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Brief & Provisional
Chronology of Southwestern Archaeology

Note: Insofar as possible, this chronology follows the Pecos Classification of 1927, which is still used as the most general standard of reference for Southwestern archaeology, despite its round-number dates and a slight misfit (sometimes up to a century) with some regions. It works better for the Anasazi than for other peoples. Accordingly separate lists are given at the end for Fremont, Hohokam, and Mogollon.

Table of Contents

(Chaco Canyon Anasazi Rock Art)

Anasazi Periods:

Non-Anasazi Peoples:

Fremont (Utah), Hohokam (Arizona), Mogollon (AZ, NM, Chihuaha), Sinagua (Arizona).

Other Materials:

Sources for this chronology

Anasazi Periods

Whenever to 6500 BC = Paleo-Indian Period

The Term: This term is used for the earliest phases of human occupation in North America. The opening date of the period is in theory fixed by whatever the earliest evidence of human occupation is. This continues to be pushed earlier and is an object of continuing disagreement because of the ambiguity of most of the earliest evidence. (Click here for a frivolous poem on the subject. Click here for a discussion of the Beringia routes from Asia to North America.)
Traits: Small foraging bands; open sites; spear hunting.

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6500 BC to 1200 BC = Basketmaker I (BM1 early) (= Desert Archaic Period)

Dating: The term BM1 is no longer used. It was originally proposed for all pre-agricultural human societies of the Southwest. The term "Desert Archaic" now covers the societies that existed after the end of the era of big game hunting at the end of the Paleo-Indian period. Recent dates extend the Late Desert Archaic to about 200 BC.
Traits: Small foraging bands; open sites; spear hunting.

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1200 BC to AD 1 = Basketmaker I (BM1 late)

Dating: Some recent authors prefer to extend this period to AD 50. Most writers regard this as an early phase of BM2, since there is little abrupt transition between this and the following phase. The term "Late [Desert] Archaic," extending from about 2000 BC to AD 200 or so, is preferred by some scholars as a more accurate division of time.
New traits: Seasonal use of cave sites; burial; rock art; first corn and squash (no beans) grown.
Other Areas:

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AD 1 to 500 = Basketmaker II (BM2)

Dating: Authors who regard the previous period as an early phase of BM2 label this phase BM2 (late)." Authors who end the previous phase at AD 50 begin this phase at that date. Since some authors use the term "Post-Basketmaker" for BM3, they use the term "Basketmaker" without a number for BM2 (and "Archaic" for BM1).
New traits: Shallow pithouses; storage cists, atlatls, excellent baskets.
Other Areas:

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500 to 700 = Basketmaker III (BM3)

Dating: Because of the appearance of some pottery, some authors refer to this as the "Modified Basketmaker" or "Post-Basketmaker" period. Some see it extending until AD 750.
New traits: Established villages with deep pithouses or slab houses.; bow & arrow; beans grown. Rock art occurs, including the first representation of Kokopelli.
Ceramics: Plain pottery (and small amounts of black-on-white pottery), although developed as early as 200, becomes more abundant.
Other Areas:

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700 to 900 = Pueblo I (P1)

Dating: Some authors see this period beginning about 750. Some call it "Proto-Pueblo." Because of the relatively unclear transition between P1 and P2, some authors merge them under the name "Early Pueblo."
New traits: Some large villages, "unit pueblos," built of masonry above-ground (although often with associated pithouse chambers), containing room divisions of jacal or masonry; great kivas; basket working declines; cotton used for cloth; cradleboard comes into use among the Anasazi; cranial deformation.
Ceramics: Plain & neck-banded gray pottery and some black-on-white and decorated red pottery.
Other Areas:

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900 to 1100 = Pueblo II (P2)

Dating: Some authors would move the P2-P3 division to AD 1150.
New traits: Chacoan florescence; great ("apartment") houses, great kivas; roads in some regions; "unit pueblos" made up of one kiva plus a surface masonry room; small villages extending over large areas. Virtually all dwelling units are now above ground, the pithouse form, developed into a kiva, being largely or exclusively ritual in character. Substantial regional differentiation.
Ceramics: Corrugated gray and decorated black-on-white pottery; decorated red (or orange) pottery in some regions. (Corrugations are more than decorative; they provide a greater heating surface and allow faster heating of the contents over fire.)
Other Areas:

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1100 to 1300 = Pueblo III (P3) ("Great Pueblo Period")

Dating: Some authors move the dates of this period fifty years later. Because of the great hiatus at about 1200, it makes sense to divide P3 into early and late periods, and some writers do so.
New traits: Large, multi-storied pueblos & cliff dwellings; towers; craft specialization; artistic production, but period of decline in the latter half of the 11th century. Mesa Verde & Hovenweep are major sites during this period.
Ceramics: Plain gray cooking ware gradually predominates as corrugated ware goes out of production. Black on white decorative ware is widespread. Two ways of making black paint occur at the beginning already in BM3. The New Mexico tradition was mineral based, usually using iron oxide. In northern Arizona carbon based black was produced from vegetable matter. Between about 1050 and 1200 vegetable colors came to predominate throughout central Anasazi territory. Ramos Polychrome, probably originating at Casas Grandes, is widely traded around that site and apparently made at other Chihuahua sites.
Other Areas:

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1300 to 1600 = Pueblo IV (P4)

New traits: Large pueblos centered around plazas; Katchina cult. Ten to fifteen-fold increase in the ratio of rooms to kivas suggests significant social changes. Great kivas disappear.
Ceramics: Corrugated gray ware disappears; black-on-white ware becomes less common (and limited largely to the northern Rio Grande) than red, orange, and yellow types.
Other Areas:

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1600 to present = Pueblo V (P5) (Historic Period)

Dating: This period technically begins with the first Spanish contact in the Southwest.
Ceramics: Navajo Gobernador Polychrome, apparently inspired by Pueblo polychrome. Four Mile pottery, probably derived from Kayenta types, appears in association with the katchina cult.
New traits: Katchina cult, and associated material manifestations (mostly not preserved in archaeological sites), including representations of katchinas in kiva murals. Simultaneous widespread use of enclosed plazas, rectancular kivas, and stone griddles.
Other Areas:

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Dates for the Fremont Region

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Dates for the Hohokam Region
(Southeastern Arizona)

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Dates for the Mogollon ("moggy-YON") Region
(Soutwestern Arizona, Southern New Mexico, Northern Chihuahua)

Dating: More than one scheme of periodization seems to be in use for the Mogollon. The first given here comes from the chapter in your textbook this quarter.
Ceramics: Mogollon ceramics broadly contrast with the Anasazi ceramics up till about 1000 in being brownish, sometimes with red paint; after about 1000 ceramics are more likely to be finished with white slip, decorated with red or later black paint. The Mimbres period ceramics are generally the most elaborately decorated of prehistoric America.

First Breakdown:

Second Breakdown:

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Dates for the Sinagua ("seen-AH-wah") Region
(Central Arizona)

Note: Sinagua sites are found in an area ranging from Wupatki National Monument NE of Flagstaff, along a line to the southwest through Tuzigoot and Montezuma's Castle National Monuments on the Verde River to the SW of Flagstaff. Much of the history of settlement in this area is tied to the human consequences of an eruption at Sunset Crater in 1064 in the north and of a prolongued drought in the XIIIth century. In general the southern area was better suited to human habitation over a longer period, and proved to be a magnet for migration in difficult times.

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1979 Prehistoric Indians: their cultures, ruins, artifacts and rock art. Salt Lake City: Wasatch Publishers. Pp. 97-98.
1984 Prehistory of the southwest. San Diego: Academic Press. Pp. 55-119.
1994 Ancient Pueblo Peoples. Montreal: St. Remy Press.
1996 In search of the old ones: exploring the Anasazi world of the southwest. New York: Simon & Schuster. P. 243.
Various Park Service brochures.

Department of Irrelevant Diversions: A Frivolous Poem


I'll say it now, I'll say it oft:
I do believe in Meadowcroft.
I don't believe Ventana Cave,
Has ever housed a single brave.

I credit not the Harris Site,
The Manus Site, the Shriver Site,
The Levi Site, the Lamp Spring Site, the Dutton Site.
(I'm trying, though, with all my might!)

I am no pal of El Cedral,
El Bosque, Ayachuco, or Santa Lucia,
Of Pacaicasa, or Santa Maria;
Valsequillo, Santa Rosa, Rio Uruguay:
There's nothing here that I can buy!

Wilson Butte I don't find cute.
Calico's undignified;
Yuma Man I've cast aside,
and Santa Cruz I've vilified.

Today Del Mar Man's in disgrace
And Tlapacoya's just a place.
"They came by land." "They came by sea."
They came from space for all of me!

But Meadowcroft's a different case.
At Meadowcroft they've found the trace.
That Indians didn't come from space,
For Pennsylvania's now the place.

I'll say it now, I'll say it oft:
I do believe in Meadowcroft.

At Bluefish Cave in Yukon Land
There's twenty-thousand-year-old sand
In which there's also older stuff
Which still is really not enough,

At Monte Verde down in Chile
They found remains of something silly;
I don't recall now just quite what,
I've doubts about it surely, but

I'll say it now, I'll say it oft:
I do believe in Meadowcroft.

At Tuley Springs they found a pyre
Which wasn't really made by fire
Just geofacts and mud: a fake
And never used for mammoth steak.

At Pedra Farata we are told
The French found stuff extremely old.
Four dozen centuries is long;
Since it's in French; we know it's wrong.

Yet I'll say it now, I'll say it oft:
I do believe in Meadowcroft.

D.K. Jordan, 1993-05-15

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