Structure 501, subterranean kiva

About this Structure

General Location

Block 500, west of drainage; borders southwest end of plaza.

Specific Location

South of roomblock, in the central and southern portions of the courtyard (Nonstructure 513). Below Arbitrary Unit 519.

Interpretive Type

Not assigned.

Structure Use

Features within this structure are typical of Pueblo III kivas in this region (formal hearth, six pilasters, benches, southern recess, sipapu, deflector, ventilator system, bench-face niches). The hearth in this structure is the only formal hearth found within the kiva suite (which includes the courtyard); this suggests that this structure was used for much of the cooking and cold-weather habitation. A substantial amount of de facto refuse (usable items) was left on the floor and on the bench surfaces, and many usable items were also found in the roof fall stratum. The items in roof fall are inferred to have been left either suspended from the roofing timbers or left on top of the roof. There was some clustering of artifact types in this structure, possibly reflecting activity areas. Numerous axes were found, both in roof fall and on the floor (especially south of the deflector and in the ventilator tunnel). Polishing stones were found primarily on bench surfaces, most corrugated jars were in the northern and eastern areas of the kiva floor, a kiva jar was found on Bench 4, and a cluster of bowls was found south and southwest of the hearth. In summary, artifacts left within this structure suggest that a wide variety of domestic activities occurred here. Two unusual rectangular pottery vessels were found in a bench-face niche (Feature 13), and could be evidence of ritural use of the structure. In addition, the size, location, and layout relative to other structures at the site, as well as the presence of features thought to have had ritual significance (such as other bench-face niches, a sipapu, and two floor pits, Features 19 and 20, that were lined with a corrugated vessel and a kiva jar, respectively) suggests that the structure was used for rituals, probably at the residence-group level.


The abandonment events of this structure are difficult to interpret, but are probably important to understanding the abandonment of the suite as a whole. The roof (including beams up to 15 cm in diameter) burned, presumably intentionally. Many of the abundant artifacts in the collapsed roofing material and on the floor appear to be defacto refuse (still-usable objects), and a burned adult female skeleton was found along the southwest wall of the structure in the roof fall layer. The burning of the roof thus could have been part of a ritual interment and coincident abandonment of the structure. On the other hand, burning of human remains was not typically part of considerate burial ritual. The death and burning could have been part of a warfare event (numerous axes were found on the floor and in collapsed roof fall), although there was no skeletal evidence of perimortem trauma, and the body could have been intentionally positioned. The entire kiva suite appears to have been abandoned at the same time. Possible evidence of a somewhat chaotic departure was the presence of portions of the same vessels scattered among different surface rooms, the courtyard surface, and in this kiva (for example, portions of one Pueblo III White Painted bowl were found in the roof fall material, on a bench surface (Feature 1), and on the floor of this structure, as well as in the roof fall and on the floor of a nearby surface room (Structure 503).


After the burned roof collapsed, some portions of the upper lining walls collapsed, and alluvial, colluvial, and aeolian material was deposited into the structure depression.

Excavation Details

No excavation details recorded for this study unit.