The Haynie site includes two multistory great houses dating to the early 1100s, an architectural style first developed by the Chacoan culture to the south in New Mexico.
The site is a new research focus of Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, of Cortez, and is part of their Northern Chaco Outliers Project.
The standing walls, rooms and kivas of the Haynie site are part of a cluster of other great houses in the vicinity, which were supported by what looks like a prehistoric reservoir, said Susan Ryan, director of archaeology for Crow Canyon.
The well-preserved ruins are significant because they indicate a migration pattern of Chacoan culture to the north and hold clues on how the Ancestral Puebloans dealt with the great drought of 1130 A.D. to 1180 A.D.
“What’s special about this site is its long occupation, and that we have migrants moving here from Chaco or Aztec in the early 1100s,” Ryan said during a tour.
The ancient cluster of public and residential architecture, located east of Totten Lake, is rare in the Mesa Verde region, and is one of the densest concentrations of Chacoan great houses found north of the Aztec Ruins.
Other ancient great house communities include Lowry Ruins in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, and the Mitchell Springs site south of Cortez.
Crow Canyon plans to excavate the Haynie site until 2020 to study its history. With the help of students, Crow Canyon staff will investigate how it was used, how it relates to other nearby great houses, and what evidence of earlier cultures are present in deposits underneath the main ruins structure.
Researchers are especially interested in studying how the human-environmental relationship changed over time within of the longest droughts in North American history.
The rate that midden (trash) piles built up will be compared with tree-ring data of wooden beams to determine if great house expansion continued or halted during the drought. Pollen and fauna samples will be studied to better understand how the drought altered the environment.
“Did the drought force the population to move out, or were they able to stay put and survive?” said Ryan. “We believe there is so much to learn, and we are trying to document everything in a scientific manner so that we have a great record of this incredible site.”
With its Chaco-influenced buildings and kivas, researchers are also interested in testing ancient drinking vessels at Haynie for cacao bean, the main ingredient of chocolate. Cacao residue was found in 1,000-year-old drinking vessels at Chaco Canyon, and the bean was traded to there from Mexico, 1,200 miles away.
The Haynie site’s listing on the county’s historical register by the county commission makes the site more likely to qualify for research grant funding, and it shows an appreciation of the area’s rich cultural history, said Jason Vaughn, media specialist for Crow Canyon.
“The listing is important because it recognizes people who lived here first,” he said. “Not every county has ancient sites like this.”
Crow Canyon plans to give a presentation on the Haynie site at 7 p.m., July 26 at the Sunflower Theatre, Main and Market streets in Cortez.