Mexican American War
Guadlupe Hidalgo & Gadsden Purchase
1861 Confederate State
1862 Arizona Territory
Gunfighters & Colorful Characters
Cattle and Sheep
Navajo Code Talkers
25,000 years ago..or more,
indigenous people traveled north through South America, Central America and Mexico into
the fertile riverine valleys of today's Salt (Salado), Agua Fria, Gila, Verde and Colorado
Rivers. Following the natural corridors created by the Basin
and Range, herds of prehistoric animals led them through passable canyons.
Flint spearheads and the scattering of small camps have been found from New Mexico's
Sandia Mountains to Clovis to Ventana Cave near today's Mexican border.
The Hohokam settled in the Valley
of the Sun evolving into skilled craftsmen, traders, farmers and artisans.
Ballcourts and platform mounds were in abundance when the first explorers came to what is
now Phoenix. Their material culture is evidence of a strong Aztec influence in their
architecture and skill sets such as irrigation. Today, their descendants can be found
along the Gila River at Sacaton.
Far north,on the Colorado
Plateau, another people evolved called the Anasazi or Hisatsinom (Those who came
before). The connection between Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and Casas Grandes, Mexico
beginning in about 900 AD is again shown through abrupt changes in their art and
dwellings. Five story pueblos with hundreds of rooms litter the canyon floors. From
this center, numerous outliers spread radially from Chaco Canyon to Taos, Mesa Verde,
Kayenta and Wupatki. When the Blue Star, an astronomical signal, appeared, these
people moved to their promised land on Black Mesa. These are the Hopi, Zuni and
Puebloans of today.
T-shaped doorways of Paquime
Paquime walls are a Chaco look
alike. Macaw and turkey pens are on the right
Paquime (Casas Grandes, Mexico)
served as a cultural beacon for prehistoric people within a thirty thousand square mile
area, which encompassed far west Texas, southern New Mexico, southeastern Arizona,
northeastern Sonora and northern Chihuahua. Like Chaco Canyon, roads radiated from it to
the surrounding areas.
The people raised several
clusters of multistory terraced buildings and a number of religious monuments. They
constructed the building walls of mud, or adobe, applying and smoothing the
"cement" a handful at a time. They built the roofs of heavy supporting timbers,
or vigas, which they covered with small straight branches, or latigas, and plastered
earth. Collectively, the buildings housed perhaps 1600 rooms. The largest building covered
nearly a full acre.
The people of Paquime raised corn, beans, squash and other crops; hunted buffalo,
antelope, deer and other wild animals; and harvested agave, nuts, prickly pear cactus
fruits and other wild plants. They raised domesticated birds, crafted high quality
ceramics, wove textiles, created exquisite jewelry, may have manufactured metal products,
and apparently developed and sustained a widespread trade network.
Paquimes terraced building
compounds embraced central plazas, large agave roasting pits, a walk-in well and at least
one subterranean ceremonial chamber. Rooms featured T-shaped doorways, sleeping platforms
and massive structural-post-support disks. Like the famed Chaco Canyon pueblo ruins in
northwestern New Mexico, Paquime lay at the hub of radiating roads. Based on oral
histories of western New Mexicos Acoma and Zuni Pueblos, Paquime apparently became a
destination for migrants from the San Juan Basin region in northwestern New Mexico.
Paquime looked much like a typical Southwestern pueblo, but it evidently resonated to
Mesoamerican ritual, celebration, know-how and commerce.
Mesoamericans introduced an ancient and labyrinthine religion, or belief system, rooted in
dark mysteries of storms, clouds, water, earth and night sky. Powerful holy men appeared
like apparitions in sacred temples, mountain peaks, springs, caves and secreted natural
alcoves to enter into the world of the spirits and communicate with deities with exotic
names like Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc and Tezcatlipoca. They committed the dead into the realm
of the supernatural, hoping they would intercede with the deities to deliver rain for
crops and prosperity for the people.
Under the influence of the
Mesoamericans, Paquimes people constructed in the easternmost plaza a platform
mound, which they paved with stone and probably crowned with a temple building. They built
effigy mounds, one in the shape of a serpent, another in the shape of a bird. (The serpent
mound, with a feather plume or a curved horn arching over its head, gave honor to the
Quetzalcoatl deity.) They built a mound with the shape of a cross, aligned with the
cardinal directions. They produced images associated with the Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc
deities on ceramics, ceremonial chamber walls and rock surfaces.
During religious ceremonies in the night at Paquime, you could have heard the chanting of
the priests, the throb of drums, the pounding steps of dancers, the tinkle of sacred
The Paquime people excavated from the earth within the plaza areas at least three
Mesoamerican-style ball courts, including one with the classic Mesoamerican "I"
shape immediately adjacent to the temple mound. Ball games, played for more than two
thousand years in prehistoric America, served not only as metaphors for competition for
supremacy between communities in a region. They also held central roles in ritual and
Structures and symbols spoke of Mesoamerican religion and game. Other evidence pointed to
Mesoamerican technology and trade.
Paquime builders constructed channels to conduct fresh water into the community and waste
water away from the living areas. Paquime keepers somehow managed to breed and raise
scarlet macaws, icons in Mesoamerican ritual, in the Chihuahuan desert, far from the
birds native tropical habitats. Paquime craftsmen fashioned elaborate pendants from
Mesoamerican copper and shells and Southwestern turquoise.
In the ruins of their community, the people of Paquime left abundant evidence of extensive
commerce with Mesoamerica: copper bells, copper armlets, copper ceremonial axes, Pacific
Coast seashells, spindle whorls, ceramic drums, ceramic shards.
The community apparently marched to the cadences of both puebloan and Mesoamerican
Paquimes Sphere of Influence
Paquimes influence evidently spread like ripples in a pond, stronger at the
epicenter, weaker at the margins. Within a days march from Paquime, other pueblo
communities built similar mud walls, raised similar ritual architecture, constructed ball
courts, raised macaws and imported similar trade goods. Within two to three days
march, still other communities built similar mud walls and some ritual architecture and
imported the trade goods, but they evidently constructed few ball courts and raised few,
if any, macaws. Farther away, hamlets and villages followed their own patterns of life,
but they seem to have connected to Paquime through trade goods.
Even at the far reaches, the
prehistoric people felt the mystic winds of Mesoamerican religious beliefs, ritual and
icons, validated by Paquime, and they apparently fused them with their own supernatural
traditions. Across the region touched by Paquime, puebloan peoples created a vast gallery
of religious art, connections to the spirit world: plumed or horned serpent Quetzalcoatl
figures, strange goggle-eyed Tlaloc figures, step sided rain pyramids, zigzag lightning
symbols, sacred macaws.
The fall of Paquime began in the fifteenth century, possibly because a warlike
Mesoamerican empire called Tarascans cut trade routes. Commerce would have dwindled.
Alternatively, drought may have set in. Cultural alliances in the Southwestern United
States and northern Mexico may have realigned. Paquimes influence would have waned.
Finally, someone, possibly nomadic warriors from the north, sacked and burned Paquime. The
end had come.
Up to now, the architectural and artifactual remains at Paquime and the surrounding region
have presented a mosaic of mysteries.
Who energized Paquime early in the thirteenth century, building it into a cultural beacon?
Some archaeologists have pointed to Mesoamerican missionary traders pochtecas, they
were called. Others have suggested elite groups who must have migrated south, to the
Paquime area, in the wake of failing pueblo cultures in the San Juan Basin. Still others
have credited puebloan people from southwestern New Mexico, or leaders from the immediate
Paquime region, or some combination of puebloans and Mesoamericans.
How much political power did Paquime wield in the region? Some scholars have said that the
archaeological evidence suggests very little political control by Paquime. Others have
thought that Paquime priests may have imposed significant power, at least in their
immediate area, by controlling supernatural secrets and sacred objects.
Did Paquime serve primarily as a center for manufacturing exotic goods? A trading center
for imported exotic goods? A major consumer of imported exotic goods? A cultural and
religious inspiration for the people of the surrounding region? Many archaeologists have
suggested that Paquime served as a major trade and manufacturing center, a commercial link
between the pueblo and the Mesoamerican areas. Others have pointed to evidence that
Paquime may have been more of a consumer and religious center, perhaps a regional
equivalent to Mecca or a Vatican.
What finally brought Paquime to its knees in the late fifteenth century? Archaeologists
have proposed, of course, that warfare in Mesoamerica wrecked trade and commerce in the
north. Others have suggested the possibilities of warfare between Paquime and nomadic
tribes, factionalism between neighboring pueblos, change in environment, the epidemic of
Paquime collapsed around 1350 and was burned. This is about the same time as the
Great Abandonment in Four Corners.
By 1400, the Sinaguans and
Mogollon people had moved north to Black Mesa as did those from Wupatki and Hom'olovi near
Winslow. Some remained near Mesa Verde. The Colorado Plateau became their permanent
Silent ruins, once home to
thousands, were waiting for the northern newcomers, the Navajo and Apache. Both come
from the McKenzie River area in Canada. Arriving here around 1450 to 1500 AD,
the empty dwellings were ready made housing. The Navajo moved into Canyon de Chelly
and Chaco Canyon. The Apache moved into the Central Highland areas of Sedona, Tonto
Basin and the White Mountains. Eventually some of the bands moved south into the
Chirachua Mountains near today's Mexican border.
Map of Arizona
Map of the reservations and Four Corners