Estimating site population from surface survey data

The Pajarito Archaeological Research Project conducted a large regional survey located in the Upper Rio Grande region of New Mexico. It is concerned with answering questions about human responses to food stress. Population estimates of the sites recorded are an important beginning step for many of the Project's ongoing studies. Since this project did not excavate any structural remains, a method of estimating population was necessary which used only information gathered from the surface of sites and the literature for the area. This thesis proposes a method of population measurement which makes use of total floor area, site elevation, and date of site abandonment information for Coalition Period and Classic Period sites on the Pajarito Plateau. Four groups of sites are designated using elevation zones and site abandonment dates. Once grouped, the excavated site sample is subjected to ANOVA tests to determine whether the group means are from the same distribution of sample means. In other words, to get an indication of whether or not the sample groups represent a single population or many. Based on hypotheses proposed concerning periods of subsistence stress as well as previous knowledge of room size variation, the expecation is that the means will differ. Once the means are established they are applied to the surface survey sample from the PARP statistics. Total floor area as measured from surface indications is divided by the appropriate mean room size to produce an estimate of total number of rooms in each site. The total is corrected to a figure representing 78% of the total number of rooms to account for abandonment of rooms during occupation. Population estimates are constructed by multiplying the 78% figure for number of rooms by a figure for number of people per room derived from ethnographic data. Site populations are then grouped by elevation zone and date of abandonment and compared to a settlement system model proposed by Orcutt (1981) for the PARP research area.