Big Juniper House of Mesa Verde, Colorado
Wetherill Mesa Studies
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Chapter 2

Big Juniper House was marked by two mounds, one to the east and the other to the west, with Rooms 11 and 13 at the low point between the mounds (fig. 4). Two circular depressions, directly south of the mounds, indicated probable kiva locations. South of the house mounds and kiva depressions was a large, low mound—the refuse dump—which was designated as South Trash Mound. Northeast of South Trash Mound and near East House Mound was another small mound, designated East Trash Mound (fig. 163).

Fig. 4 Big Juniper House, looking north. Most of the West House Mound has been excavated. Kiva A is in center foreground.

Prior to excavation, I speculated on the possibility that the two house mounds represented two sites. I soon discovered they were parts of a single site. West House Mound was completely excavated. The East House Mound was stripped to expose the room outlines and only selected rooms were fully uncovered. Artifacts found during the stripping operations are recorded in the tables of this report as East House Mound artifacts.

The architecture of Big Juniper House (figs. 5 and 6) presented a scrambled picture, the result of construction during two and a half centuries of occupation. Later walls were built directly on top of earlier ones and rarely was the fill undisturbed between occupation levels. Several architectural styles were encountered: coursed stone masonry of different types, slab walls, rubble walls, and jacal walls.

There were at least five stages of building activity. The construction components are listed below in chronological order, beginning with the latest (E).

Fig. 5. Big Juniper House (Site 1595). (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Fig. 6. Big Juniper House (Site 1595). (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

ComponentAssociated Features

ca. A.D. 1150
Later walls over Kivas A and B. Probably the compound wall north of Rooms 24 and 5.

ca. A.D. 1080-1100
to 1130
Main occupation of the site. Late occupation of Kiva A. Kivas B and C. Upper fills and walls of Rooms 1a, 1b, 10. Rooms 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20. Probably Rooms 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30; also Areas A, B, C, D.

ca. A.D. 1050-80
Lower fill and Floor 2 of Rooms 1a, 1b, 10. Hearth below shared wall of Rooms 1b and 3. Posts below floor of Rooms 7 and 8. Possibly Room 12. Clay-lined firepit under slab hearth and probably Hearth 1 in Room 21. Room 25. Probably Area 12 and Test Trench 15, and the two firepits in Test Trench 15. Firepit under retaining wall in Test Trench 2. Posts under floor of Room 16. Feature 1. Cist to south of Kiva C. Probably early occupation of Kiva A.

ca. A.D. 900-1000
Room 5. Subfloor hearth in Room 6. Subfloor cist in Room 7. Cists 2 and 3; cist under wall of Room 25. Subfloor cist in Room 19. Possibly firepit cut by cist south of Kiva C.

Within time range of Component B, but possibly earlier part of that range.
This is a possible earlier component based on the floor level of Room 24. It may also be part of Component B. Room 24. Sub-Floor 2 cist in Room 1b. Sub-Floor 2 cist in Room 10. Post below Room 21. Post in Test Trench 5. Possibly Pit 1 in the South Trash Mound next to Test Trench 1. It is possible that this pit is earlier than Component A.

Most of the unexcavated parts of the East House Mound probably belong to Component D. The East Trash Mound is also primarily of this component. The South Trash Mound was undoubtedly used during all the components.

In addition to the five construction components, there appeared to be at least two occupational units of kivas and related rooms. The more clearly delineated unit includes Kiva A; Rooms 1a, 1b, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and probably Rooms 21-23; and Area D. This unit is composed of several functional categories: living rooms, mealing or work rooms, storage rooms, and courtyard-outdoor work areas. Units are primarily defined on the basis of proximity to kivas, wall junctures indicating times of construction, and contiguity of rooms and areas.

The second unit is Kiva B; Rooms 13-15, 19, 20; and possibly Rooms 17 and 18. There does not seem to be a comparable occupation unit related to Kiva C.

These units will be described under the individual rooms and kivas.

Twenty rooms, or areas numbered as rooms, and three kivas were completely excavated and tested below floor level. In addition, 11 rooms or areas were outlined in the East House Mound, and miscellaneous walls, hearths, and cists scattered around the house area were excavated. The South Trash Mound was almost completely excavated by a series of parallel trenches. Only one trench was dug in the East Trash Mound, which turned out to be a shallow deposit over a natural hillock, yielding little material of importance.

The architectural terms used in this report are defined as follows:

Coursed masonry—masonry in which the stones are laid in layers.

Slab wall—a wall in which the stones are set on edge.

Jacal wall—a wall consisting of a framework of poles or small posts and interwoven twigs or smaller poles covered with adobe; often called "wattle and daub." Jacal walls at Big Juniper House are termed so only by inference. The remains of such walls at the site consist of burned stubs of the vertical members with burned clay between, the rest of the wall having disintegrated.

Simple wall—a wall of coursed masonry, one building stone in width; these walls are sometimes called "single coursed walls"—a misleading term, since courses refer to layers and not to widths.

Double wall—a wall composed of two simple walls—each wall laid adjacent to but independent of the other.

Compound wall—a wall of coursed masonry, two or more building stones in width; some or all of the stones are exposed on only one face of the wall.

Rubble wall—a wall composed of unworked stones with no apparent coursing or facing.

Scabbled masonry—building stones that have initial shaping by edge-spalling; stones are blocky in appearance.

Chipped-edge masonry—masonry in which the stones are shaped by bifacial chipping or spalling; sides and ends of the stones have usually been worked to thin, sinuous edges.

Finished masonry—masonry in which the initial shaping is by one or both of the above methods, followed by pecking or grinding, usually confined to the faces.

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Last Updated: 16-Jan-2007