Thursday, April 5, 2012

Regional Site Surveys: Southwest

Stokes, Robert J. Roth, Barbra J. Mobility, Sedentism, and Settement Patterns in Transitiom: The Late Pithouse Period in the Sapillo Valley, New Mexico. Journal of Field Archaeology 26(4): 423-434.

            In this article, Stokes and Roth discuss the ways in which Native groups of the Southwestern United States and Mexico relied on both sedentary and mobile ways of life as a means to sustain their numbers in the climate. They focus on the Late Pithouse period, which also encompasses the later Classic (Pueblo) period discussed in class. During the beginning of the period, the groups in the areas were generally smaller and scattered along bodies of water, i.e. rivers and streams. This makes logical sense considering the arid climate in which they were living. Though maize did seem to be an important part of the diet at the time, evidence shows that the majority of the sustenance came from wild, non-domesticated foods. This shows that many of the groups were relatively mobile, as their means of survival were not always located in areas close to theirs.

 Later in the period, many artifacts, including ground stone tools, found in the upper Sapillo Valley show that more groups transitioned into a more sedentary way of life, due to their proximity to the Sapillo Creek and Gila River. The survey conducted in the Sapillo Valley in 1993 shows that the frequency at which the site was visited during the Late Pithouse and Classic periods increased and that the groups that had moved their had taken advantage of the climate to produce enough food to sustain themselves for long periods of time. It also shows that these visits to the site were seasonal and that the groups involved were very efficient in both agriculture and gatherer methods of survival. This is shown in large part by the artifact found during the survey, the number possibly exceeding 50,000. In the Roberts Vista Site, evidence shows that both maize agriculture and large game hunting were both very prevalent means of survival for these groups.

Motsinger, Thomas N. 1998. Hohokam Roads at Snaketown, Arizona. Journal of Field Archaeology 25(1): 89-96

            In this article, Motsinger presents more current data on the prehistoric roads going to and from Snaketown, the Hohokam village, and that data’s affect on the field of Hohokam archaeology.  He begins by giving his definition between trials and roads. Saying that he considers the “difference between roads and trials to be a matter of relative formality.” With road essentially being trails that that were formally constructed while trails are a “byproduct of repeated use.” When the site of Snaketown was originally surveyed, many of the trails radiating from the town were shown to connect to a region known as the Phoenix Basin. This connection displaying a relatively developed trade network. This is shown by the fact that some of the trails show signs of having been formally constructed, not only making them roads, by Motsingers definition, but also that they were of such importance to the groups living in the area that they were in need of being created.

This same type of road construction is seen in the Gila Butte Site, located about 5.5 kilometers southeast of Snaketown. This could possible show a canal that may have been used at the time, or a road system that was established by the Chacoan tribes living in the area at the time. As roads at the time were generally maintained by sweeping aside any debris, there have been many artifacts found on either side of these roads. These show that, though Snaketown itself may not be overflowing with artifacts, they were in fact moved to and from the area. This establishes a system of cultural importance to the area.


  1. Snygg, John and Tom Windes.
    1998 Long, Wide Roads and Great Kiva Roofs. Kiva 64: 7-25.

    I was intrigued to read why Motsinger believes the roads were built at Snaketown. I wonder how the size and straightness of the roads at Snaketown compare with those found at Chaco Canyon, the site I wrote my annotated bibliography on. At Chaco, the roads are seemingly unnecessarily wide (up to 12 m in some places), abundant, and very straight. Snygg believes the straightness and wideness was constructed into roads in order to move large timbers into Chaco for the roofs of the Great Kivas. It does not seem trade can explain the wideness and straightness of the roads - so straight that they go over features that would be easier to go around - but trade could be one of the reasons the roads were constructed in the first place.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Barlow, Renee K.
    2002 Predicting Maize Agriculture among the Fremont: An Economic Comparison of Farming and Foraging in American Southwest, American Antiquity, vol. 67, No. 1:65-88.

    It is interesting that your authors for the “Mobility, Sedentism, and Settlement Patterns in Transition: The Late Pithouse Period in the Sapillo Valley, New Mexico” article suggest that the Puebloian people used hunting and maize production. In my Barlow article the author discusses the possibility that maize domestication and foraging happened at the same time. She believes that the evidence suggests that even though the people were switching to maize as a primary food source, it was not instantaneous. She believes that it was a slow transition and that hunting and foraging also supplemented their diet. It seems that both of our articles were published around the same time so it is nice to see some archaeologists in agreement.

  4. The Stokes and Roth article you read found similar trends as my research on lithic tools in the Southwest. In one of the articles I read about stone tools in the Southwest, archaeologists reviewed lithic artifacts to determine possible mobility in the region (Nelson, 1994). While the author was unable to determine based off the tools found the degree of mobility, he did come to the same conclusion as Stokes and Roth; there was an increase in lithic cores found that showed evidence of being more situational, which implies that the people were more sedentary. Both of these articles show similar trends of mobility in similar time periods, though the Stokes and Roth article concerns Sapillo Valley, and the Nelson article concerns Cedar Mesa.

    Nelson, Reid J.
    1994 Basketmaker II Lithic Technology and Mobility Patterns on Cedar Mesa, Southeast Utah, Kiva, 60(2):277-288.