Prologue: This segment provides a concise summary of the Ancestral Puebloans presence throughout parts of the Four Corners region. Many people, including older maps, such as the one opening this diary, refer to these people as the "Anasazi." This Navajo word, however, has since been outmoded. In a way, the background of the Ancestral Puebloan culture and legacy seems to mimic an earlier diary entitled "Colorado Plateau Human History." (http://www.dailykos.com/...) Yet this latest diary supplements that diary's overview. Therefore, the information is more entailed. My suggestion is to read both.
Given this particular diary, cultural scientists tells us part of what this broad subject entails continues into the present by way of the Puebloan tribal people who are the direct ancestors of the Ancestral Puebloans. Thus a continuum of an established culture, yet with innovative changes throughout the centuries. As mentioned in the previous diary (the title mentioned above), the timeline pertaining to both cultural phases are suggested dates only. This so-called Pecos Classification System outlines subsequent eras in the prehistoric history of the Four Corners region. The defining eras of this system are also based on key cultural advancements regarding their improvements and innovations. For instance, architecture, farming tools and larger pueblos to mention some, is the basis of Alfred Kidder's classification in the 1920s. The fact is there remain pivotal questions that will never fully answer about the Ancestral Puebloan culture, including the earliest transition into the Puebloan eras. For example, when did the Ancestral Puebloans first settle in parts of the Colorado Plateau, that is, as an agrarian-based society whose former nomadic ways entailed a hunter-gatherer society splintered into various communities? Another question is why did the majority of these prehistoric people depart centuries later in the semblance of a great diaspora? Was their departure contingent on an epic and prolonged drought, as many cultural scientists assume? Or were there other mitigating factors that drove these people from their dwellings and established cities of stone, leaving nearly everything behind?
By some accounts, the mass dispersal in the late 1300s suggests the people left everything behind because the land and personal possessions were cursed or contaminated. This idea, alone, is most intriguing. Possibly, its singular notion suggests something akin to a religious upheaval had one day entered the Ancestral Puebloan mindset on a community-wide basis. Isolated warfare in some communities broke out. There were even reputed acts of cannibalism that show the darker side of human nature had made its terrible mark. Did these people wage war on each other, that is, one community against the other? Was it something internal, such as competitive clans within the community that caused such a ruckus and dramatic change to a way of life? Or was the disruption caused by interlopers moving into the Ancestral Puebloan territory? What abut famine brought on by stress and disease among the people directly related to diminished water resources?
Whatever happened, and whomever was responsible for these drastic changes, something plainly had gone awry and upset an entire cultural balance. Ergo, a sustainable people, who had cultivated the land for well over one thousand years, literally came undone. Then most of the people had left empty handed.
Please note: Because there is no written record for these prehistoric people, the cultural map defining the Ancestral Puebloans of the Colorado Plateau consists of data generally believed to be reliable mixed with questionable theories. The details of the known and unknown are outlined below. Those who use any outline as a motive to wander and wonder back in time across the cultural map of these people must therefore rely on their own subjective reasoning regarding what can't be stated in an objective sense.
One other point I would like to mention is this: Compared to previous diaries photos to help enhance the text will be minimal in this diary, mainly because the previous human history diary provides the best photographs. Thus a diary worth visiting for such a display, if not the text itself. Step this way through a portal of time, this time going back many thousands of years. . .
(Continues after the fold.)
From Whence They Came: The historical timeline presented herein relies on dating archeological sites by such methods as radiocarbon dating commonly known as Carbon-14. This radiometric process is accurate to about 60,000 years. Thus any reference to prehistoric people and dating their archeological sites and artifacts is empirically reliable. Then again, with some primal cultures, such as the Ancestral Puebloans (hereafter, "Ancestors" will sometimes be used) who first entered the Southwest well over a thousand years ago, there is, again to state the obvious, no written record to say or suggest a positive fix on their presence as an emigrating society of people. For this reason, certain periods, like the Archaic, are sometimes classified differently by cultural scientists, especially on a global basis. For instance, the term Archaic was first coined in American archeological literature by William A. Ritchie (in 1920). To him, the term described the cultural materials, such as chipped stone tools, from an archeological site he had discovered in New York.
Later excavations comparing lithic materials similar to Ritchie’s site were also classified as belonging to the Archaic Era. Today, however, cultural scientists use this term to describe a temporal and cultural period that is different from the earlier Paleo-Indian period; also, contrasting evidence with more recent periods solely on stylistic differences in spear or arrow head types, among other artifacts and apparent changes in economic and cultural discoveries. Ritchie’s classification methods caught with his peers. He also measured three distinct Archaic periods: the Early Archaic (8,000 to 6,000 BCE; the Middle Archaic (6,000 to 3,000 BCE) and the Late Archaic (3,000 to 1,000 BCE). Each facet was also keyed to select archeological interests, such as the aforementioned styles of points, the structure design of dwellings and ceramic or basket ware vessels.
Despite this accepted classification used for American standards, other countries and ancient civilizations are usually dated differently. Even in America archeological camps fancying one general dating era, as figures, may be different from other archeological findings, as dates given. Thus it behooves one to keep an open mind when reading such dates.
Human Habitation On The North American Continent: Decades ago it was thought people occupied parts of North America anywhere from 7,000 to 9,000 years. These hunter-gatherers crossed what is now known as the Bering Strait. They came across in at least three major waves at different periods. Recently, the archeological timeline for these crossings was upgraded to four and possibly five. The previous estimates of human habitation on the continent are also not just dreamt up, because the dates are drawn from archeological sites and confirmed by Caron-14 dating. For example, a rounded pit dug for cooking reveals the archeological evidence paleo people built a fire and heated rocks to make a meal. Animals don’t do this; people do. Such basic archeological sites betray the presence of prehistoric nomadic people following game trails. The bones of the animals killed are also evidenced near these archeological sites. Who were these people? Where did they come from? We’re not altogether certain, but know what they were after. We also know there are similarities to all nomadic people throughout the world, as characteristics and cultural traits. What cultural scientists, including linguists, among other academic disciplines interested in the subject of ethnicity, wanted to discover was evidence based on tribal patterns traced back to a founding culture and race of people. In short, an attempt to fill-in the blanks on a greater cultural map dating back some 40,000 years (or more), starting on the other side of the Bering Strait, there in present-day Siberia, as well as other parts of Asia, even Europe and Africa. The premise for these investigations was how people who came to the Americas were all from other continents.
People who crossed either a land bridge or the icy waters of the Bering Strait began North America’s civilization as various tribal groups. The land-bridge crossings (see below) were also pursued by animals coming from the other side of the Strait to the North American continent. Where the animals went, the people followed. These Archaic people first set foot on present-day Alaska, then followed the game to present-day Canada. Eventually, these migrations turned south toward what would one day become North and South America, including Mesoamerica.
Starting with mastodons and wooly mammoths among other larger animals, these various transient groups must have numbered in the thousands. They were adept hunters and hunted their quarry to extinction. As time passed, the larger Clovis and Folsom points got smaller, because the animals that remained were smaller. Better tools for hunting, as well as hunting strategies, also gave the hunters the greater advantage. Over thousands of years of migrations by the hunter-gatherers, they finally arrived somewhere in the Southwest. There’s evidence they were in this part of North America at least 9,000-years-ago, and possibly even 11,000 years is more the case. However, evidence of human habitation in other parts of the continent reveals a much longer record (see below for more details).
"Where do we go from here?" (said one paleo traveler to the other). "Follow the game trails and toward the rising sun!" said the other. . .
The Beringia Crossings: Regarding the Bering Strait crossings, it’s now thought there were four or more migrations of people using this common gateway to the North American continent (and some scientists claim the only gateway to the continent). As noted, some of the crossings were dry which implies a land bridge connecting Asia and North America was exposed. The bridge was roughly 1,000 miles from north to south at its greatest extent, and joined present-day Alaska and Eastern Siberia at various times during the Pleistocene ice ages (2.5 million to 12,000 years ago). It’s estimated the bridge was up to 70 miles (112 km) wide on average. It was also not glaciated, because snowfall was extremely light due to the southwesterly winds from the Pacific Ocean bringing minimal moisture over the Alaska Range which was entirely glaciated. The grassland steppe, which includes the land bridge, that stretched for several hundred miles/kilometers into the continents on either side is typically called Beringia. Another notable aspect about the land bridge is why it existed. As far back as one million years, much of the planet’s water was absorbed in glacial ice to the point sea levels were periodically an average of 300 feet lower than today. Long-term cycles of glacial advances and retreats typical during this time regularly exposed a broad shelf of land. As the glaciers grew and water turned to ice, sea levels dropped as much as a few hundred feet and the shelf appeared at various times. These migrating creatures could only cross this region via the land bridge.Indeed, biogeographical evidence of more ancient connections (via the land bridge) reveal dinosaur fossils found on either side of Beringia, including the most fearsome creature among the lot––Tyrannosaurus rex.
Guess who's coming for dinner?
The Three Confirmed Crossings: Pursuers after the hoards of giant ground sloth, mammoths, wooly rhinoceros among many other Late Pleistocene Period animals, followed the game trails over the land bridge on at least two crossings. Known as the Clovis and Folsom cultures, these ancient hunter-gatherers of some 10,000 years ago can be classified as Amerind (for “American Indians”). From present-day Alaska, Canada, then south of the border (to America), the hunters fanned out. Eventually they migrated farther southward, leaving the frigid landscape of glaciers behind. There is evidence some of these hunting groups continued into what would be called Mesoamerica and South America, going as far south as Tierra del Fuego. Were these traveling groups the same people who were responsible for archeological sites going back at least 30,000 years, and possibly closer to 40,000 years? Most likely.
Today's view of the Strait from high above the clouds:
Tomorrow's planned method of crossing the strait (though far below its icy waters):
In time, another wave of people, also a dry crossing, entered the adjacent continent in pursuit of game. However, those dates are not as well known as the first wave. Some of these people also made it as far south as Tierra del Fuego. Generally classified as the Na-Dene, they initially lived in parts of Alaska and western Canada. Later, some of the groups broke off and migrated to the Pacific Northwest, then eventually into the Southwest. These would likely be the ancestral Dene, Apaches and Navajos.
Naturally, when the glaciers melted, seas rose and the land bridge disappeared under the water. Those humans that made the crossing denote the last wave and brought the ancestors of the Eskimos and the Aluets. It’s thought they were seafarers and came over the Bering Strait, again, once the land bridge disappeared and global sea and oceans returned to normal levels. In recent years, however, molecular genetic studies suggest a fourth migration from Asia; a smaller-scale and more contemporaneous migration from Europe. Possibly, these people resembled the Inuits and Yupiks during the last ice age. Thus the Inuit wave. This group of indigenous people settled in western, southwestern and south central Alaska, also the Russian Far East. They include the Central Alaskan Yup’ik people. They are what we call Eskimos and are related to the Inuit.
From the above general description it’s discernible how these three or four distinct crossings is how North America began its human and animal population; also, any genetic classification of Archaic-era people is based on archeological evidence that is also mitigated with a fair amount of speculation. Namely, how long these nomadic groups were here on the North American continent; also, when various tribal groups came and went. Another likely fact of these successive waves of migration is how these groups, large or small, of Amerinds (the broadly described present-day classification of Native Americans), Na-Dene and Inuits had similar physical characteristics. There were even similar linguistics fostered by certain groups. All these people throughout the historical record roamed into all parts of the Americas. What cultural scientists have sought throughout recent time was to group these numerous tribes into larger entities reflecting common geographic locales, along with linguistic similarities, and lifestyles. These researchers sought the ultimate origin of Native Americans, while most of Native American teachings hold that they, as a people, were born in America at the beginning of time. It follows they have continuously occupied their settlements. It follows how traditionally speaking these native people do not consider other alternatives for their presence in America.
Note: In the 19th and 20th centuries, there were new advancement about native origins. Singular names seemingly approaching a so-called New Age fad, like Atlantis (said to be anywhere from the Caribbean to the South Pole), Mu (somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean region) and Lemuria (somewhere in the Indian and Pacific Oceans). These were all legendary places where humans might have begun their sojourns around the globe. Thus the Mississippian culture, Cahokia, Meoamerica, Maya, Aztec, Inca, Zapotect, Toltec, Teotihuacan, Asmara and indigenous people of Brazil may have all originated from this trinity of lost continents. Despite such arguments for sunken or lost continents, the evidence supported by archaeological, linguistic and genetics runs contrary to such claims, that is so far.
Apart from such speculation, however outlandish or rational considering a reliable timeline (as land bridge or icy water crossings), the noteworthy aspect of archeological evidence is that it shows North America (and regions much farther south) have been occupied a lot longer than previously thought. Considering the dawn of homo sapiens which occurred in Africa between 60,000 to 80,000 years ago, evidence of modern man’s migration out of the African continent has been documented in Australia and Central Asia at 50,000 years, and in Europe for at least 40,000 years. The fact that humans could have been in North America at or near the same time has sparked a great deal of debate among cultural scientists, while also raising important new questions on the origin and migration of the human species. Nevertheless, recent Carbon-14 tests of carbonized plant remains where artifacts were unearthed last May (2009) along the Savannah River in South Carolina, indicate that the sediments containing these artifacts are at least 50,000 years old! These findings are significant and state that humans inhabited North America well before the last major ice age more than 20,000 years ago. Researchers say the 50,000-year figure should also be considered minimal, while ongoing investigations may reveal the continent was occupied for a lot longer.
Benchmark Dates: The following timeline breakdown is more complete compared to the previous Colorado Plateau Human History diary and its essential information. These dates of the timeline breakdown correlate with the major contributions of appearance by humans on the North American continent. As previously mentioned, the dates for these periods may also vary from source to source. The classification, however, is a reliable count (as an average timespan) sanctioned by the Pecos Classification. Its division of all known Ancestral Puebloan culture into chronological phases is based on changes in such things as art, pottery, architecture and other cultural artifacts. The original classification dates back to a 1927 archaeological conference held in Pecos, New Mexico by the American archaeologist Alfred V. Kidder. Originally, his system classified eight stages of Southwestern prehistory, yet did not specify dates. These divisions denote the following:
• BASKETMAKER I (Early Basketmaker)
• BASKETMAKER II (or Basketmaker)
• BASKETMAKER III (or Post-Basketmaker)
• PUEBLO I (or Proto-Pueblo)
• PUEBLO II
• PUEBLO III (or Great Pueblo)
• PUEBLO IV (or Proto-Historic)
• PUEBLO V (or Historic)
That generic system has been replaced with the following, and more detailed classification, complete with dates and an explanation of each era’s designation. The split into “Basketmaker” and “Pueblo” eras also serves as continuing basis for discussing the culture of the Ancestors who lived throughout the Four Corners region.
ARCHAIC ERA: (8th millennium BCE to 12th Century BCE)
The hunter-gatherer nomads that migrated into, what would one day become the American Southwest are referred to as the “Archaic” people. There is little evidence for extensive habitation before 8000 BCE (Before Common Era); however it’s likely these people were already in place well before this assumed timeline. We know they were nomadic people who traveled in small bands; they gathered plants and other natural edibles, like berries and nuts; and they hunted game with stone-tipped spears, atlatls and darts. After the larger animals were driven into extinction by Clovis and Folsom people, this later culture of hunters pursued deer and antelope, bighorn sheep and a variety of smaller creatures, such as rabbits, foxes and wolves.
Note: The original classification hypothesized a Basketmaker I Era. However, it was subsequently discredited by cultural scientists for a lack of physical evidence, and then included into the Archaic Era. This was sometimes referred to as the Oshara Tradition (from around 5500 BCE to 600 CE) which signifies a trend toward sedentary lifestyle with small-scale cultivation beginning around 1,000 BCE, centered in the San Juan Basin and the Rio Grande Valley in central New Mexico. It’s thought the Oshara people have ancestral roots in earlier Paleo-Indian culture, yet the debate on this matter remains speculative.
EARLY BASKETMAKER II Era: 1200 BCE to 50 CE
During this time the nomads camped in the open, or perhaps in caves on a seasonal basis. They began to cultivate gardens, and possibly larger fields of maize, also squash. They used manos and metates (pronounced mah-ta-tays) to grind the corn. They also made baskets, but there was no pottery. At this time, beans were still not cultivated.
LATE BASKETMAKER II Era: 50 to 500 CE
Because these people had decidedly turned agrarian, they constructed shallow pit-house dwellings. Crude storage bins and cists are also among their cultural advances. Likely, they figured out how to reroute water to their fields and gardens. There is also the grassroots of religion emerging, around which shamanistic cults were formed. Petroglyphs and other rock art also suggest there was ceremonial structure. Groups of these people appear to be linked into larger-scale networks, possibly for decision making, and certainly to keep the individual groups tied into one Ancestors theme (as a new and advancing culture experiencing many changes over time).
BASKETMAKER III Era: 500 to 750 CE
Pit-house dwellings are now deeper and more developed, including above ground roomblocks (composed of clusters of compounds). The bow and arrow replaces the atlatl and spear. Pottery appears, both plain bisque and painted black-on-white designs. It’s also likely a cruder form of pottery was previously discovered, such as lining baskets for waterproofing, or even keeping the woven material from burning when hot coals were added to heat water. Cultivation of beans also begins, which completes the traditional three sister crops of the Ancestors (maize, squash and beans). Trade with other tribes from central America has begun. Cooking in pottery vessels permanently changes the diet and preference of the people. Evidence that protein-rich wild amaranth and piñon pine nuts were also common staples added to the Ancestors diet. People may have domesticated turkeys, though it’s not known if these creatures, which signify the largest bird species in that region, were eaten or desired for their feathers. Likely, both scenarios were favored. Another advance was seen in ceremonial chambers, the kivas. They were large, rounded and subterranean, each with the symbolic sipapuni (a Hopi word in origin, and sometimes called "sipapu") denoting the underground, or entrance, from one world to the next, and thus symbolic of emergence).
PUEBLO I Era: 750 to 900 CE
Villages grow in population. A tighter social integration is the norm. So are more complicated agricultural systems, such as check dams and reservoirs. Year-round occupation in settlements begins. In the larger villages Great Kivas appear, though pit-houses with rooms and storage bins remain in use. Above ground construction also undergoes modification, using jacal or crude masonry. Plain gray bisque predominates pottery design, though some red bisque and pottery decorated in black and white is more common.
PUEBLO II Era: 900 to 1150 CE
Although dwellings constructed at Chaco Canyon date back to sometime during the 800s, by 1050, Chaco is a major regional center. Approximately 1,500 to 5,000 (or more) people occupy its high desert landscape. It’s truly a unique setting in that Chaco is surrounded by what can be considered standardized planned towns. These so-called Great Houses were built from the wood of over an estimated 200,000 trees along with stone materials. Thirty-foot-wide roads (on average), flanked by berms, radiate from Chaco Canyon, each vectoring off in various directions. Small blocks of above ground masonry roomblocks and a kiva make up a typical pueblo in the complex. Great Kivas grow to 50-70 feet in diameter. Pottery vessels have also undergone a great deal of change, and consist of corrugated gray bisque and decorated black-on-white. There are some vessels decorated red and orange and likely acquired by trading. Included in the trade network are a variety of sea shells and turquoise, possibly a very prized commodity of trade among the village people. Notably, during the 1100s the rank and file of Chaco’s inhabitants swells compared to the decline of population noted toward the end of this era. There is no known reason for the decline, however. Perhaps a more intensified agricultural effort producing higher yields had something to do with it. Terracing and irrigation were also common during this period.
PUEBLO III Era: 1150 to 1350 CE
By this time, Ancestors settlements mainly consist of larger pueblos, also something new in the way of housing: cliff dwellings. Round and square towers and turkey pens are equally common sites. Most prehistoric communities throughout the Four Corners region are also experiencing a drastic change of climate, as drought. Periods of short-duration dry conditions prevail, only to be replaced by decent wet cycles, then back to dry. By 1279, which seems to be an agreed upon fixed date for the beginning of what is commonly called the Great Drought, is at least one catalyst for the people to abandon their settlements; that is, most Ancestors depart the Four Corners region, never to return. Also disappearing during this time are the Hohokam people who lived to the south of the Colorado Plateau.
PUEBLO IV Era: 1350 to 1600 CE
The assumption of the Great Drought lasting one hundred years, and possibly even longer, is not proven. Neither did all the Ancestors vacate the Four Corners region. For example, the Hopis claimed their oldest village, which is also said to be the oldest continually inhabited village in North America (since around the 1100s), was occupied during this period. Other places, like Acoma Pueblo, near present-day Grants, New Mexico, and pockets of Mimbres people (related to the Mogollon) also remained. However, the majority of the Ancestors emigrated to (mostly) the Rio Grande Valley southeast of Cortez, Colorado which is one of the highest developed settlement regions for all Puebloans.
Typically, during this Puebloan period large pueblos are built and centered on a main plaza. Socially, it’s also a period of more conflict than cooperation. Then again, before the final blow of the telling and Great Drought it’s thought social unrest was already in place. If there was interference by warfaring, either by outsiders or elements of Ancestors culture during this time, then social unrest and stress had a lengthy head start in the downgrading of their society. Possibly, too, some unknown religious reason was behind the mass emigration (or diaspora if you will). What we do know beyond such speculation is that Kachinas appear for the first time during this new Puebloan era. Plain pottery also supplants corrugated. Red, orange and yellow pottery is on the rise as black-on-white declines. Cotton, the latest valued trade item, is introduced and grown as a commodity. The people during this time of rebuilding, and one might even say a new emergence of their culture and change, are now classified by cultural scientists as The Puebloans. They are the successors of the Ancestors, still the same people, yet a modified culture and tradition is duly noted. They are also joined by other cultures, who more than likely previously lived in parts of the Four Corners region. These people represent the Great Basin Culture and its many tribal people.
Note: The Great Basin people roamed between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada range, in what is now Nevada, also parts of Oregon, California, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. There is archeological evidence these people arrived as early as 10,000 BCE, albeit other Numic-speaking Shoshonean people are considered relatively more recent arrivals (possibly as late as 1000 CE). Cultural scientists use the terms “Desert Archaic,” and sometimes “The Desert Culture” when referring to this culture that was simultaneous to the Ancestors before and after their arrival on the Colorado Plateau. Paiutes, Utes, Bannock, Comanche, along with the aforementioned Shoshone made up the various tribes that entered the Four Corners region at different times, whose settlements are more defined sometime after the Great Drought cycle altered to a more auspicious climate. Following them, two tribal groups originating from Athabaskan people, found their way to the desert-canyon and mountainous country of the Southwest. These were the Navajo and Apache people. It’s thought they migrated from the north and arrived well before the first Europeans––Spaniards––arrived from the south in 1540. Possibly, 1510 to 1520 might serve as a timeline for these new interlopers. Then again, there are claims by either group they were here long before this established benchmark. Thus, 1400 might be closer to the truth.
PUEBLO V Era: 1600 to the Present
Apart from Great Basin tribal settlements in parts of the Four Corners region, there were many other tribal people who moved into the Southwest, and stayed. For instance, the Navajo and Apaches. Hispanic people, from what would one day be called Mexico, and Spaniards who claimed Mexico and dubbed it New Spain, were the next people who settled here. They were later joined by the New Americans, starting with the encroachment of mountain men and trappers (during the early 19th Century), and later followed by Mormons. The U. S. Army was also in place by the mid-19th Century, and settlers and ranchers and other colonies of people weren’t too far behind. The railroads, industries of all kinds, and of course military campaigns that set out to claim the western territory (as held by Mexico, Spain, the British and the French) seemed to happen in a blink of time. Wars were fought and won by the Native Americans, the Hispanics and Anglos, though eventually the East got what it came for: final settlement. Native Americans ended up living on the Indian lands, called reservations, and Hispanics made up the trinity of the three cultures and races inhabiting the Southwest. That story is told elsewhere throughout this text. However, as the Pecos Classifications refers to the prehistoric to historic to modern day indigenous people of the Southwest, the Ancestors eventually become known as the twenty-one individual Puebloan tribes who mostly occupy different sectors of New Mexico.
And so America's tribal people came to flourish throughout a continent, each staking out a turf until other interlopers came along and changed the course of tribal history:
Miscellaneous: Previously mentioned were the curious fashioned objects called split-twig figurines. These archaic icons are in the shape of either a deer or a bighorn sheep. They were made by shaping and wrapping two halves of a split willow twig into the likeness of either animal. They’re found across Nevada, parts of Utah, and in the Grand Canyon north of the Colorado River.
Strikingly similar to images seen in Archaic petroglyphs, these figurines are diagnostic of Lake Archaic culture. Usually found in dry caves, they are of varying dimensions, but most are palm-sized. They may have been charms used in pre-hunting rituals. By the time the Archaic Period was transcended by the Basketmaker eras the people of this later period were practically jogging in their cultural advances compared to the Archaic culture’s crawl across time. Maize was a big part of this change, and growing it was what changed a hunter-gatherer and nomadic society into something more agrarian and settled. Corn, beans, and squash have also been under cultivation in the Valley of Mexico for at least 9,000 years. However, it wasn’t until sometime around 3,500 three years ago that people moving northward out of the Mexican highlands brought corn into the Southwest. By 3,000 years it was being grown locally on the Colorado Plateau; also, south of the Colorado River. By 2,500 years corn had appeared in the Grand Canyon region and then onto the present-day Arizona Strip (the northern rim territory). From there this preferred crop traveled northward into Utah. Corn essentially changed everything in the Ancestors culture especially. Such alterations to a pattern of life established over centuries (an agrarian lifestyle intended to plant corn) is also a cultural feat that’s not made casually. Other vital repercussions of the Ancestors developing culture and society are simply numerous. Nutrition, social fabric, spiritual foods, and the routine of countless daily tasks all helped accommodate the new order that comes with village life and dependence on corn. Vast trade networks were established, and no doubt there was competition among the people. Individual groups maintained their cultural ties to other groups, though it’s thought each group had its own traditions added to the mainstay cultural traditions that connected these people spread throughout the Four Corners region.
Along with advancing decorative art forms in their pottery, new designs in jewelry, the intermarriage of people from one cultural group with another, and new designs for villages, including cliff house dwellings, were all part of the cultural process. Great Houses and kivas represented the new order of community life and religious ceremonies of the Ancestors culture. The people were headed for a new homeland, while advancing their culture and ties. They accomplished this by various implements that keep them on the forefront of the passing and changing eras that began some 8,000-years-ago, as a fledgling group of people who eventually ended up settled in the Four Corners region, and whose archeological ruins today, most of which still survive, and remind us of their enduring presence.
Cultural Distinctions: Archaeological cultural units such as the Ancestors, Hohokam, Patayan or Mogollon are used to define material culture similarities and differences that may identify prehistoric socio-cultural units, equivalent to modern societies representing a variety of distinct cultures. The names and divisions are classification devices based on theoretical perspectives, analytical methods and data available at the time of analysis and publication. They are subject to change based on new information and discoveries. It should not be assumed that an archaeological division or culture unit corresponds to a particular language group or to a sociopolitical entity such as a tribe.
When making use of modern cultural divisions in the American Southwest, it is important to comprehend that current terms and conventions have three significant limitations:
1) Archaeological research focuses on key items left behind during people’s activities. For instance, fragments of pottery vessels, garbage, human remains, evidence left from the construction of dwellings, and stone tools (spears, darts, arrow points, knife blades, punchers, scrapers, awls, gravers, and a variety of other utilitarian items). However, many other aspects of the culture of prehistoric peoples are not tangible. Their beliefs and behavior are difficult to decipher from physical materials. Their languages also remain unknown based on the fact they had no known writing system. At best, there may be glyphs representing some cultural identity and meaning.
2) Cultural divisions are tools of the modern cultural scientist and should not be considered similar to divisions or relationships ancient people may have recognized. Modern cultures in this region, many of whom claim some of these prehistoric people as ancestors, contain a striking range of diversity in lifestyles, social organization, language and religious beliefs. This suggests there ancestral people were also more diverse than their material remains may suggest.
3) The modern term style has a bearing on how material items such as pottery or architecture can be interpreted. Within a culture, different means to accomplish the same goal can be adopted by subsets of the larger group. Some cultural differences may be based on linear traditions, on teaching from one generation or school to another. Other varieties in style may have distinguished between arbitrary groups within a culture, perhaps defining status, gender, clan or guild affiliation, religious belief or cultural alliances. Variations may also reflect the different resources available in a given time or area.
Proviso: Defining cultural groups, such as the Ancestral Puebloans, tends to create an image of territories separated by clear-cut boundaries. Such boundaries simply did not exist. Prehistoric people traded, worshipped, collaborated and fought most often with other nearby groups. Cultural differences should therefore be understood as a gradual change in a trait or in the frequency of a trait within a species or a classification of people over a geographical area. In short, cultural differences as they apply to increasing gradually as the distance separating groups also increases. Departures from the expected pattern may occur because of unidentified social or political situations or because of geographic barriers. In the Southwest, mountain ranges, rivers and, most obviously, chasms like the Grand Canyon can be significant barriers for human communities, likely reducing the frequency of contact with other groups. Current opinion holds that the closer cultural similarity between the Mogollon living to the south of the Colorado Plateau and Ancestors and their greater differences from the Hohokam and Patayan is due to both the geography and the variety of climate zones in the Southwest.
And so, DKos community, we come to the end of another trail, another armchair tour or another special supplement. I trust you learned a thing or two from the spiel. There’ll be other places to tour and other supplemental topics to explore, so stay tuned for more in this series. I also enjoy composing these diaries for the community (which keeps the “educator” in me proactive).
As always, your thoughtful commentaries are welcomed.
This diary especially dedicated to the history and culture of the Native Americans:
P. S. In case you haven’t read any or some of the other diary-missives posted on this site, here is a current list you might be interested in reading.
Colorado Plateau Human History:
Zion Canyon (Hiking the Subway):
Zion Canyon NP:
Bryce Canyon NP:
The Art of Backpacking:
George Steck Vintage Glen Canyon film:
A Companion Narration (for George Steck film):
Monument Valley Tribal Park:
The Lost Atlantis (Glen Canyon):