Southwestern Archaeology Studies Culture

A brief Overview


Southwestern archaeologists classify their subject by combining the concepts of culture area, culture period, cultural identity, material culture trait lists and economic behavior.

For example, Mesa Verde is a place but it also is recognized, when it was flourishing, as having influence over a region — i.e. a culture area. The Archaic or Paleolithic or the Refugee Period are examples of cultural eras or phases. Navajo or Hopi or Ute or Hispanic are cultural identities. Defining Basketmaker II as the dolichocephalic head form, formal burial practices, agricultural, atlatl-using, non-pottery making stage is an example of a trait list classification. And, refering to people as hunter-gatherers or sedentary agriculturalists are classifications based on economic behavior.

It is helpful to realize from the start that experts do not agree on classification and none of us are consistent in applying our terms.

What we offer in the following pages is a general outline of cultural geography for the northeastern portion of the Southwestern cultural region - a view from the upper San Juan Basin and nearby regions.

The unit on Culture Areas defines the Southwest Culture Area as a whole and discusses some of the theoretical issues associated with defining culture areas. Be sure an look at the section on historic maps to see how the region has changed over time.

The unit on Origins contrasts Native American accounts of their origins with the migration myths popular among anthropologists and Western Historians. The Native American accounts can be found in the ethnology texts section of this website.

The unit on the Paleolithic era talks about the major sites, technologies and theories associated with this phase. People often assume that older cultures are less technologically advanced. However the Paleolithic tool kit required a higher degree of technical expertise and is more finely crafted than the tools used by the people who came later. Societies do not alway progress over time.

The unit on the Archaic discusses the long baseline - an adaptation that lasted for thousands of years in the region.

The units on Pueblo, Ute, Apache, and Navajo take each of these groups and provide an overview of their archaeological presence in the region.

The unit on the Historic Period includes full text of several treaties between various tribes and the US as well as the text of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848 which gave recognition to existing land claims of SW tribes.

See also Cultural History from Farmington BLM Proposed RMP/Final EIS

Culture Area
Navajo Reservoir
San Juan Basin
Rio Grande/Jemez
1863-present Reservation Navajo Reservation Navajo US Territorial
1770-1863 Cabezon Cabezon Mexican/Santa Fe Trail Cabezon
1650s-1770 Gobernador Gobernador Post Pueblo Revolt Gobernador
1540-1650s Dinétah Dinétah Pueblo Revolt
Contact Colonial
1400-1540 Classic Pueblo IV
1100-1400 PIII McElmo/Mesa Verde PIII Coalition Pueblo III Largo-Gallina
900-1100 Arboles PII Bonito PII Late Developmental Pueblo II
700-900 Rosa Piedra PI White Mound PI Early Developmental Pueblo I
500-700 Sambrito BM III La Plata BM III Alameda BM III
100-400 Los Pino BM II Basketmaker II Rio Rancho BM II
BC800-AD100 En Medio En Medio
1800-800 Armijo Armijo
3200-1800 San Jose San Jose
4800-3200 Bajada Bajada
5500-4800 Jay Jay
10000-5500 Paleo Paleo Paleo Paleo

Recent work in Dinetah pushes the beginning of the Dinetah phase back - at least to 1500.

Based on oral history from Jemez, there should probably be a proto-Navajo Apachean period from 1100 to ~1500 A.D.







Cultural Studies


Cultural Geography

Culture Areas