Anne Lawrason Marshall 
Department of Architecture 
University of Idaho

David Wilde 
Technical Production

1998 Anne Lawrason Marshall

Kin Bineola is an awesome stone building, known as a great house, built by the Chaco Anasazi in northwestern New Mexico between A.D. 942 and 1120 (Marshall, Stein, Loose, and Novotny 1979). Kin Bineola is 17 kilometers southwest of Chaco Canyon, the center of the Chaco Anasazi and world famous today for its great houses—monumental, multistory, coursed-stone-veneer buildings whose floor plans are regular and symmetrical (Lekson 1984). Of the more than one hundred known great houses, Kin Bineola is one of the most intriguing. It is the third largest great house outside of Chaco Canyon, yet it is unexcavated (Powers, Gillespie, and Lekson 1983). Many additional structures such as room blocks, shrines, great kivas, and various linear features are near Kin Bineola, and their number, diversity, and purpose is puzzling. Landscape features near Kin Bineola— rock-capped buttes—are fascinating and almost anthropomorphic; what did they look like one thousand years ago? Did they have any special significance to the Anasazi?

Maintaining line-of-sight from one building to another and to significant landscape features may have determined Anasazi building locations.  For this reason, quicktime VR movies are included in this web site,  including two views from the Kin Bineola great house, one view from a mesa-top roomblock to the east of the great house, and one view from another mesa-top site to the south.
Kin Bineola Great House 
Kin Bineola is a large, E-shaped great house on the Kim-me-ni-oli Valley floodplain, about 500 meters east of the wash. The great house is surrounded on the north and east by the steep edge of a mesa. Although classified as a "medium" great house, at an estimated floor area of 8225 square meters, it is exceeded in size by only eight other Chacoan great houses in the fifty-one included in The Outlier Survey, and of these, only two others outside of Chaco Canyon are larger than Kin Bineola (Powers, Gillespie, Lekson 1983; Lekson 1991). The great house is 106.5 meters long and 46.5 meters wide, with the open side facing SSE. The highest walls visible today, located in the northernmost room blocks, are three stories high, although Holsinger in 1901 saw fallen walls along the north that he interpreted as being a fourth floor. The building is terraced towards the south, and encloses two plaza areas, the eastern one being demarcated on the southern periphery by a low wall. Within the room block are ten kivas—round ceremonial rooms—including two elevated kivas. Great kivas—enormous round ceremonial chambers—are commonly found in the plazas of Chacoan great houses, but at Kin Bineola, a great kiva 17 meters in diameter is outside of the plaza, 10 meters to the southwest of the great house. Through dendrochronology of a few specimens of wood from six known rooms, Bannister, Robinson, and Warren (1970) found two primary clusters of dates: A. D. 942-43, all in the central wing, and A. D. 1111-20. More recent dendrochronological work has not yielded any additional dates (Windes 1997). As yet unexcavated, much is still to be learned about Kin Bineola.
Siting of the Kin Bineola Great House

The Kin Bineola great house is at the northern end of an eastern branch of the Kim-me-ni-oli Valley. It is conveniently located about 500 meters from the Kim-me-ni-oli Wash. It is on gently sloping terrain and is easily accessible from many surrounding areas. Although not on top of a mesa, Kin Bineola has a panoramic view for about 180 to the south, and this view is dominated by the formidable Hosta Butte, 47 kilometers south and 6.5 kilometers west. To the north, for about 180, Kin Bineola is protected by the concave edge of a mesa, that despite the name Kin bii’ naayoli, Navajo for ‘house in which the wind whirls’, provides some protection from the wind. In places the edge of the mesa is eroded to form small, stone-capped, earth buttes. From the top of the mesa, sandstone has been quarried to build Kin Bineola. The location of Kin Bineola has several advantages, including nearby water, nearby stone, a panoramic view to the south, and some protection from the north. One disadvantage of Kin Bineola’s location is that any view to the north is obscured by the adjacent mesa. The Triple Room Block, only 400 meters to the northwest on a prominent tip of the mesa, interpreted by Marshall, et al. to have a "special non-domiciliary function," may have been a viewing station associated with the great house. Although the nearby miniature buttes, as distinctive features of the landscape, could have held spiritual significance for the Anasazi and influenced them to build nearby, it seems more likely that the great house was located so as to be somewhat sheltered by the surrounding mesa, while maintaining a clear view to the south. Nearby a finger of the mesa provids a location for a viewing station with a superior view.
Triple Room Block (LA No. 18714)

Four hundred meters northwest of the great house, on a finger of the mesa that surrounds Kin Bineola, is a linear block of three rectangular rooms, each about 3 meters by 4 meters. A low stone wall closes the mesa point off from the rest of the mesa. "The elevated position of this structure in close proximity to Kin Bineola, the substantial mound elevation, the core-veneer wall construction, and the rather large room sizes…suggest a special non-domiciliary function." (Marshall et al. 1979)
Undocumented Mesa-top Site

On a small mesa on the east side of the Kim-me-ni-oli Wash, 800 meters south of Kin Bineola, is an Anasazi site defined by a heavy sherd scatter, flaked stone (probably from projectile points or knives), a metate (grinding stone), scattered tabular stones, and three aligned upright stone slabs. Although this is not mentioned by Marshall, et al., I found it accidentally by following the dense sherds. Its exact location is on what at first appears to be an unremarkable part of the mesa, while nearby is a rocky mesa point, prominent from below, yet with no evidence of Anasazi occupation. From on top of the mesa, however, the location of the Anasazi site has a clear view of Kin Bineola, while from the rocky point, the view is obscured by the subtle rise of the mesa top.

To the south of this place is a single room block on the edge of the mesa in conjunction with what appears to be a ramp. Below and immediately to the west of the mesa is an extensive midden area and to its north are the scattered remains of a pueblo, possibly a great house.
Additional Associated Anasazi Structures

The following is a brief description of seven other structures near Kin Bineola as mentioned by Marshall, et al. (1983), and as observed on site in 1997. This is not a complete list of Anasazi sites in the vicinity; Marshall et al. did not claim to have complete documnetation, and of those features described many are puzzling and not interpreted with any certainty. Beginning west of the Kin Bineola great house, and moving generally south through the Kim-me-ni-oli Valley, the following seven Anasazi structures will be described: Teardrop Mesa Site, "Avenida Kin Bineola," a "linear feature," a diversion dam, a great kiva, and two shrines.

Teardrop Mesa Site (LA No. 18713) On the southeastern edge of Teardrop Mesa, 500 meters west of the great house, are two rooms—a D-shaped room and a square room—connected by a lozenge-shaped court defined by a low wall.

Avenida Kin Bineola is a series of disparate linear constructions that snake around the south and west perimeter of Tear Drop Mesa. Avenida Kin Bineola was originally interpreted as an irrigation system, but more recently as walled road segments. Just to the east and below the Teardrop Mesa Site is a crescent-shaped mound that forms the eastern end of Avenida Kin Bineola. From here two parallel masonry walls extend west for 100 meters, then less clearly defined for another 160 meters until they end near the WNW tip of Tear Drop Mesa. To the west 175 meters is a substantial masonry wall, 20 meters long, that is exposed in the arroyo cut and appears to be a diversion dam, yet there is no clear evidence that it was used to channel water. In line with the "dam," heading north is a 100-meter-long row of upright slabs. Approximately 100 meters northwest of the row of slabs is linear swale, about 50 meters east of the wash.

Linear Feature Parallel to the Kim-me-ni-oli Wash, beginning 400 meters west of the great house and running SSE for about 1 kilometer, is a linear swale, 4 to 6 meters wide and less than 1 meter deep. It may have been a canal, a prehistoric road, or a historic wagon road.

Diversion Dam (LA No. 18710) To the south of the Linear Feature by 250 meters is an earthen dam, V-shaped in plan, that runs from the wash 125 meters to the west.

Shrine 2 (LA No. 18715) On the bedrock point of a mesa that forms the eastern edge of the Kim-me-ni-oli floodplain, about 3 kilometers south of the great house, is a J-shaped enclosure, whose wall height suggests that it was unroofed.

Great Kiva 2 (LA No. 18707) WSW and below Shrine 2, on the sandy slope of the valley, is a great kiva surrounded by four rectangular alcove rooms and three irregular antechambers. Nearby is a large midden with dense sherd scatter and many large slabs, a crescent-shaped unit house, and a small kiva.

Shrine 1 (LA No. 18708) South of Shrine 2 about 600 meters, on the southwestern tip of a mesa is a split-level shrine that takes advantage of the terraced bedrock. On the upper level is a one-story surface kiva. A wall projects SSW from the kiva and continues down to form the west wall of the rough, four-sided enclosure on the lower level—apparently an unroofed structure.

The three mesa-top sites mentioned above—Teardrop Mesa Site, Shrine 1, and Shrine 2—have a few common characteristics. They are all on the southern periphery of a mesa, and they appear to be oriented to the south, the direction of the most prominent landscape feature around, Hosta Butte. They all have some straight walls and some curved walls, and the curves appear to be a geometry that was deliberately chosen, independent of the shape of the promontory on which each site sits. They all have outdoor "rooms" demarcated by low walls. Perhaps these were signal stations, in which case the locations were chosen for their views to other Anasazi sites and perhaps for their view to Hosta Butte, which as the most significant landscape feature visible from this area may have had special significance for the Anasazi.

Great Kiva 2 appears to be the hub of a community approximately 3 kilometers SSE of Kin Bineola. Immediately to the south of the great kiva is a large midden, to the north is a crescent-shaped unit house, and to the north of it is a small kiva. The great kiva is situated on the slope of the valley floor adjacent to the edge of the mesa on which sits. To ENE is Shrine 2. It appears that Great Kiva 2 and Shrine 2 were part of the same community, however, it appears that Great Kiva 2 had a specific relationship to other sites. On the site map of structures in the vicinity of Kin Bineola produced by Marshall, et al., Great Kiva 2 appears to be aligned with Kin Bineola and Shrine 1. When I roughly plotted the Unnamed Mesa-top Site on a 1:24,000 USGS topographic map, it appeared to be in the same line. This could of course be a slight error, or just a coincidence, but perhaps it is significant. A thorough survey using a GPS receiver and other technology available today would provide a more complete and accurate picture of Kin Bineola and the many Anasazi sites in the vicinity.

Bannister, Bryant, William J. Robinson, and Richard L. Warren 
1970 Tree-ring dates from New Mexico A, G-H, Shiprock-Zuni-Mt. Taylor area. Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson.

Holsinger, S. J. 
1901 Report on prehistoric ruins of Chaco Canyon National Monument. General Land Office. Ms. on file, National Archives, Washington, D.C. 
Lekson, Stephen H.  
1984 Great Pueblo Architecture of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Publications in Architecture 18B. Chaco Canyon Studies. National Park Service, Albuquerque. 
1991 Settlement Patterns and the Chaco Region, in Chaco and Hohokam: Prehistoric Regional Systems in the American Southwest, edited by Crown, Patricia L., and W. James Judge, School of American Research Press, Santa Fe. 
Marshall, Michael P., John R. Stein, Richard W. Loose, and Judith E. Novotny 
1979 Anasazi Communities of the San Juan Basin. Public Service Company of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and the New Mexico Historic Preservation Bureau, Santa Fe. 
Powers, Robert P., William B. Gillespie, Stephen H. Lekson 
1983 The Outlier Survey: A Regional View in the San Juan Basin. Reports of the Chaco Center 3. Division of Cultural Research, National Park Service, Albuquerque. 
Windes, Thomas  
1997 Personal communication regarding recent dendrochronology at Kin Bineola.

Evaluating Models of Chaco

Chaco Canyon

Chetro Ketl Great Kiva

Archaeological Sites of the Southwest

Southwestern Archaeology

This web site was initiated, orchestrated, and written by Anne Lawrason Marshall, Department of Architecture, University of Idaho. It was designed and assembled by David Wilde, student, University of Idaho, with assistance from David Schlater, Multimedia Development Studio, University of Idaho. The quicktime VR movies were photographed by Anne Marshall, then assembled by David Wilde assisted by David Schlater.

The Kin Bineola map was adapted from USGS 7.5’ quads and Marshall, et al. 1979:58. The Kin Bineola great house plan was adapted from a 1" = 50’ plan by Koogle & Pouls dated 1972 (from the NPS Remote Sensing Office, Santa Fe), and Marshall, et al. 1979:60 by Michael Pitler (student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). The Triple Roomblock plan was adapted from Marshall, et al. 1979:66.

1998 Anne Lawrason Marshall

This project has been generously supported by the University Research Office at the University of Idaho.

Please send any comments to:

Return to Architecture 499