For my senior Spatial Analysis course at Grinnell College, back in 2002, I did a comparative analysis of site catchment areas (Flannery 1982) for two pueblos near Flagstaff, Arizona. These were New Caves Pueblo and Bench Pueblo.

These were both occupied during a period in the thirteenth century when the area was caught in a terrible drought. Archaeologists debated whether the move to elevated locations like New Caves and Bench Pueblos were 1) defensive measures or 2) attempts to aggregate people in vicinity to, but not on top of, the few arable acres to be found in the area.

By calculating site catchments using digital terrain models and algorithms for estimating the time a person could walk in a given amount of time, I graphically displayed the site catchments for those areas. I then calculated stream length within those regions along with the ratios of different soil regimes and other ecological factors.

The results suggested that sites occupied during drought years had worse agricultural soils in their vicinity and fewer sources of fresh water. This suggested that the occupation of highland sites was not to enhance farming opportunities, but a means to safeguard the population from raids from neighboring groups.

You can see a JPEG of the final poster by clicking here.

For more information on the sites and the Sinagua people who inhabited them, see:

Hickey, Elizabeth
2010 Subsistence and Environmental Instability at New Caves Pueblo: A Paleoethnobotanical Analysis. Unpublished Master’s thesis, Department of Anthropology, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona.

Kamp, Kathryn
1997     Life in the Pueblo: Understanding the Past Through Archaeology. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.

Kamp, Kathryn and John C. Whittaker
1999     Surviving Adversity: The Sinagua of Lizard Man Village. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.


Flannery, Kent
1982    The Early Mesoamerican Village. New York: Academic Press.