OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895

Founded 24, January 1895

Meeting # 1775

March 5, 2009

4:00 P.M.



By Edgar Lose

Fascinated by the allure of the ancient Southwest, the author has sought to learn about the decline of the early cultures that spawned the Southwest Tradition.

Though other cultures existed in the area, this paper focuses on three: Mogollon, Hohokam, and the Anasazi and their main predecessors.  Many archaeologists agree that these three were the most influential in developing the Southwest golden age.

To give insight into these early cultures, the paper briefly examines the Prehistoric Indian Period; the hunter-gatherer life style of the Clovis, Folsom, and Cody times.  Following these Paleo-Indian traits comes the Archaic Indian Period; one that is marked by population growth, plentiful food, and a growing geographical domain, greatly influenced by contact with itinerant traders from Mesoamerica. Gradually a transition occurs identified by a more sedentary, agricultural life style. With these beginning steps, the cultural complexity that would later mark developments in the Southwest becomes possible.

The paper describes each of the cultures with some details about their lifestyles and accomplishments.  Most impressive are the technological advances in architecture, artistic expression in ceramics, water systems in agriculture, and trade networks. Just as these cultures begin to peak, a combination of environmental forces brings an almost simultaneous decline that archaeologists term “the abandonment.” The author concludes with his opinions of the possible causes responsible for this disappearance of people from their homelands.

Whatever the reasons, by the 1450’s, when the Spanish explorers pushed their way into the region, the deserts were quiet with a scarce population of Indians. The days of the teeming southwest cultures were gone!




Some years ago when visiting The Mesa Verde prehistoric ruins, a park ranger told our tour group that in the late 1300’s the Anasazi Indian inhabitants began to abandon the cliff dwellings. Since that visit to Mesa Verde, I’ve learned that other Indian cultures in the Southwest began to fade away and lose their identity.

Seeking answers to the fate of these desert dwellers enticed me to read more about the early Indians of the Southwest. The geographical region of this time included most of what is now Arizona, New Mexico, parts of California, Colorado, Utah, and a large part of northern Mexico.




Edgar F. Losee was born in Houston, Texas, in 1930.  His family moved to Monrovia, California, when Ed was six years old.  He was graduated from Monrovia-Arcadia-Duarte High School (known today as Monrovia High School).  In his senior year, he was elected Student Body President, Boys State representative, and selected as All-League guard in football.

He attended the University of Redlands for two years before enlisting in the United States Air Force.  His four years of service included action in the Korean War as a gunner on a B-29 bomber, and later as a boom operator doing air-refueling on a KC-97.

Following his discharge, he returned to Redlands, married Bonnie Chambers, and completed his work for a B. A. degree at the same university. 
Upon his graduation he was hired by the Redlands Unified School District. Mr. Losee served the Redlands Unified School District for thirty-two years as a teacher, principal, and curriculum coordinator, completing his career as Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.

After the death of his wife Bonnie, he remarried.  He and his second wife, Bettie, have eight children between them; four are his and four are hers. Ed and Bettie enjoy retirement, for it provides many opportunities to pursue his hobbies of gardening, reading, golf, and travel.

Since retirement, Ed has served in many organizations which make Redlands such a special place to live.  His many contributions to the community include service to the Advisory Board of the Redlands Community Symphony; Family Service Board; Kimberly Crest Board; Advisory Committee of the Assistance League; and the San Bernardino Adult Correctional Advisory Council.  He is a member of the Redlands Country Club and a member of the Redlands Fortnightly Club. Ed Losee has been a resident of radiant Redlands for fifty-six years.





The people in the Southwest were known by many cultural names, but the Mogollon, Hohokam, and the Anasazi cultures were the best organized and widespread. Though other local cultures existed in the area, archaeologists do not agree on their names or even the existence of some of the groups. To give a better insight into these early Southwest Indian cultures, it seems helpful to start at a time archaeologists refer to as the Prehistoric Indian Period and use a sequence of names or numbered periods used by historians.

The Southwest geographical area around 9500 B.C. to 8500 B.C. was vastly different from what we know today. It was a large region with lush grassland and herds of large grazing animals. It was the animals that lured the prehistoric Indians – the Paleo-Indian Hunters. These hunters apparently drifted into the Southwest from the mid-continental prairies. They have been named for the locations of their cultural remains:

  • Clovis, New Mexico
  • Folsom, New Mexico
  • Cody, New Mexico and  Colorado

The earliest hunters were identified as the Clovis culture, after remains found near the town of Clovis in the eastern part of New Mexico. Other than their basic quest for food and their tools―especially sharp fluted spears and knifes―little is known about these early people. Apparently, once established, they returned year after year to the same area. These Paleo-Indians lived in caves and under rock overhangs. They wore little clothing except for some furs or hides. Fire was used to cook, keep warm, and to protect themselves. These first Indians also were gatherers of plants, seeds, and berries. For two-thousand years, the Clovis Hunter’s way of life was followed by other Indians using the same hunter-gatherer life style.

The Folsom culture followed, named after the Folsom site in New Mexico. At that site archaeologists found weapons and stone cutting tools along with bison bones that helped identify the time period of this culture. It was during the Folsom time span that the Indians began to use a spear-throwing device called atlatl. This tool was made from a two-to-four foot stick. Hide loops were added for a better grip, and a weight was added for balance. A groove in the stick held the spear shaft. With this weapon the hunters had increased leverage for flying a spear farther and faster. It provided some compensation for the size and strength difference between the hunter and hunted.

Following the Folsom Times, from about 6500 to 6000 B.C, the final period of the Paleo-Indian hunters was identified as the Cody. The Cody hunters, who roamed New Mexico and Southern Colorado are associated with a number of implements such as triangular knives, choppers, and scrapers. It is suggested that the existence of a greater variety of tools than the other two cultures indicates advancements to meet special needs. Apparently these hunters also became very proficient in dispatching their quarries by driving them over a cliff.

The Paleo-Indian period evolved into the Archaic Indian period.* There was a transitional time that began about 8000B.C. and lasted 3000 years. The climate warmed, and the great glaciers retreated. The changing climate probably contributed to the extinction of the big game animals along with the Indians becoming more skilled hunters. The melting ice created lakes, rivers and swamps. The Ice Age became the Watershed Age. North America gradually evolved to its present form by approximately 5000 B.C

The new Archaic Indians exploited a wide variety of land resources and utilized areas that had been unimportant to the Paleo-Indian. Their diet was more varied than in the past leading to the development of a number of implements such as the stone chopping block, along with scraping and cutting tools―all aids to food preparation. They also learned to weave plant materials into clothing and baskets.

The first complex of Archaic Indian traits that transitioned from the Paleo-Indians of the Cody culture is found in the Southwest. It is labeled Cochise because of its concentration in southeastern Arizona. The Cochise were apparently so successful in adjusting to the varied and hospitable environment that over the centuries the population grew. Growth is substantiated by hundreds of sites littered with debris.


*Please remember all dates are general. Exact dates cannot apply because the knowledge about early Indians keeps growing.


These archaeological sites, dating from around 3000 B.C. to 100 A.D., extended over Northern Mexico through what is now Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Colorado, and Utah. The widely-spread groups of hunter-gatherers finally underwent a life-style change to a more sedentary existence. The main reason for the change from the nomadic life was the introduction and later reliance on farming. A plant that would later become a food staple was maize or corn. Corn’s importance was so great that this dietary supplement gradually brought about a move to permanent settlements.

There is little doubt that the changes were made possible by the introduction of agriculture and technologies brought by itinerants from Mesoamerica. The term Mesoamerica, or Middle America, refers to the highly developed civilizations of the Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec, who had well-organized societies and cities. The southwest prehistory shows its dependency upon the advanced cultures from Mesoamerica in many ways. This new pattern of agriculture―farming―perhaps was brought about by the itinerant influences of people from Mexico, as well as the coast of California, and the plains. This soil-based revolution occurred shortly after 3000 B.C. The result was the emergence of a distinctive Southwest lifestyle.  

As the emerging lifestyle of the Archaic Indians developed, many improvements and adaptations of methods, tools, and other implements were made.  They began to weave seeds and grasses into clothing and baskets. They came up with new methods of food preparation. Baskets and hide containers were used to store food. Boats were constructed for transportation and animals were domesticated. During this period the Archaic Indians designed an assortment of ornaments and religious objects. Their religious rituals became more elaborate and more ceremonial than their predecessors,

The increased dependence upon agriculture called for more permanent residences. With the growth of population came more social controls. More leisure time, unrelated to food production, promoted the adoption of new technologies. With the addition of more time for creativity in daily living, people were able to use that time for aesthetic expression in forms such as basketry and pottery-making. In farming there was an apparent need and appreciation for team work and cooperation. Validation of all this data has come from scholars who have been involved in well over 150 years of research, in what is regarded as the Southwest tradition. A multitude of ruins have been examined and excavated. The remains of human residue have been studied intently, classified, measured, and compared.

Tribal member relatives have been interviewed regarding the attributes of their ancestors. From these efforts has come the realization that cultures, which arose in the Southwest, were varied even through they shared common roots.

Thus were the beginning steps of the cultural complexity that would underlie later developments in the Southwest.  The fundamental reorientation was made possible from the slow diffusion of methods and ideas from Mesoamerica. Both the Mogollon and the Anasazi evolved from the Archaic base while the Hohokam origin remains controversial.  It is the belief that the original stock of the Hohokam came from the Mexican interior.

While there were other cultures in the Southwest, the focus of this paper is on the Mogallon culture, the Hohokam culture, and the Anasazi culture. From about 100 B.C. to A.D. 1350, these cultures thrived in the Southwest.

The map that follows shows the approximate boundaries of the three cultures. Note the number of rivers that flowed through the region.




First is the culture known as the Mogallon (mo-goi-yone) that flourished about 300 B.C. to 1300 A.D. in the central highlands. It is a culture that is rather hard to define; many generations of archaeologists have disputed the attributes of Mogollon achievements with those of the Anasazi. You can define the southwest history emphasizing cultural differences, yet that tends to give the impression each group evolved individually and in isolation. Today scholars explain the records by attributing deviations in the cultures to the adjustment to environmental changes and the exchanges among the people. With the Mogollon and the Anasazi both evolving from the Archaic hunter-gathers into cultures with a focus on agriculture and village life, there was a culture fusion. Yet the fusion that archaeologists dispute is which parts were existing culture and which were new achievements from outside influences.

From about A.D. 650 to 850 the Mogollon remained content with the status quo. With an increase in numbers they moved from the heights to build in the valleys near their expanding fields. Population and villages continued to grow in ratio to their farming abilities.

Over the centuries many Archaic peoples adopted certain traits, the utmost being farming, and communal living. But the Mogollon took their achievements to a higher level. Around A.D. 250 the Mogollon hunter-gathers of southwestern New Mexico began to add maize to their diet. Growing corn enabled them to have a more sedentary life style. Evidence of this life style change was the appearance of large villages. The houses were usually round, but some were quadrangular. The walls and roof were made of logs with mud daubed in the cracks. The pit-houses were often built on promontories or near mountain streams that provided some defense. The pit-house was well suited for the warm climate, as being under ground provided the necessary insulation. The largest pit houses or kivas served as religious and social structures. 

Another indication of the new non-migratory way of life was the appearance of pottery. The early pottery was earthware which was red or brown in color. Over the next hundred years, the brown bowls were decorated with intricate designs. For a century modifications were few, but a few artisans experimented with banding the necks of jars and polishing bowl interiors to create two-color pottery. The most amazing was the appearance of a stunning black-on-white ware with designs of animals on geometric lines. This pottery came from a subgroup of the Mogollon Culture called the Mimbres, who lived on the Mimbres River in southern New Mexico. The pottery exhibited skillful brush work creating precise geometric patterns. It was the natural depiction of animals and mythical composite figures that made this attractive pottery unmatched elsewhere in the Southwest. Details on the progressive changes in Mogollon pottery illustrate how archaeologists could use pottery and pottery shards to piece together ancient life styles in their research. By the late 1300’s, the people in the large towns of the central highlands began leaving. But total abandonment did not occur until A.D. 1450.



The next group of people known as the Hohokam Culture thrived from about 100 B.C. to A.D. 1500.  Hohokam in the Pima language means the “vanished ones”. These North American Indians occupied the land in what is now southern Arizona. While the origins of the culture are somewhat controversial, it is believed they migrated northward from the Mexican interior. Archaeologists estimate that the Hohokam population peaked in the 1200’s numbering over 20,000.

The Hohokam settled in the flat, broad lands suitable for farming. Over a period of time they created an efficient, lengthy network of canals and wells. The canals extended from the Salt and Gila Rivers to their farm land. The Hohokam Indians developed a remarkable irrigation system in a torrid homeland. With this agricultural engineering feat, their water systems enabled them to survive in a harsh, arid environment. Adjacent to the farmlands, these Indians built small pole, brush, and mud homes.  Their earliest homes were almost square and appeared to have been occupied by extended families. The roofs were flat with walls made of poles covered with brush or grass. Corn, squash, and beans were grown in their fields. In addition to farming, the Indians continued to gather wild cactus, fruit, and berries, and to hunt to supplement their diet.

Hohokam artistry was evident using two different materials; shells and clay. Using shells they fashioned a number of utilitarian and ornamental objects. Their creative talents were revealed in the varied uses of shells which were obtained from trade with the people from the Pacific Coast and the Gulf of California. The Hohokam Indians were resourceful and established a thriving trade with their neighbors, both the Mogollon and Anasazi.
The second material reflecting their artistry was clay. Bowls, coil pots, jars, and buff-colored utensils decorated with red designs were characteristic of their culture. Red-on-buff pottery continued for years, however, animal motifs and figurines were added for variety. The ceramic figures formed often depicted the human female. Human figurines were crafted along with polished bowls, often inset with shell ornaments. Many ceramics displayed geometric panels and interlocking designs. As well as figurines, mosaic plaques were found in buried caches. One type of mosaic plaque of interest was made of mirrors, using reflective iron pyrites. Such plaques give evidence of on-going trade with Mexico. Metate and manos for crushing corn and beans were basic equipment. Chipped arrowheads point to the use of the bow and arrow for hunting.

From about 500 to 1000 A.D. the Hohokam expanded their territory to the north and west. Many artifacts found suggest a continued contact with the
Mesoamerica Cultures. Two architectural examples are: sunken ball courts almost identical to the courts in Mexico, and a platform-mound with a flat-topped elevation, upon which ritualistic activities could be performed. The irrigation canals were extended and enlarged so more land could be cultivated. Improving these farming methods for more land cultivation allowed the population to increase. With a growing population, the contact with the peoples of the surrounding regions increased notably.

For the next two hundred years Hohokam territorial borders remained stable. It is believed community patterns changed very little other than the evidence of some houses being placed around a plaza. During these years the Hohokam did little to elaborate on the shapes and designs of their arts and crafts. They did make large storage jars. Trumpets were made by cutting off the spire of large conch shells. The shells give evidence of continued trade from the coast or gulf.

From 1100 A.D. and for the next three hundred years, the Hohokam Culture was thought to be at its peak by early archaeologists.  However, later archaeologist records prove otherwise. While the core area of the culture in the Gila-Salt valleys remained viable, out-lying villages were being abandoned for obscure reasons―most probably as circumstances arose.

New communities built during this period were larger in size but were fewer in number. With advanced farming techniques, Hohokam Indians grew enough food to support a sizable population. They also continued to gather corn and squash. Small desert animals were hunted to supplement their diet. The houses were still built of wood, brush, and mud, but with a new architectural form, clay-walled structures. The homes were often one-story buildings built atop mounds surrounded by stockade-like walls. Entry into the compounds was by ladders as there was no other entry. A new style with defense in mind?

Later in this period, multi-storied buildings resembling pueblos were built. Several scholars considered the style a result of the Anasazi influence. However, Hohokam architecture was not as impressive as that of the Anasazi― with the exception of Casa Grande. This edifice was a high-rise built on a platform constructed with three floors and an adobe tower four stories high.

In these latter years of the Hohokam culture, two distinct groups of people moved into Hohokam territory in approximately 1000 A.D.; the Salado, who were akin to the Anasazi, and the Sinagua. For years the Hohokam clung to their old ways. Eventually, however, the three distinctive life styles were blended together.

Other causes besides the integration of other life styles may have been responsible for the distinctive Hohokam culture to falter. Their system of irrigation was over a thousand years old and probably needed more maintenance than the farmers were willing to make. The farmlands could have become sterile due to the lack of fertilizer. Diseases, raids, and skirmishes with their neighboring tribes, and migration of the Salado from within might have decimated their ranks, or perhaps just natural disasters hastened their decline. Whatever the reasons, by the 1450’s their huge territory was abandoned and their culture ultimately became unrecognizable.

This departure was a sad ending for people who accomplished so much. Noted Hohokam archaeologists maintain that from their research the Pima and Papago people indeed were of the Hohokam ancestral period. Their life style was somewhat similar to the Hohokam, and later contacts indicated they were well adjusted to their desert habitat, a good indication of long residence.
By the time the Spanish arrived ninety years later, approximately 1540, they found a group of Pima-speaking, skilled, desert agriculturalists. Perhaps the survival of the language and subsistence living skills were all that was left of the Hohokam cultural existence of 1500 years.  



The third group known as the Anasazi Culture were contemporaries of the Hohokam and developed around 100 B.C. They began to give up wandering and settled into hunting, gathering and some farming. Archaeologists refer to these people as Anasazi, because it is a Navajo word for “ancient ones”. They are also known as basket makers. Their long-lived cultural tradition began to fade in the mid 1300’s, prior to the Hohokam. Their civilization was customarily divided into five periods:

  • Basket Maker I equivalent to Archaic Indian Period
  • Basket Maker II (A.D. 1- 500),
  • Basket Maker III (A.D. 500-750)
  • Developmental Pueblo (A.D. 750-1050),
  • Classic Pueblo (A.D. 1050-1300)
  • Final Pueblo (A.D. 1300-1400).

These categories and titles are used by most scholars to date their research. With the research from the past century and a half, more is known about the Anasazi than any other early cultures of the Southwest.

The transition from hunting and gathering to a dependence on farming came slowly for the Anasazi. Apparently with the existence of a short growing season coupled with plentiful game, there was little need to settle down to an agricultural way of life. In approximately A.D. 500, corn and squash were introduced―probably by natives from Mesoamerica―and the culture developed quickly. Corn cultivation and agriculture have been traced to Mexico as early as 2000 B.C.

The “Basket Maker” wove seeds, grains, and yucca fibers into baskets, sandals, nets, and snares. Many of these artifacts were well-preserved in the dry climate. The idea that corn was a storable food is one of the most important events in Southwest history. As agriculture became more dominant, pottery began to flourish because it offered a means for cooking,
carrying water, and food storage. Clay pots for grain storage, unlike the fiber baskets, protected the crops from insects and rodents. In the beginning Anasazi pottery-making was just utilitarian, but over time it became an expressive, elaborate art form. As their expertise grew, the pottery was painted; an intricate, distinctive style of decoration was added. The bow and arrow became popular with the Anasazi sometime after A.D. 500. With the use of the bow and arrow their menu grew and a new weapon for defense was added to their arsenal.

Like the Mogollon, the Anasazi lived in pit-houses. As the Anasazi became more dependent on agriculture they made a gradual transition to pueblo architecture. After A.D. 750, the Anasazi developed a specialized form of architecture. Underground structures, kivas, and social rooms remained, but above-ground substantial structures called pueblos were added. At first the buildings were single-room dwellings, but across a brief period of time the rooms were constructed grouped together and assembled on top of one another. The edifices ranged in size from several small units to many-storied apartments and storage rooms. By our standards the rooms were small and dark. The Anasazi usually built their pueblos on cliff ledges, on top of a mesa, or in a canyon against a mesa. The purpose of the site locations was apparently to deter hostile attacks.

One of the largest pueblo communities flourished in Chaco Canyon in a barren valley of Northwestern New Mexico. Eight communities were built in the canyon, and others were constructed on the nearby mesas. The largest and most famous above-ground pueblo is called Pueblo Bonito―pretty dwelling. This pueblo covered approximately three acres and contained up to 800 rooms. Thousands of wooden beams were used for the roofing of the pueblo. Logs for the beams were carried from a highland area almost fifty miles away. The ring-dated beams indicate Pueblo Bonito was constructed and occupied about A.D. 900.

For the next two hundred years the Anasazi culturally advanced beyond their contemporaries. Each town had several hundred contiguous rooms arranged around a plaza, increasing in height as you moved to the rear of the structure. The plaza was dominated by a great kiva with smaller kivas situated along the edge of the plaza. It has been estimated that at its peak, the population in the Chaco Canyon could have been over 30,000.

In A.D. 1000 a flowering of the culture known as the Chaco Phenomenon occurred. During this time, the Anasazi reached their maximum geographic coverage and perhaps, also their greatest population. The people’s movement for communication and trade activities in the surrounding regions may have been assertive and sophisticated enough to preserve their cultural uniformity and identity.  

In Chaco Canyon the Anasazi established a network of medium-sized villages and large communities. They harnessed the water for irrigation to increase the crop yield. Roads and signal posts were built for more rapid communication. They produced elaborately designed pottery, exquisite jewelry, and brightly colored clothing. It is obvious that new ideas and materials came into Chaco life from Mexico.

For some reason, by A.D. 1300 the Indians of the entire region apparently abandoned their homes, moving to small settlements. These new homes were often built under cliff ledges, in recessed canyon walls, or in large caves of a deep canyon. Presumably their motive for selecting inaccessible sites was to provide a better defense. This idea is a controversial issue for some scholars and archaeologists. Some believe hostile people drove the cliff dwellers to their new homes. Others argue that the idea of building an impregnable fortress was a European idea never known to the Indians of the Southwest.

Within two hundred years, A.D. 1250 to 1450, the Mogallon, the Hohokam, and Anasazi cultures either moved, merged, fragmented or disappeared. Evidence reveals that they were not the only cultures that experienced this great change during this period. The end result of this was the phenomenon archaeologists call the “abandonment.”

What happened to all these ancient peoples? Where did they go? Apparently there were many causes. Archaeologists all support their own reasons for the disappearance of these great cultures. We know now that the cultures did not just vanish as once popularly believed. All faced a variety of problems or causes that would include the following:

1. Climate change, particularly drought. Scientists know that the drought of 1276 lasted for twenty years. The drought years were followed by summers with heavy rain.
2. A growing population trying to eke out a living from a reluctant, increasingly crowded land.
3. An apparent concern for defense prompted by one village or pueblo attacking another for food. Invasions were by other nomadic Indian peoples, such as the Athapascans.
4. Archaeological evidence of violence, even cannibalism, perhaps by descendants of the Toltec.
5. A breakdown in social or religious customs which invited conflict.
6. Their system of irrigation was old and no longer properly maintained.


As a result of my reading I will conclude with my own thoughts on why each culture seemed to wither or fade away.


The Mogollon people seemed to be the least advanced or sophisticated of the major groups in Southwest. From their early time of hunting and gathering roots, most of the cultural additions to their lifestyle came from Mesoamerica. Even though they learned to farm they never really abandoned their dependence upon the land’s wild plants and animals. For centuries the Mogollon apparently remained content with the statues quo.

Depopulation occurred from about A.D. 850-1000 when the aggressive Anasazi established colonies in Mogollon territory. The displaced families quietly and without apparent violence resigned themselves to being assimilated into another culture. Situations for various changes in the Mogollon lifestyle differed, but the outcome was the same, a cultural mix.

Many outward signs of this displacement by the Anasazi influence on the Mogollon culture are apparent today. Pit-houses were replaced by pueblos. Pottery found at Mogollon sites included the black-on-white Anasazi style. The cultural remains showing a growing population in the area probably indicate Anasazi immigration. The depopulation of the eastern portion of Mogollon territory began around A.D. 1100. By that time, with the Anasazi influence accompanied with migration to more favorable regions, the Mogollon culture came to an end.

There are probably other factors why the Mogollon as a variable entity vanished, yet archaeologists point to immigration and migration as major factors.


The Hohokam culture barely existed by 1400. Their large villages and great canal system were becoming a thing of the past. The population dwindled to about a tenth of what it had been. Older archaeologists claim the Hohokam are the ancestors of the present-day Pima and Papago. Some younger-generation archaeologists are doubtful about the Hohokam-Pima continuity. Their suspicions revolve around the context of language. The Tohono O’odham (To-ho-no oh-OH-tum), popularly known as Pima and Papago, spoke the same dialect.  Thus it is theorized that both are descended from the Hohokam.  Another problem is the big difference in home construction. The Hohokam were skilled at adobe construction, the Pima were still using sticks and straw.

The controversy about the connection between Pima and Hohokam is still alive and well.


The Anasazi suffered a rapid decline about A.D. 1200 and began to abandon the northern canyons of the Colorado Plateau. Various explanations have been proposed for the decline and abandonment of the northern canyons of the plateau: invasions by hostile nomads; escalation of conflicts caused by population growth; and climate changes, particularly droughts.

To me the best explanation lay with the climate changes. Beginning around A.D. 200, the climate on the plateau became drier and the droughts longer and more frequent. The radical changes would have caused havoc with the growing seasons and watering. Ultimately food reduction would decline followed by population loss.

For whatever reasons, the Anasazi began to move and shift into the valley to the south and southwest. Many bands settled around the Hopi mesas. Today it is thought that Pueblo Indians are the direct descendants of the Anasazi. The Pueblo descendants are present day Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, and Rio Grand Indians. 

The massive migration of the Anasazi continues to be a fascinating subject of research and disagreement among archaeologists.


While listing the many possible reasons for these Indian cultures to dwindle and disappear, their fate is not clearly discernable.  The decline was a web of physical, social, and environmental factors.  The Indians moved from their customary territories and settled among their kinfolk.  Basically, they settled in three areas; near the Hopi mesas, in Zuni country, or near the Rio Grande.

After their settling-in, did they cling to their established culture or did they resign themselves to a new lifestyle?  What happened to the Southwest Tradition? Questions abound for more reading and research!




          a linguistic stock of North American Indians; in the Southwest, the Navaho and Apache are members of the Athapascan-speaking tribe
          a notched throwing stick that provided extra leverage in throwing a spear
          ancient ones in the Navaho language; located in the adjacent corners of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado; known as Four Corners
ball court
          an ancient playing field common in Mesoamerica; a ballgame of Olmec origin played with a rubber ball
cliff dwelling
          a house built along the walls of cliffs, canyons, and recesses; a good example is Mesa Verde
culture area
          a geographic region where different Indian tribes had similar ways of life
          “all used up” in the O’odham language; culture area located in the Arizona Salt and Gila River valleys
kill site
          an archaeological site where animal remains and human artifacts have been found; an example is Clovis, New Mexico
          an underground room used for councils, religious or social activities; women were often not permitted in kivas
mano and matate
          a set of stones used to grind corn and other grains
          a flat-topped land elevation with steep sides
          indicates middle or center
          a culture area that is now a part of Mexico or Central America; the Indian cultural area includes the Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec
          a people named after the Mogollon mountains of central Arizona and New Mexico

          a way of life in which people moved from one area to another in search of food; hunters and gatherers
          Pre-historic ancestors of modern Indians; paleo - indicates ancient or pre-historic       
          a dwelling built over a hole usually with a stick frame; walls made with weeds, reeds and mud
          a Spanish word for an Indian village; a type of architecture common in the Southwest – apartment-like; when capitalized, it means the people living in      pueblos


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