A brief Chronology of the South West


D.K. Jordan

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.

 

Anasazi Periods:

Paleo-Indian (? BC – 6500 BC)

Basketmaker I (6500 BC – AD 1)

Basketmaker II (AD 1 – 500)

Basketmaker III (500-700)

Pueblo I (700-900)

Pueblo II (900-1100)

Pueblo III (1100-1300)

Pueblo IV (1300-1600)

Pueblo V (1600-2000)

Non-Anasazi Peoples:

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

Other Materials: Sources for this chronology

Picture: Chaco Canyon Anasazi Rock Art

 

Anasazi Period

 

Whenever to 6500 BC = Paleo-Indian Period

Dating: 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.)

Traits: Small foraging bands; open sites; spear hunting.

•300,000 A Siberian artifact find announced early in 1997 may be this early, although hitherto nothing has been found in Siberia earlier than about 28,000 BC. It would presumably have been created by a pre-modern Human species that did not migrate to the New World, but suggests that modern humans could have lived in Siberia at any later time and could have crossed to the New World whenever conditions were right for the occupation of Beringia.

•40,000+ Pendejo Cave (S NM)”Orogrande” materials

•38,000-34,000, 30,000-15,000 The presence of land corridors from Beringia allows the possibility of human passage, but convincing evidence is still wanting.

•33,000-15,000 Radiocarbon dates from controversial finds in Sandía Cave (C NM) (contaminated by scandals concerning possible fraud)

•9730 Human remains found on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska in 1996 suggest early adaptations here and in Beringia may have been coastal.

•9500-9000 Paleo-Indian “Clovis” (E NM) points used in mammoth hunting

•8000 Paleo-Indian “Folsom” (NE NM) points used in bison hunting

•7300 Skeleton found in 1996 on Columbia River (WA) shows physical characteristics of European populations; material removed from study by order of local tribe.

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.

•6500 Substantial drying effectively removes large animals as a significant source of meat in the Southwest.

•6000-4000 Early Archaic; pine-juniper woodlands on Colorado Plateau; distinctive notching of points; small manos & metates; some rock art may date to this period.

•4000-2000 Middle Archaic; larger metates; possible abandonment of Colorado Plateau, perhaps due to Altithermal climate change; increased sites in Mogollon highalnds.

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” dated 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.

•2000 BC – AD 200 Late Archaic

Other Areas:

•300 BC – AD 550 Pioneer Hohokam

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:

•200-650 Georgetown Mogollon

•400-1000 Fremont Great Salt Lake Region, Bear River Phase

•300 BC – AD 550 Pioneer Hohokam

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.

•550-600 BM3 communities throughout Colorado Plateau, although of widely different sizes

Other Areas:

•200-650 Georgetown Mogollon

•400-1000 Fremont Great Salt Lake Region, Bear River Phase

•500-900 Colonial Hohokam

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.

•850-1000 Early Bonito Phase at Chaco Canyon brings first multistory great houses. “Red Mesa” black-on-white pottery is associated with it.

Other Areas:

•400-1000 Fremont Great Salt Lake Region, Bear River Phase

•500-900 Colonial Hohokam

•650-900 San Francisco Mogollon

•700-1200 Fremont San Rafael Region (no phases differentiated)

•780-1260 Fremont Sevier Region (no phases differentiated)

•pre-800 Fremont Unita Region, Cub Creek Phase

•800-950 Fremont Unita Region Whiterocks Phase

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.)

•850-1000 Early Bonito Phase at Chaco Canyon brings first multistory great houses. “Red Mesa” black-on-white pottery is associated with it.

•1000-1100 Classic Bonito Phase at Chaco Canyon includes enlargement of older structures and new great houses, as well as addition of great kivas. Although “Red Mesa”pottery continues, “Gallup”black-on-white appears. This period appears to have been relatively damp at Chaco and conducive to agricultural surpluses.

•1045-1080 Particularly favorable agricultural conditions at Chaco

•1064 Eruptions of Sunset Crater begin, setting off a series of population movements in the Sinagua area.

Other Areas:

•400-1000 Fremont Great Salt Lake Region, Bear River Phase

•700-1200 Fremont San Rafael Region (no phases differentiated)

•780-1260 Fremont Sevier Region (no phases differentiated)

•900-1050 Fremont Parawan Region Summit Phase

•900-1100 Sedentary Hohokam

•900-1100 Three Circle Mogollon

•1000-1350 Fremont Great Salt Lake Levee Phase

•1050-1300 Fremont Parawan Region Paragonah Phase

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.

•1075-1130 Antelope House (Canyon de Chelly) occupied

•1100-1130 Relatively wet period at Chaco, probably leading to agricultural surpluses.

•1100-1150 McElmo (Late Bonito) Phase at Chaco Canyon sees more compact great houses and room subdivision in older structures; stone work and pottery both suggest northern influence. Distinguishing pottery style is black painted “Chaco-McElmo” black-on-white. After 1130 or so Chacoan buildings begin to resemble the Mesa Verde tradition.

1130-1180 Serious drought causes abandonment of outlying areas & end of the “Chaco Phenomenon.”

•1150-1250 “Post-Chaco Era” at Chaco involves movement of great kivas outside the room block areas, decline of other kiva building

•1200 Pueblo Bonito and other Great Houses abandoned at Chaco

•1250-1285 Sand Canyon Pueblo occupied

•1200-1300 Period of general decline. Abandonment of great pueblos and much of the surrounding area, especially in the San Juan area; extensive movement of refugees and others. Chaco Canyon thinly populated, apparently by people with strong northern San Juan affiliations.

•1250-1300 “Big House” period in the Chaco area as other sites than Chaco itself continue to create large buildings

•1250-1300 So-called Tsegi phase in the Kayenta region.

•Kiet Siel occupied in Kayenta region, with an influx of population in the 1270s; some Mesa Verde style traits suggest stronger association with Mesa Verde than is exhibited at Betatakin.

•1267-1290 Betatakin occupied near Kiet Siel in Kayenta region

1276-1299 Great drought probably linked to some abandonments. (But Tsegi Canyon Kayenta sites and Hopi Mesas occupied through this period.)

•1280-1300 Rapid spread of Southwest Regional Cult, apparently initiated by Kayenta Anasazi emigrants joining Mogollon populations in central Arizona.

•1300 Abandonment of Four Corners area; population increase further south in Rio Grande & Little Colorado regions and Hopi mesas.

•The extraordinary abandonment of this region and (apparently) southward migration is difficult to interpret. Drought almost certainly played a role, but in recent years archaeologists have tended to suspect that it could not have been the whole explanation. For one thing, earlier droughts did not have a similar effect. For another, unicausal explanations are inherently suspect. Additional factors proposed have ranged from slight shifts in temperature to the attractiveness of the southern Katchina cults or social strife between settlements. On the whole, none of these scenarios has been convincing enough to attract widespread expert support. Whatever else was happening, only extreme archaeological fashion-mongering would cause one to ignore drought as at least a major factor.

Other Areas:

•700-1200 Fremont San Rafael Region (no phases differentiated)

•780-1260 Fremont Sevier Region (no phases differentiated)

•1000-1350 Fremont Great Salt Lake Levee Phase

•1050-1300 Fremont Parawan Region Paragonah Phase

•1100-1450 Classic Hohokam

•1100-1500 Mimbres Mogollon

•1250-1350 Casas Grandes (Chihuahua) a major Mogollon site, probably the center of large trading system.

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.

•1300 Abandonment of Four Corners area; population increase further south in Rio Grande & Little Colorado regions and Hopi mesas.

•1325-1425 Comparatively ample average rainfall, but great variation from year to year

•1300-1600 Appearance and consolidation of the Katchina cult

1425 Drought

•1450-1550 Migration of Navajo and Apache into the Southwest from the north. Both were Athabascan-speaking foraging groups, unrelated to the Pueblos.

•1500 Navajo and Apache

•Earliest archaeological evidence of Navajo presence in Upper San Juan area, apparently living in temporary shelters, but raising corn and producing grey ceramic ware. Apache entered the area about the same time as Navajo.

Other Areas:

•1521 Cortez conquers the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City)

•1539 Spanish scout killed at Zuñi, the earliest Spanish contact with Pueblo peoples

•1540-42 Expedition of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado explores Pueblo region

•1598 Spanish capital established by Juan de Oñate at San Gabriel del Yunge, near San Juan Pueblo

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.

•1610 Spanish capital moved to Santa Fe

•1673 Apache raid destroys Hawikuh, near Zuñi Pueblo

•1680 (August 10) Pueblo Revolt; Spanish flee south of El Paso; many eastern Pueblos and Navajos flee, fearing reprisals, seeking refuge at Ácoma, Zuñi, and in the Hopi villages.

•1690-1780 Close relations between Navajo & Pueblo groups.

•1692-1693 Spanish Reconquest of NM (completed about 1696)

•The Anasazi appear to have been ancestral to the modern Hopi and other Pueblo peoples.

•1830-today uneasy relations among Navajos, Pueblos, and Apaches.

Dates for the Fremont Region
(Utah)

•400-1000 Fremont Great Salt Lake Region, Bear River Phase

•700-1200 Fremont San Rafael Region (no phases differentiated)

•780-1260 Fremont Sevier Region (no phases differentiated)

•pre-800 Fremont Unita Region, Cub Creek Phase

•800-950 Fremont Unita Region Whiterocks Phase

•900-1050 Fremont Parawan Region Summit Phase

•1000-1350 Fremont Great Salt Lake Levee Phase

•1050-1300 Fremont Parawan Region Paragonah Phase

•The Fremont may have been ancestral to the modern Ute and Shoshone peoples.

 

Dates for the Hohokam Region
(Southeastern Arizona)

•? -300 BC Cochise Pre-Hohokam Tradition

•300 BC – AD 550 Pioneer Hohokam

•500-900 Colonial Hohokam

•900-1100 Sedentary Hohokam

•1100-1450 Classic Hohokam

•The Hohokam may have been ancestral to the modern Piwa people.

 

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:

•200-550 Early Pithouse Mogollon

•Settlements often on ridges or mesa tops, evidently for defensive reasons; circular pithouses; pottery generally unpainted brown ware; hunting more important than in Anasazi areas.

•550-1000 Late Pithouse Mogollon

•Settlements on valley floors as well as higher areas, generally closer to farmland and water sources. Ceramics feature red slip or red paint on brown background.

•1100-1500 Mimbres Mogollon

•1000-1150 Mimbres Classic Period

•Shift from pit houses to above-ground pueblos with contiguous blocks of rooms arranged around open plazas (as at Casas Grandes in Chihuahua); clay vessels in black-on-white stile, probably inspired by Anasazi ware; substantial population increase and expansion into agriculturally more marginal areas.

•1250-1350 Casas Grandes (Chihuahua) a major Mogollon site, probably the center of large trading system.

•1275-1400 Continued population increase in Grasshopper region, possibly incorporating Anasazi “refugee” populations.

•The Mogollon appear to have been ancestral to the modern Hopi and Zuñi peoples.

Second Breakdown:

•200-650 Georgetown Mogollon

•650-900 San Francisco Mogollon

•900-1100 Three Circle Mogollon

•1100-1500 Mimbres Mogollon

 

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 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.

1064 Eruption of Sunset Crater

•The volcano devastates thin population in surrounding area, but in most areas the volcanic gravel eventually results in better moisture holding qualities for the soil, increasing agricultural potential.

•1100-1200 “Land rush”

•Improvement in moisture holding ability of the soil around Sunset Crater caused by the volcanic gravel attracts people into this region from a number of regions, apparently including hill peoples who come to be known as Sinagua as well as Hohokam, Mogollon, and Anasazi people in unclear proportions, although the Hohokam elements seems especially prominent, by about 1070 or so.

•1120 Wupatki founded

•1125 Tuzigoot founded

•1215-1299 Increasingly severe drought, especially in the north of the area, forces populations southward.

•1250 major flow of northerners migrating south increases population in southern Sinagua sites

•1250 Wupatki finally abandoned after some decades of low settlement.

1276-1299 Great drought. Winds cause desiccation and drifting of a mix of dust and volcanic sand. Dust bowl conditions prevail over much of the Sinagua area.

•1300-1450 Montezuma Castle & Well area a major center of occupation

•Population peaks about 1325 at the Castle, after which consolidation seems to occur largely around the Well area. Both sites are interpreted as defensive locations, and it is assumed that inter-group conflict over access to water and food may have grown severe by 1400 or so.

•1400 Tuzigoot abandoned (reason for abandonment unknown)

•1583 Antonio Espejo visits Tuzigoot ruins. Yavapai people camped in general area

Last modified: 980507

Jordan’s main web page.

Exit to Map of Southwestern area

Sources:

BARNES, F.A. & Michaelene PENDLETON

1979 Prehistoric Indians: their cultures, ruins, artifacts and rock art. Salt Lake City: Wasatch Publishers. Pp. 97-98.

CORDELL, Linda S.

1984 Prehistory of the southwest. San Diego: Academic Press. Pp. 55-119.

1994 Ancient Pueblo Peoples. Montreal: St. Remy Press.

ROBERTS, David

1996 In search of the old ones: exploring the Anasazi world of the southwest. New York: Simon & Schuster. P. 243.

Various Park Service brochures.