Cultural implications of architectural mortar selection at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Shane D. Rumsey, Patrick J. Drohan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Architectural mortar from two ancestral Pueblo sites (Spruce Tree House and Nordenskiöld's Ruin 12) located in Mesa Verde National Park was investigated using visual, mineralogical, and geochemical techniques. Results indicate ancestral Pueblo people had a preference for mortars composed of sand and clay contents that produce a USDA textural class of sandy clay loam to clay loam. A temporal trajectory of soil selection is observed at Spruce Tree House, with mesa-top soils being preferred during the early period of occupation, but with soils below cliff dwellings preferred during later periods. Mortar geochemical composition is found to differ between cliff dwellings, and sometimes between households within a cliff dwelling, due to local soil differences and/or potential amendment additions. Results from Spruce Tree House indicate that contemporaneous households shared access to mortar sources. The prevalence and possible origins of gypsum found in mortar are discussed. Finally, this research examines the possibility that land tenure rights may have extended beyond those lands used exclusively for agricultural purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)544-583
Number of pages40
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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