137 posts · 123,016 views
A blog discussing a variety of subjects related to Chaco Canyon, the prehistoric American Southwest, and their complex connections to the world today.
In 1527 an expedition led by the Spanish nobleman Pánfilo de Narváez left Spain with the intention of conquering and colonizing Florida. Accompanying the expedition as treasurer was Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who ended up being one of a handful of survivors of the disastrous expedition. Cabeza de Vaca later wrote an account of [...]... Read more »
Epstein, J. (1991) Cabeza de Vaca and the Sixteenth-Century Copper Trade in Northern Mexico. American Antiquity, 56(3), 474. DOI: 10.2307/280896
Sometime in the early 1950s a wooden object was dredged from the mouth of the Skagit River, north of Seattle. It ended up in the possession of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Johnson, residents of the nearby town of La Conner. In 1952 the Johnsons showed it to two local archaeologists, Herbert Taylor of Western Washington [...]... Read more »
I’ve written a lot here recently about the Athapaskan migration(s) into the Southwest. It’s a very interesting topic in a lot of ways. I find it especially fascinating because although the evidence that it happened is very strong, nothing else about it can be easily determined. We know that at least one migration of Athapaskan-speakers [...]... Read more »
Moodie, D., Catchpole, A., & Abel, K. (1992) Northern Athapaskan Oral Traditions and the White River Volcano. Ethnohistory, 39(2), 148. DOI: 10.2307/482391
With increasing evidence for Mesoamerican influence at Chaco in recent years, it’s worth taking a close look at what was going on in Mesoamerica itself during the Chacoan era. As I’ve mentioned before, there is some reason to believe that the most likely area to look to for direct influence in the Southwest is West Mexico, [...]... Read more »
The same special issue of the journal World Archaeology that I was discussing in the previous post has an article looking specifically at the relationship between linguistic and archaeological evidence in the study of the prehistory of North America. It is by M. Dale Kinkade and J. V. Powell, two linguists who specialized in the languages [...]... Read more »
Regardless of exactly how many people lived at Cahokia, it’s clear from recent research that the population of the site and its immediately surrounding area grew immensely in a short period of time in the eleventh century AD. As Timothy Pauketat points out in the 2003 article that I was discussing earlier, the scale of [...]... Read more »
Lynott, M., Neff, H., Price, J., Cogswell, J., & Glascock, M. (2000) Inferences about Prehistoric Ceramics and People in Southeast Missouri: Results of Ceramic Compositional Analysis. American Antiquity, 65(1), 103. DOI: 10.2307/2694810
Pauketat, T. (2003) Resettled Farmers and the Making of a Mississippian Polity. American Antiquity, 68(1), 39. DOI: 10.2307/3557032
I recently finished reading Living the Sky: The Cosmos of the American Indian by Ray Williamson. This is a classic work on the archaeoastronomy of North America, and it’s the best introduction to the subject I’ve found. (Granted, there aren’t many out there.) Although it was written in the 1980s, the research it discusses is […]... Read more »
In November of 1793 a British naval expedition commanded by Captain George Vancouver arrived at the small Spanish settlement of Santa Barbara on the coast of California. Vancouver’s primary mission was to explore and map the poorly understood northwest coast of North America, building on the more preliminary information provided earlier by Captain James Cook. [...]... Read more »
Heizer, R. (1938) An Inquiry into the Status of the Santa Barbara Spear-Thrower. American Antiquity, 4(2), 137. DOI: 10.2307/275985
Read, C. (1892) An Account of a Collection of Ethnographical Specimens Formed During Vancouver's Voyage in the Pacific Ocean, 1790-1795. The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 99. DOI: 10.2307/2842277
Atlatl weights are the most widespread attachments to atlatls that are durable enough to survive in conditions where the wooden parts decay, but they’re not the only attachments known to have been used. Another type of attachment, of more obvious function though of much more limited range, is the “hook” or “spur” near the back [...]... Read more »
In discussing a recent paper using stable-isotope techniques to evaluate subsistence in the Southwest during the Basketmaker period, I mentioned that one of the control samples used for contextual comparisons of the Basketmaker results came from Chaco Canyon great house burials. I don’t know how on earth the Utah-based researchers managed to get permission to [...]... Read more »
Coltrain, J., Janetski, J., & Carlyle, S. (2007) The Stable- and Radio-Isotope Chemistry of Western Basketmaker Burials: Implications for Early Puebloan Diets and Origins. American Antiquity, 72(2), 301. DOI: 10.2307/40035815
I’ve said quite a lot about atlatls, so perhaps it’s time to move on to the second part of this series. The bow and arrow is a sufficiently popular weapon system even today that it doesn’t need much introduction. It’s important to note, however, that most archaeologists have concluded that the bow and arrow is [...]... Read more »
Okay, I said I would say more about George Pepper’s description of the effigy vessels from Chaco, so here goes. One interesting thing that he notes is that these are the northernmost examples of human effigy vessels found in the Southwest. I believe this is still the case over a hundred years later; in general, [...]... Read more »
VanPool, C. (2003) The Shaman-Priests of the Casas Grandes Region, Chihuahua, Mexico. American Antiquity, 68(4), 696-717. DOI: 10.2307/3557068
VanPool, C., & VanPool, T. (2006) Gender in Middle Range Societies: A Case Study in Casas Grandes Iconography. American Antiquity, 71(1), 53-75. DOI: 10.2307/40035321
In my earlier post about Stephen Hall‘s recent paper reporting on maize pollen at Chaco Canyon dating as early as 2500 BC, I said briefly that this really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s been following this kind of research closely, and also that I would discuss the context for it later. Basically, the context [...]... Read more »
Merrill, W., Hard, R., Mabry, J., Fritz, G., Adams, K., Roney, J., & MacWilliams, A. (2009) The diffusion of maize to the southwestern United States and its impact. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(50), 21019-21026. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0906075106
Simmons, A. (1986) New Evidence for the Early Use of Cultigens in the American Southwest. American Antiquity, 51(1), 73. DOI: 10.2307/280395
I’ve recently been discussing stable isotope analysis as a way to directly determine dietary practices from skeletal evidence, and that is certainly a powerful tool in learning about past societies, but there are some drawbacks to it. Like all complicated laboratory procedures, it’s expensive, and it has the additional problem of being destructive. If it’s [...]... Read more »
Schollmeyer, K., & II, C. (2004) Dental Caries, Prehistoric Diet, and the Pithouse-to-Pueblo Transition in Southwestern Colorado. American Antiquity, 69(3), 569. DOI: 10.2307/4128407
Mississippian societies are known for their mounds, but there’s more to them than that even if you just look at community layout at the largest centers. One of the most distinctive characteristics of Mississippian mound centers is that the mounds at the biggest centers are typically grouped very formally around a central plaza. Historic [...]... Read more »
The paper I discussed earlier about evidence that corn was imported to Chaco was interesting, but while it provided important information about the poorly understood “Mesa Verdean” period after the fall of the Chaco system it didn’t address the question of food imports during the operation of that system. This has been a topic of [...]... Read more »
BENSON, L., STEIN, J., & TAYLOR, H. (2009) Possible sources of archaeological maize found in Chaco Canyon and Aztec Ruin, New Mexico. Journal of Archaeological Science, 36(2), 387-407. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2008.09.023
Wupatki is a very dry place even by the standards of the Southwest, with annual precipitation averaging about 8 inches. Human habitation in such an arid landscape is therefore highly dependent on capturing as much available moisture as possible. It appears that the prehistoric inhabitants took advantage of the volcanic ash laid down over the [...]... Read more »
As I’ve discussed before, the patterns of use and importation of chipped stone at Chaco are somewhat puzzling. Unlike many other commodities, such as wood, corn, and pottery, which were imported from specific distant locations within the Chacoan sphere of influence in astonishing quantities during the height of Chaco’s regional power, chipped stone seems to [...]... Read more »
Duff, Andrew I., Moss, Jeremy M., Windes, Thomas C., Kantner, John, & Shackley, M. Steven. (2012) Patterning in procurement of obsidian in Chaco Canyon and in Chaco-era communities in New Mexico as revealed by X-ray fluorescence. Journal of Archaeological Science, 39(9), 2995-3007. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2012.04.032
One of the most notable examples of an assemblage of highly mutilated human remains from the Southwest being attributed to witchcraft execution rather than cannibalism, in accordance with J. Andrew Darling’s theory discussed in the previous post, is Ram Mesa, southwest of Chaco Canyon near Gallup, NM. This site was excavated by the University of [...]... Read more »
Ogilvie, M., & Hilton, C. (2000) Ritualized violence in the prehistoric American Southwest. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 10(1), 27-48. DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-1212(200001/02)10:13.0.CO;2-M
One hundred years ago today, one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in recorded history took place in southwestern Alaska. The volcano, known as Novarupta, is located in what is now Katmai National Park, which was established in 1918 as a direct result of the eruption and its effects on the landscape. As a result, this [...]... Read more »
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