences concern the chronology and internal development of each site; the processes by which the villages were founded, peopled, and abandoned; the social organization of the villages; a number of cultural practices ranging from the structural use of dead wood to the stockpiling of timbers for future use; and changes in the environments of the sites. The isolation of several significant differences between these sites is relevant to the consideration of the dynamics of intro-phase cultural variability. Eighty-seven dates and less detailed archaeological information from 11 other Tsegi Phase sites supplement the data from Betatikin and Kiet Siel and provide a basis for a consideration of the phase as a whole. The beginning date of the phase is revised upward from 1200-1250, while the terminal date of 1300 is not changed. In the 50 years between 1250 and 1300, about 700 people moved into Tsegi Canyon, established a number of villages, and departed. These people generally moved in extended family households, although a large village group occasionally traveled in a unit. The problems of integrating the mobile population into large villages wee met in a way that produced a village organization like that of the modern Hopis. Households were integrated into the villages through membership in nonlocalized lineages and clans. Ceremonial units whose membership crosscut that of the kinship units united the lineages and clans into functioning village-wide organizations. No evidence for formal inter-village organization exists, although the Tsegi Canyon villages probably constituted a loosely defined “community” based on close but informal interpersonal relationships. After abandoning the Tsegi about 1300, the Tsegi Phase people contributed heavily to the population of the Hopi Mesas.