The Scott County Pueblo (14SC1)

The Scott County Pueblo, also known as El Cuartelejo, is the remains of a seven room masonry pueblo. It is located in Scott County, Kansas. The Lake Scott area has been occupied for thousands of years and perennial streams, natural springs, rich wildlife, and unique topography have made it an attractive place to live through the present.

Lake Scott, photo by Matthew E. Hill
Lake Scott, photo by Matthew E. Hill

The site has been investigated on several occasions, first by University of Kansas paleontologists Samuel W. Williston and Handel T. Martin in the late 1890s. Until very recently, the pueblo structure and the Southwest ceramics recovered from the site, were thought to represent an occupation by immigrants from Taos and Picuris pueblos who fled Spanish persecution following the 1680 revolt.

Samuel W. Williston, a paleontologist with the University of Kansas, became aware of the site in the 1890s as a result of communication with local residents (Williston 1899; Williston and Martin 1900). In the summer of 1899, Williston asked Martin to direct at excavations at the site to uncover the original stone walls of the pueblo. The structure’s overall size was 16 x 11 m, and Williston and Martin (1900) believed that the structure was destroyed by a fire, as burnt adobe, charcoal, and artifacts were scattered across several rooms of the pueblo.

Pipe fragment from Williston and Martin excavation
Pipe fragment from Williston and Martin excavation

A large quantity of corn, ceramics (Plains and Northern Rio Grande), lithics, and faunal remains were recovered from what was interpreted as the floor of the pueblo (Williston and Martin 1900). Site “furniture,” included a grinding trough, rectangular slab-lined hearths, raised “sleeping” bench or platform, and a small oven were found in several of the rooms.

Scott County Pueblo reconstruction
Scott County Pueblo reconstruction

This possible connection to the Southwest intrigued Waldo Wedel, an archaeologist at the Smithsonian Institution, and led to his work at 14SC1 (see the link to Wedel’s 1959 book here). Wedel and a small crew excavated areas north and south of the pueblo in the summer of 1939. These excavations uncovered a large quantity of animal bones, charcoal, several hundred stone tools, and almost 4,000 Dismal River ceramics. An irregular-shaped cache pit and one circular bell-shaped pit were excavated a few meters away and were found to be filled with similar trash (Wedel 1959:426-429). Wedel didn’t find any diagnostic Southwestern ceramics, but did find several pipe fragments similar to ones used in the northern Rio Grande pueblos, and three Olivella shells.

The nature of the connection between the occupants of the pueblo and the people living in the surrounding area was still unclear, so the Kansas Historical Society and Kansas Archaeology Training Program (KATP) led excavations at the site in 1970, 1975, and 1976 (see Witty references below). The KATP crew focused on fully re-excavating the pueblo and even excavated below the pueblo floor. One of the most significant finds by Witty was the recovery of a roasting pit immediately below the pueblo wall between rooms six and seven, indicating that the pueblo was likely built on top of an existing Dismal River site. They also found Dismal River artifacts, clay pipes, and fifteen Tewa Polychrome (Southwestern) sherds. Following their excavations, they reconstructed the partial walls of the pueblo to serve as an open air museum display, which can still be seen today.

Faculty and students from the University of Iowa and University of Oklahoma have continued working with the collections from 14SC1 and have submitted a number of specimens for dating. This recent work indicates that Dismal River people lived in the area before the pueblo was constructed (likely between AD 1450 and AD 1640) and that the pueblo itself was built before the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The 14SC1 pueblo was likely constructed and occupied between AD 1620 and 1690 and then burned and abandoned. Puebloan women living in the pueblo also continued their culinary traditions even after leaving their homes in the Southwest and made locally made copies of northern Rio Grande-style pottery in Kansas (see Beck and Trabert 2014).

 

 

Interested in reading more? Check out these references:

Wedel, Waldo R. 1959. An Introduction to Kansas Archaeology. Bureau of American Bulletin 174. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Full text found here.

Beck, Margaret E. and Sarah Trabert. 2014. Puebloan Occupation of the Scott County Pueblo, Western Kansas. American Antiquity, 79(2):314-336.

Williston, Samuel W. 1899. Some Prehistoric Ruins in Scott County, Kansas. Kansas University Quarterly 7(4):109-114.

Williston, Samuel W. and H.T. Martin. 1900. Some Pueblo Ruins in Scott County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1897-1900, 6:124-130.

Witty, Thomas A., Jr. 1971. Archaeology and Early History of the Scott Lake State Park Area. Kansas Anthropological Association Newsletter 16(5):1-5.

Witty, Thomas A. Jr. 1975. Report on the 1975 Lake Scott Kansas Anthropological Association Dig and Kansas Archaeology Training School Activities. Kansas Anthropological Association Newsletter 21(1&2):1-9.

Witty, Thomas A., Jr. 1983. An Archaeological Review of the Scott County Pueblo, Bulletin of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society 32: 99-106.

Lake Scott at dawn. Photo courtesy of Matthew E. Hill
Lake Scott at dawn. Photo courtesy of Matthew E. Hill
css.php