Big Juniper House of Mesa Verde, Colorado
Wetherill Mesa Studies
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Chapter 8
summary and conclusions

Big Juniper House was occupied primarily in late Pueblo II and early Pueblo III. There is some evidence that the site was also inhabited intermittently, or by a small group of people, in early Pueblo II.

Components A and B, the first occupations of the site, are represented by only a few structures, possibly built by one or two families. The two components may be parts of a single component, assignable to the latter half of the 10th century.

The next occupation, Component C, dates from the 1050's to about 1080. The number and kinds of architectural features, which include Kiva A, suggest a population of 20 to 30 individuals. Jacal structures are the most notable features of this component.

Component D, dating from about 1080-1100 to 1130, comprises the most extensive remains at Big Juniper House. The three kivas and nearly all the surface masonry rooms are associated with this component. The population probably numbered between 50 and 75 people. During this occupation, changes from the Pueblo II to the Pueblo III pattern occurred.

Component E, dating from about 1130 to 1150, is represented by the "later walls" built over Kivas A and B by the compound wall north of Rooms 5 and 24. It is possible that Component D rooms remained in use during this terminal occupation. If such was the case, the population may have remained relatively constant. The peculiar "later walls" are featured at other sites on Wetherill Mesa. They may have had some ceremonial purpose.

Trade or contact with areas outside of the Mesa Verde area is indicated by the presence of obsidian artifacts, foreign pottery, and the killed-bowl burial. Obsidian was probably obtained from New Mexico or the San Juan Mountains near Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Puerco and Wingate Black-on-red pottery came from the upper Little Colorado drainage and Tusayan Polychrome pottery from the Kayenta area in northeastern Arizona and southeastern Utah. The killed-bowl burial suggests culture contact with the Mimbres area of southwestern New Mexico. Generally speaking, contact with regions outside the Mesa Verde seems to have been slight.

The excavation of Big Juniper House is of importance mainly for the information it provided regarding the transitional stage from Pueblo II to Pueblo III in the Mesa Verde area. This stage is represented in Components D and E and dates between A.D. 1080 and 1150. Certain traits were introduced during this stage, and some of these were apparently limited to it (see table 16).


TRAITS Introduced
during this
in this
to this
  Double wallsx----
  Pecked-faced masonryx----
  Kivas integrated with roomsx----
  Later walls over kivas?--x?--
  Flared pilastersx----
  Set-back pilastersx----
  Southern recessx----
  Liner above banquettex----
  Six-pilaster kiva?x?----
  Mummy Lake Gray--x----
  Mesa Verde Corrugatedx----
  Early McElmo Black-on-whitexxx
Stone Artifacts:
  Plain/troughed metatexxx
  Plain-faced metatex----
  Type 2 manoxxx
Bone Artifacts:
  Humerus scraperx----


The integration of kivas with surface rooms begins during the transitional stage or shortly earlier. This relationship is shown most clearly at Big Juniper House in the placement of Kiva B, the kiva with probably the latest construction date at the site. The detached position of Kiva A exemplifies the older, "pure" Pueblo II layout.

The kivas of Big Juniper House have two features indicative of the transition: (1) six pilasters that are flared and set back from the edge of the banquette, and (2) a liner above the banquette. Another transitional feature of kivas, not found at Big Juniper House, is the southern recess, the deepened interpilaster space in the southern part of the banquette over the ventilator tunnel.

Walls over kivas, double-wall construction, and pecked-face masonry undoubtedly appear first during the transitional stage. Double walls and pecked-face masonry seem to be most common in late Pueblo III.


Several features of the ceramics of Big Juniper House are indicative of the transition from Pueblo II to Pueblo III. The early style McElmo Black-on-white was introduced at this time. On present evidence, this pottery seems to be limited to this stage, and to be superseded after 1150 by other styles of McElmo, or "proto-Mesa Verde Black-on-white," and by "classic" Mesa Verde Black-on-white. The absence of the latter two kinds of pottery is important negative evidence for the Pueblo II-III transition.

The increasing use of carbon paint on Mancos Black-on-white is indicative of the change to the Pueblo III habit. The evidence indicates that Mancos Black-on-white, still the dominant decorated pottery type of the transitional stage, declined after 1150.

In the realm of utility pottery, Mummy Lake Gray reached the zenith of its popularity during this time. Mesa Verde Corrugated began to be made, but Mancos Corrugated was the principal corrugated type until about 1150. The greater percentage of flaring rims, as opposed to straight rims, on Mancos Corrugated pottery may be an indicator of the change to Pueblo III style of sharply everted rims on Mesa Verde Corrugated.


Two stone artifact types appear to be limited to the Pueblo II-III transition: the plain/troughed metate and the Type 2 mano. Perhaps these should be regarded not as new types but as older types remodeled to fit the new grinding pattern.

Plain-faced metates also originated during the Pueblo II-III transition and were the dominant type in Pueblo III. Although no manos made specifically for use with these metates were found at Big Juniper House, they were probably introduced during this stage.


The humerus scraper, represented by only one fragment at Big Juniper House, is a common type in Pueblo III components in the Mesa Verde area and may have been made initially during the transitional stage. Comparative studies now under way may disclose that other types of bone artifacts are definitely associated with cultural stages in this area.

Artifacts and refuse from sites in the Mesa Verde show that turkeys became increasingly important as time passed. It is evident, from the findings at Big Juniper House, that mammals were still preferred during the transition to Pueblo III, and also that the more equal utilization of mammals and birds (mainly turkeys) did not occur until after A.D. 1150.

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Last Updated: 16-Jan-2007