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The Great Flood: 10,000 BC in Idaho-Montana

Southwest Archaeology

The Southwest Environment

Key factors are rainfall, temperature, number of frost free days, farmland availability, water sources, floodwater.
Plant categories: wild and domesticated. Domesticated plants appear in the SW by 1500 B.C.
Domesticated are genetically altered and dependent, to some extent, on human propagation.
Cultivated are the same genetically as wild, tough planted and cared for by humans. Agave.

Hohokam Region: Sonoran advantage- lush desert with wild food plants year around; spring wild barley, agave, cholla buds -- summer saguaro fruits -- fall and winter mesquite, acorns, prickly pear. Cultigens are agave. Farming of corn, various beans, squash, gourds, supported by large-scale irrigation on flood plains. Fauna of rabbits and fish, small game.
Mogollon Region: Forests rich in plants but not in human foods, diverse wild resources are cacti, mesquite, piņon, mesquite, acorns, but not abundant. Farming of small patches of arable land by rainfall and floodwater farming. Mimbres used floodplain irrigation. Weather often not ideal, wet and cool or warm and dry. Population smaller than Pueblo or Hohokam areas.
Pueblo Region: Less diverse wild resources, arable land varies by area with growing season problems in some areas. Farming was by floodwater, rainfall and irrigation in some areas.

Cultural Periods

Paleo Indian Culture -- 11,500 - 8,000 BP poorly dated tentative epoch. Monte Verde, Chile, 13,400 BP row houses with numerous remains, Catalina Islands, 13,000 BP skeleton, Meadowcroft, PA, 14,000 - 17,000? BP, Tlapacoya Island, MX, 24,000 BP hearth.
Highly mobile, little time depth to sites, little revisitation, low population density, high quality rock tools, manuported rocks, possible broad social networks. Technology of fluted points, atlatls, rare ground stone in Ventana Cave, Arizona. Lehner Ranch in So. AZ an important site, extinct mamals and Clovis points. Clovis sites in North America from Alaska to Panama. Folsom points have a larger flute, are shorter and not as widely distributed (SW only). Folsom 11,300 - 9,000 (8,000) BP, Clovis 11,500 - 9,000 BP

Archaic Period -- 8,000 - 1,800 BP. Altitherm was 7,000 - 4,500 BP. More regionalism of cultures with diverse projectile point traditions, side-notched, corner-notched, and barbed points, evidence varying hunting strategies. Broad spectrum adaptation to small game and plant resources, esp.rabbits and seeds. Technology includes digging sticks, serrated stone, ground stones, manos and metates, storage baskets. Yields fruit 3k - 9k cal/hr, nuts 1k - 2k cal/hr, seeds 200 - 600 cal/hr. Tome and space scheduling requires intense knowledge of landscape. Residential and logistical mobility.

Early domestication of plants evidence in SW:
Tornillo 3225 BP, Mogollon Desert in SW NM
Bat Cave 3441 BP, West NM
Three Fir Shelter 3040 BP, Colorado Plateau
Milagro 2780 BP, Sonoran Desert near Tucson associated with pithouses.
Early domesticates spread quickly. Late Archaic (1500 - 200 BC) had corn, gourds and squash, associated with pithouses. Earliest sedentary farmers are in the Sonoran Desert. Slow change to sedentism is attributed to cultural evolution and genetic evolution. Sedentism = living year around in one place.

Basketmaker II -- 200 BC - 500 AD, major changes. Pithouses associated with residential seasonal mobility, multi-year use. Multi-year middens, more burials.

Basketmaker III -- 500 - 700 AD. Beans and pottery, bow and arrow, smaller points indicate new adaptations. Pottery = less mobility. Beans (lysine) = complete protein. Pottery used to cook beans = maximized caloric return. More storage pits and cists. Pithouses more substantial and great kivas appear.

Comparing Basketmaker III sites:
-Shabik'aschee had a communal economy: 70 small, standardized pit houses with small antechambers suitable for two persons, 47 cists, few storage pits in houses, large great kiva, storage and caching visible to community, burials outside pithouses.
-SU site had a household based economy: 35 large, variably sized, larger antechambered pit houses, one large pithouse, storage inside homes and less visible, diverse burials.

Pottery is ceramic, a chemical compound incorporating metal and non-metals. Earthenware is low temperature fired and porous. Stoneware is high fired and non-porous. Porcelain is vitrified (glass) and translucent. In the Upper Paleolithic in the Old World ceramic figurines occur around 13,000 BP Jomon pottery (in Japan) occurs between 10,000 and 5500 BC. Hohokam around 200 AD. Components are basic materials, clay, temper to stop cracking, increase thermal shock resistance, increase porosity. Temper is useful to archaeologists in identifying provenience of ware.
Forming of pots is a culturally identifiable process. Mogollon and Pueblo pots are coiled and scraped. Hohokam and Sinagua coiled and formed on a anvil using a paddle. SW pots are made without molds and without throwing. Decoration included polish, slip, paint, applique, or corrugated. Firing was done in the open or in lined pits, using wasters as cover.

Pueblo I -- 700 - 900 AD. Year round occupation in pueblos with above ground rooms, some pit houses, pit structures have some ritual features. Typical site a double row of rooms fronted by pit structures, winter use of pits. Structures are warm and cold adapted. Living rooms have storage rooms attached. Household based economies and less sharing. Field houses indicate claim to land areas. Plant remains support continuous, year round occupation. Painted pottery, both black and white, and red. Duckfoot, a hamlet, relative dating based on bonding and abutting of construction. McPhee village has 21 room blocks and a remote kiva. 800 AD 2 great kivas 22.5 m in diameter. 840 - 900 AD oversized pit structures - 5 m - central in room blocks with elaborate sipapus and footdrums. Late 800's abandonment with pit structures burned, burying bodies in the floor.

Pueblo II -- 900 - 1100 AD. Dominated by Chaco Canyon. First large scale stone ruins in the US. 850 Pueblo Bonito Phase, 900 irrigation agriculture, 1150 Great Kiva phase.
Chaco Era 850 - 1150. Chaco sequence begins around 850 at confluence of drainages with good access to water and agriculture sites. 1000 - 1100 major population growth, Chaco considered a major regional center by 1050. 1075 - 1115 major construction peak. 1088-1092 Beams brought from 50 miles distance. 1100's experience environmental changes. 1130 - 1180 was a period of reduced rainfall. Around 1140 to 1150 Chaco became depopulated. Aztec Ruin takes place of Chaco. Chaco population estimated at 1500 - 5000. Given room with hearth is a habitation = six people, therefore 1500 - 2000 people. Given a room suite = six people 1500 - 2000, with Bonito at only 150 residents.
Lots of non-habitation architecture, with a chain of storage rooms at Pueblo Bonito, and rooms deep within structure. Road related rooms at Pueblo Alto.
Architecture: Room average is 44 tons of sandstone, 50 million pieces in Chetro Ketl. To construct all the great houses 200,000 trees were used. Bonito had 4-5 stories and 600 or more rooms. Over engineering meant easy upkeep, inference of cultural importance. Estimate of a stage of construction was 30 people x 2 - 4 months a year for 10 years. Great houses built in stages. Chaco kivas can be above ground and surrounded by rectangular walls. Cribbed roofs. Great kivas are 15 - 20 meters in diameter. Casa Rinconada 63 feet.
Pueblo Alto is one story 85 rooms with a big plaza. 1020 - 1060 construction, maintained until 1100. Only 5 household suites, these are heavily worn. Big room suites are not heavily worn and have a kiva. Trash midden is 2400 m3 with 150,000 pots, evidencing feasting.
Status is evidenced at Chaco. A few burials are very rich, elaborate and early in the sequence. Little evidence of private wealth and residential evidence is of equality. Chaco health is better than at small sites. Acquired status likelier than stratification of the society.

The Chaco System: Chaco regional system of about 100 sites in an area of 100,000 km2. Outliers have some Chacoan characteristics: multistory structures (great houses) great kivas, raised, enclosed kivas. Roads estimate is 2400 km.+ symbolic link roads point to Chaco. Imports to Chaco are pottery, 50% in 1000's and 95% in 1120. Shell, turquoise and deer imported. Processed turquoise exported.
Chacoan outlier/great houses identified: Dating from A.D. 900 - 1115
Architecture: unprecedented and unequaled massive size and planning, period specific horizontally aligned, carefully coursed masonry patterns, walls stronger than at other Anasazi structures, overengineering, advanced architectural planning, large scale and grand design is unique;. Buildings are taller, walls are thicker, stone pattern more intricate, rooms larger than typical Anasazi constructs. Many storage rooms in the Chaco Canyon great houses. Outliers have multi-story structures. Great kivas or raised enclosed kivas, kivas in great houses above ground and enclosed in surrounding rectangular walls. Cribbed roofs laid on bench
Roads are carefully engineered and flanked by berms of adobe, stone or earth, often connecting the great houses.
Pottery: Cylinder vessels found exclusively at Chaco great houses, black on white painted vessel.
Turquoise trade in evidence, processed turquoise items.

Organization. Chaco Canyon is seen as a center for the regional system. The number of storage rooms may have been for redistribution purposes. The sites with outlier great houses are seen as part of the regional system. These populations utilized the canyon sites for gatherings. The center may also have served as a trade center. Roads often connected the sites. The region was tied together around Chaco Canyon. With Chaco Canyon acting as a ritual center and trade center. The low number of residents in Chaco Canyon would indicate that the visitors to the canyon came from the outliers.
Archaeologists see evidence for a direct relationship with Chaco Canyon culture through the over-engineered architecture; the core and veneer walls; great round kivas surrounded by a square wall; like design and technology in pottery styles; multi-story structures; an inordinate number of non-habitation rooms; and often these outliers were connected by the Chaco roads.
Chacoan Great Houses identified by: --core and veneer masonry, overengineered walls; round kivas w/square outside walls built above ground; lot of extra non-habitation rooms, multistory, plazas part of pueblo layout, often a great kiva incorporated, roads to/from Chaco --large quantities of pottery from the Chuska Mountains to the west; turquoise found at outliers same as found in Chaco, traceable roads connecting outliers and Chaco.

Pueblo III -- 1100 - 1300
Mesa Verde (4-Corners, San Juan) Region. History: 1888 Richard Wetherill finds Cliff Palace, 200 rooms, 8 kivas and 8 levels, turkey pens. Mesa Verde had largest aggregation in SW after 1150.
1889-1900 1000 visitors, instant fame, Wetherills began trading antiquities.
1893 Nordenskiold "The Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde," excavated in Mug House and Spruce Tree House.
1906 Antiquities Act, Mesa Verde National Park. 1908 Fewkes restorations of Sun, Fire Temples
Mesa Verde Sequence: Mesa top habitation on Chapin and Wetherill Mesas. 36 sites with 200 - 400 people AD 1000 - 1200. Tower construction. Mummy Lake Reservoir held 500,000 gallons. 1200 AD shift to canyon occupation with greater aggregations. Fewkes Canyon had 33 sites with 530 rooms, 600 - 800 people, Sun Temple, Cliff Palace and Spruce Tree House built. Sun Temple has bi-walled construction.
Montezuma Valley: 10,000 - 30,000 people doing Mesa Top dryland farming. 1000 - 1150 population dispersed. 1200 population aggregated into 8+ towns, some with history and some new. Important communities established by 1000 with community stability and mobile people. Pre-1150 household occupations 15 - 25 years, post 1150 - 1250 25 - 50 years. Evidence of conflict onset around 1200, upon aggregation into towns. Standardized ceramic complex in the region with no imports. Isolation from the remainder of the SW. No imports in evidence by 1300. Sand Canyon Pueblo: 1250 - 1280, canyon rim site, east side residential and west side with kivas, unit pueblos, low encircling wall, use of boundary marking stones.
Mesa Verde Region Abandonment Process. 10,000 - 30,000 people leave the region. People moved to the Rio Grande and Little Colorado River areas. By 1200 more concentration into central Mesa Verde region with abandonment of small sites as people aggregated in towns. At Sand Canyon orderly abandonment evidenced. Units of movement parallel unit construction. Trash filled units indicate process over several years. Some units burned with contents, kivas burned.
Abandonment causes. Migration is a normal event for SW populations. Great Drought from 1276 - 1299. 1275 tree ring dates, complete abandonment by 1300. Not the first drought event in the SW. Carrying capacity of the land. People were in circumscribed areas. No evidence of invading outsiders. Evidence of intra-regional conflict with some people getting killed at some sites. Attraction of the riverine sites. Irrigation terraces on the Little Colorado, reliable irrigation on the Rio Grande.

Kayenta Region: Black Mesa, Canyon de Chelly, Long Valley, Tsegi Canyon. No Chaco outliers during Pueblo II. Black Mesa empty by 1150. Tsegi Phase: 1250 Kiet Seel founded, 1267 Betatakin founded. 1272 - 1276 population influx with new sites. 1280 population maximum. 1285 decline, 1300 deserted. Room cluster construction w/o kivas. Clusters of storage, living, granary and courtyard. Betatakin has 135 rooms, 2 kivas, homogeneous architecture built in 3 organized phases with pre-cut beams. Kiet Seel has 155 rooms and 6 kivas with more variable construction and accretion of buildings. New organization evidenced with fewer kivas not linked to household units. Long House Valley had five clusters of sites with the focal site at the water source, 2 - 12 satellites. intervisibility of major sites may have been defensive.

Pueblo IV: post 1300
Pan SW processes and styles. Hohokam and pueblo distinction is blurred. Larger sites and clusters of sites with open regions between clusters. Plazas incorporated into pueblos with fewer kivas. Pueblo III had six rooms per kiva, Pueblo IV has 50 : 1 ratio and end of unit pueblos. Cotton is grown as a commodity. Conflict is evidenced.
West pueblos are matrilineal descent groups with ritual societies that cross-cut descent groups, absence of architectural boundaries. Katsina iconography (Fourmile Style) appears. Southwest regional iconography on pottery, rock art and kiva murals; flowers, butterflies, serpents, parrots, masks.
Homol'ovi pueblos: Little Colorado River near Winslow. 1276 river entrenched freeing 5,000 HA of terraces. In migration, no katsinas, cotton growing, little local pottery:
Homol'ovi III linear constructions, 40 rooms, 2 rectangular kivas, sandstone/adobe, Tusayan pottery. Homol'ovi IV terrace-like and masonry construction, 150 - 200 small rooms, White Mountain and Cibola pottery.
1300 AD river rises again and Homol'ovi III and Homol'ovi IV abandoned. Aggregation and mixing in the new Homol'ovi I and Homol'ovi II pueblos, with much larger, plaza-oriented sites, katsina iconography, lots of cotton, Jeddito Yellow Pottery, Fourmile Style, shrines, field houses and territoriality marking. 1400 abandonment and move to Hopi villages.

Comparison and contrast: Pueblo III (1100 - 1300) versus Pueblo IV (post 1300)
Architecture: PIII - self-contained unit pueblos with one kiva to every 6 rooms, great kivas, more dispersed on the landscape. PIV - no more unit pueblos, ratio of 50 rooms to a kiva, rooms in rows, larger planned construction events, plaza oriented sites, defensible building planning, much larger pueblos (5 - 10 times larger) and (discrete spatial clusters) open regions between concentrations of pueblos. Advent of the marking of land and territoriality.
Interpretation: Conflicts and resource competition by larger populations resulted in aggregation of the population in defensible, larger communities. Plaza architecture is defensive. Discrete spatial clusters of pueblos are interpreted as evidence of distinct polities and hostility.
Agriculture: PIII - Subsistence agriculture of corn, beans and squash. PIV - Introduction of cotton. Interpretation: Trade and exchange have gained in importance. PIII agriculture was almost exclusively food production. During PIV cotton becomes ubiquitous, new commodity production becomes new economic activity, producing possible wealth.
Pottery, Art and Iconography. PIII - Regional styles in pottery, standardized ceramic complex with little importations, no katsinas. PIV - pan-SW processes and styles, Hohokam and Anasazi distinction is blurred. Advent of Katsinas, Four Mile horizon style with themes of fertility (flowers, butterflies, masks, serpents), terraces. Change in decorative patterns on painted ceramics. Interpretation: Time of change and/or turmoil, possible conflicts. Promotion of a sense of community. Social changes.
PIII had clustering of regional pottery styles and minor exchange. PIV had pan-SW styles (Salado Polychrome) and high levels of trade, regional interaction among groups increased significantly. PIII architecture was unidirectional pueblos, small and lots of them. PIV used plazas, compounds, surrounding walls, larger clustered sites, implication is village aggregation to defensible locations infers conflict.

There are several lines of evidence for conflict in the post-1300 northern Southwest. A variety of characteristics connect the prehistoric and present indigenous populations: contiguous architecture, kivas, maize, bean and squash agriculture and ritual beliefs and practices focused on katsinas. To date most studies have placed greater emphasis on the similarities of historic Pueblo culture and the late prehistoric. Abandonment of traditional territories and transformation of the social landscape contradicts the paradigm of substantial cultural continuity. Focus on the differences will allow a better understanding of the cultural changes. In order to understand modifications in village architecture the social context of the period must be examined more closely. The social context of the thirteenth to fifteenth century was characterized as much by conflict as by cooperation. Changing settlement size (communities five to ten times larger than late thirteenth century towns), the change from great kivas to plaza-oriented architecture and changes in decorative patterns on painted ceramics evidence social changes in the fourteenth century. Aggregation in the late thirteenth century is seen as due to defense and safety in numbers, with the threat of conflict continuing in the fourteenth century. Plaza architecture is interpreted as defensive. Discrete spatial clusters of pueblos are interpreted as evidence of distinct polities and hostility. A major indicator of conflict was the aggregation of small, unidirectionally designed pueblos into large, walled clusters with much greater distances separating the groups. The use of walled plazas itself as a defensive tactic was attested to by various Spanish explorers. Placing the clusters further apart reduced the competition for arable land.


Distinguishing features include coiled and scraped pottery. Round, then square, pithouses with ramp entry. Ceremonial structures lack sipapus.
Mogollon Sequence:
--Early Pithouse: 200 - 550 AD. High ground, lots of wild foods. Pottery: brown, then red slip, then painted.
--Late Pithouse: 550 - 1000 AD. Large sites near flood plains, more farming. Pottery: white slip, eventually B/W.
--Classic: 1000 - 1130/50 AD. pueblos and irrigation. Pottery: elaborate B/W, naturalistic and abstract designs. Classic Period was one of intensive farming of corn, beans and squash, water control features, bordered fields with ditches and terracess, low tech and labor intensive.
Mimbres area in 1100 AD had lots of riparian species and mesquite, and by 1150 mostly bushy plants. Trees had been cut. Villages of 50 - 200 rooms and field houses. Continuous occupation for hundreds of years. Clusters of rooms gradually expanded as population grows. Environmental degradation corresponds to growth. Organization: no apparent plan to villages, no hierarchy evidence, homogeneous architecture, rules of painting pottery. By 1150 the villages had been abandoned. Movement is an important aspect of desert adaptation. Residential stability results in local environment degradation. Non-sustainable.
Postclassic: 1150 - 1250. Reorganization in Rio Grande drainages. Continuity evidence is remodeling and additions, ceramics - classic Mimbres pots in use, radiocarbon dating is flat. Also new social relationships in evidence: new pots, new ceramic ware types, up to 8 vs. one. New technology added to plainware evidences some immigrations.

Comparison and contrast of the Mimbres Classic and Postclassic occupations.
Pottery -- Classic; 1000-1150, elaborate black on white, naturalistic and abstract pattern, homogeneous style with apparent rules of painting. Iconographic conventions include many rabbits, sheep, copulation, unusual animals, humans, masks, mesoamerican themes and plumed serpents. -- Postclassic; 1150 -1250, Classic Mimbres pots in use in Postclassic. Mimbres iconography discontinued. New technology added to plainware. A diverse variety of pottery types associated with different areas of the Southwest at Postclassic hamlets. Classic Mimbres iconography is continued after 1150. Reserve-Tularosa technological style imported.
Interpretation of the evidence: Ideology of conformity during the Classic. New technology indicates influx of some new people. Regional interaction increased post 1150 with greater social interaction and movement of people.
Settlement patterns -- Classic; pueblos, villages of 50 to 200 rooms and field houses. Hundreds of years of continuous occupation. Autonomous clusters of rooms with no apparent plan to villages and an amorphous plaza. Homogeneous architecture. Environmental degradation evidenced by deforestation, firewood evidence. Concentrated population in the Mimbres Valley with field houses. AD 1000 lots of riparian species and mesquite, 1150 AD mostly bushy plants. -- Postclassic; villages abandoned or heavily depopulated. Change from villages to small hamlets, remodeling and additions to Classic period field houses with transformation of jacal into masonry. Radiocarbon dating supports continuous occupation. Mimbres style architecture continues. Interpretation of the evidence: -- Classic; clustering of rooms indicates gradual expansion of population. no evidence of hierarchy, residential stability, residential stability was a non-sustainable subsistence pattern. -- Postclassic; remodeling of field houses indicates continuity, Flat radiocarbon date indicate continuity.
Agricultural practices -- Classic; irrigation systems were in use, water control features, bordered fields with ditched and terraces, low tech and labor intensive, intense farming of corn and beans. -- Postclassic; All hearths had cultigens, change from large scale irrigation systems to dispersed. Interpretation of the evidence: There was a degradation of the environment from long and continuous use. Cultigen evidence indicates same manner of subsistence, with change in areas farmed. General interpretation: Mimbres classical abandonment was actually a reorganization. Community and regional relations were redefined at a broader and less restrictive level.
Mimbres Classic period was marked by aggregated villages with several hundred inhabitants.
Postclassic saw population disbursement to small hamlets.
A breakdown in social structure, and land degradation could be reasons for abandonment of Classic villages. Classic period pottery has distinct and ubiquitous iconography. Iconography does not appear in Postclassic contexts. Therefore, social control/organization does not appear to exist, or weakens considerably, after 1150. There is a high ubiquity of cultigens in Mimbres Classic period hearths. There are cultigens found in 100% of all Post-classic hearths studied
Therefore, it would seem that Postclassic Mimbres are still cultivating at least as much as the Classic Mimbres.
Discussion: Ways in which the focus, or scale of observation, affect our understanding of prehistoric `abandonments' with reference to the Mimbres and Mesa Verde `abandonments.' Focusing only on a small area may give the impression that a region has been abandoned. The Mimbres valley may have been abandoned, but the Mimbres region evidences continuity of occupation. In this case a regional view is adequate to assess what really occurred. In the case of the Mesa Verde abandonment a much wider view is needed. The Mesa Verde populations did abandon the region and moved to the Rio Grande Valley, a movement of greater distance than the Mimbres. The Mesa Verde movement can be called an abandonment, the Mimbres is best viewed as a regional reorganization. A camera viewfinder is an excellent analogy because a number of push and pull factors may lead a population away from an area that they had historically occupied. In the camera example, a narrow focus of the camera would indicate that the area was abandoned and the inhabitants disappeared, when in fact they had just moved out of the view of the camera. In the case of the Mimbres, the population did not abandon the region, signaling the end of the Mimbres culture. Rather they disbursed to smaller hamlets to the east. If we do not expand our scale of observation it would be easy to assume that they had disappeared. The scale of observation needs to be larger for the Mesa Verde region. Its inhabitants moved all the way to the Rio Grande Valley 200 miles distant.

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Map of Arizona


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Map of the reservations and Four Corners 


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