Oasisamerica is a term used by some scholars, primarily Mexican anthropologists, for the broad cultural area defining pre-Columbian southwestern North America.[1] It extends from modern-day Utah down to southern Chihuahua, and from the coast on the Gulf of California eastward to the Río Bravo river valley. Its name comes from its position in relationship with the similar regions of Mesoamerica and mostly nomadic Aridoamerica.[2] The term Greater Southwest is often used to describe this region by American anthropologists.

As opposed to their nomadic Aridoamerican neighbors, the Oasisamericans primarily had agricultural societies.[3]

Oasisamerican cultures circa 1350 CE
Oasisamerica cultural areas, circa AD 1350

List of peoples


The term "Oasisamerica" is derived from a combination of the terms "oasis" and "America". It refers to a wild land dominated by the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Madre Occidental. To the east and west of these enormous mountain ranges stretch the grand arid plains of the Sonora, Chihuahua, and Arizona Deserts. At its height, Oasisamerica covered part of the present-day Mexican states of Chihuahua, Sonora and Baja California, as well as the U.S. states of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and California.[4]

Despite being a basically dry land, Oasisamerica contains several bodies of water like rivers: Yaqui, Rio Grande, Colorado, Conchos and Gila Rivers. The presence of these rivers (and even some lakes that have since been swallowed by the desert), combined with a climate that was much milder than eastern Aridoamerica, allowed the development of agricultural techniques that were imported from Mesoamerica.

Characteristics of the Oasisamerican cultures

Cultural development

The story of the origins of the cultural superarea of Mesoamerica takes place some 2000 years after the separation of Mesoamerica and Aridoamerica. Some of the Aridoamerican communities farmed as a complement to their hunter-gatherer economy. Those communities, among whom one finds adherents to the Desert Tradition, later would become more truly agricultural and form Oasisamerica.[5]

Based on maize remnants found in Bat Cave, Arizona, it appears that agriculture practices date back to at least 3500 BC. Given that the oldest traces of maize in North America date back to the year 5000 BC, it would seem that the hypothesis of importation of agriculture from the south is correct. It is less certain who brought the agricultural technology and what role they played in the development of the high cultures of Oasisamerica.

A pebble of turquoise

At least three hypotheses have been proposed to explain the birth of the cultures of Oasisamerica. One, an endogenous model, posits an independent cultural development whose roots lie deep in antiquity. From this point of view, thanks to a superior climate, the ancient desert communities would have been able to develop agriculture much as the Mesoamericans did.

A second hypothesis presupposes that the nomads of the Mesoamerican culture slowly moved northward over time. Thus, the Oasisamericans would be an offshoot of their neighbors to the south. In this view, the development of the Oasisamerican cultures, much like the northern Mesoamerican cultures, began with a group of outsiders who were closely tied to the local original inhabitants of western Mexico.

There are many indications of a close relationship between the two great cultural regions of North America. For one, the turquoise that the Mesoamericans prized so dearly came almost exclusively from southern New Mexico and Arizona. Demand for this mineral alone may have played a large part in establishing trade relationships between the two cultural areas. At the same time, in Paquimé, a site connected to the Mogollon culture, there have been found ceremonial structures related to Mesoamerican religion and an important number of skeletons of Macaws that were carefully transported from the forests of southeastern Mexico.

Cultural areas

The area encompassed by Oasisamerica fostered the growth of several major cultural groups: the Ancestral Pueblo people, Hohokam, Mogollon, Pataya, and Fremont.[6][7] Smaller cultures within this region include the Sinagua.

Ancestral Pueblo

Bowl Chaco Culture NM USA
Ceramic bowl from Chaco Canyon in New Mexico which belonged to the Pueblo III phase
Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Cultural National Historical Park, from a nearby overlook in summer 2011
Archaeological site at Chaco Canyon, one of the principal sites of Ancestral Pueblo culture

Ancestral Pueblo cultures flourished in the region currently known as the Four Corners.[8] The territory was covered by juniper forests which the ancient peoples learned to exploit for their own needs, since foraging among the other vegetation only sufficed for half of the year, only to fail from November to April. The Ancestral Pueblo society is one of the most complex to be found in Oasisamerica, and they are assumed to be the ancestors of the modern Pueblo people (including the Zuñi and Hopi). (The term "Anasazi" is also used to describe these cultures. It is a Navajo term meaning "enemy ancestors."

The Ancestral Pueblo is considered to be the most intensely studied Pre-Columbian culture in the United States.[9] Archaeological investigation has established a sequence of cultural development that began before the first century BC and extended to AD 1540 when the Pueblo Indians were subjugated by the Spanish Crown. This long period encompasses the Basketmaker I, II, and III phases followed by the Pueblo I, II, III, and IV phases. In the Basketmaker II phase, the Ancestral Pueblo took up residence in caves and rocky shelters, and in Basketmaker III Era (AD 500–750) they constructed the first subterranean cities with up to four abodes in a circular arrangement.

The Pueblo period begins with the development of ceramics. The most prominent feature of these ceramics is the predominance of pieces of a white or red color with black designs. During the Pueblo I phase (AD 750–900), the Ancestral Pueblo developed their first irrigation systems, and their former subterranean habitations were slowly replaced by houses constructed of masonry. Pueblo II (900–1150) is defined by the construction of great works of architecture, including multi-family, multi-story dwellings. The following phase of Pueblo III (1150–1350) witnessed the greatest expansion of Ancestral Pueblo agriculture as well as the construction of large regional communication networks that would persist until the Pueblo IV Era. In Pueblo IV (1350–1600), much of the earlier society disintegrated along with the communication networks.

Hopi woman dressing hair of unmarried girl
A Hopi woman dressing the hair of an unmarried girl.

The reasons underpinning the decline of the Ancestral Pueblo remain somewhat of a mystery. The phenomenon is thought to be associated with a prolonged drought that befell the region from 1276 to 1299. When the Europeans arrived at the Ancestral Pueblo region, it was populated by the Pueblo Indians, a group without a unified ethnicity. The Zuni had no apparent relatives; the Hopi spoke an Uto-Aztecan language; the Tewas and Tiwas were Tanoanos and the Navajo were Athabaskans.

The religion of the Pueblo Indians was based upon the worship of plant-like deities and the fertility of the earth. They believed that supernatural beings called the kachina had come to the surface of the earth from the sipapu (center of the earth) at the moment of the creation of the human race. Worship in Pueblo societies was organized by secret all-male groups that met in kivas. The members of these secret societies claimed to represent the kachina.


Gila River near town of Riverside1
The Gila River was vitally important in the development of the Hohokam culture.

The Hohokam occupied the desert-like lands of Arizona and Sonora. The Hohokam territory is bounded by two large rivers, the Salt River (Arizona) and Gila Rivers, that outline the heart of the Sonora Desert. The surrounding ecosystem presented many challenges to agriculture and human life because of its high temperatures and scant rainfall. Due to these factors, the Hohokam were forced to construct irrigation systems with elaborate webs of reservoirs and canals for the Salt and Gila rivers that could reach several meters in depth and 10 km in length. Thanks to these canals, the Hohokam harvested as many as two crops of corn annually.

The principal settlements of the Hohokam culture were Snaketown, Casa Grande, Red Mountain, and Pueblo de los Muertos, all of which are to be found in modern-day Arizona. The Hohokam lived in small communities of several hundred people. Their lifestyle was very similar to that of the Ancestral Pueblo in their Basketmaker III phase: semisubterranean but with spacious interiors. Several other artifacts are unique to the Hohokam, including conch necklaces (imported from the coastal regions of Greater California and Sonora) etched with acids produced by pitaya fermentation; and axes, trowels, and other stone instruments.

Archaeologists dispute the origins and ethnic identity of the Hohokam culture. Some hold that the culture developed endogenously (without outside influence), pointing to Snaketown which had its origins in the fourth century BC. Others believe the culture to be a product of migration from Mesoamerica. In defense of this line of thought, proponents point to the fact that Hohokam ceramics appeared in 300 BC. (also the time of Snaketown's founding), and that before this time, there was no indication of an independent regional development of ceramics. Along the same line of reasoning, several other technological advances like the canal works and certain cultural phenomena like cremation seem to have originated in western Mesoamerica.

The development of the Hohokam culture is divided into four periods: Pioneer (300 BC – AD 550), Colonial (550–900), Sedentary (900–1100), and Classical (1100–1450). The Pioneer period commenced with the construction of the canal works. In the Colonial period, ties were strengthened with Mesoamerica. Proof of this can be found in the recovery of copper bells, pyrite mirrors, and the construction of ball courts. The relations with Mesoamerica and the presence of such traded goods indicate that by the Colonial period the Hohokam had already become organized into chiefdoms. Relations with Mesoamerica would diminish in the following period, and the Hohokam turned to construct multi-story buildings like Casa Grande.

By the time the Europeans arrived in the Arizona and Sonora Deserts, a region which they named Pimería Alta, the urban centers of the Hohokam had already become abandoned presumably due to the health and ecological disasters that befell the indigenous social system. The Tohono O'odham live in this region and speak a Uto-Aztecan language. This community had an economy based on gathering and incipient agriculture on mountain slopes. They were a semi-nomadic people, probably because they had to migrate in order to compensate for the scarcity of food resources in the foothills of the mountains they called home.


Mogollon Rim1
The Mogollon Mountains in southeastern New Mexico.

The Mogollon was a cultural area of Mesoamerica that extended from the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental, northward to Arizona and New Mexico in the southwestern United States. Some scholars prefer to distinguish between two broad cultural traditions in this area: the Mogollon itself and the Paquime culture that was derived from it. Either way, the peoples who inhabited the area in question adapted well to a landscape that was marked by the presence of pine forests and steep mountains and ravines.

In contrast to their Hohokam and Ancestral Pueblo neighbors to the north, the Mogollons usually buried their dead. The culture's graves often included ceramic art and semiprecious stones. Because the Mogollon burial sites displayed such wealth, they were often looted by grave robbers who sought to sell their spoils on the archaeological black market.

Perhaps the most impressive Mogollon ceramic tradition was to be found in the valley of the Mimbres River in New Mexico. The ceramic production of this region became most developed between the eighth and twelfth centuries. It was characterized by white pieces decorated with stylized representations of daily life in the community that created them. This was a very exceptional approach in a cultural area whose pottery was otherwise dominated by geometric patterns.

As another contrast with the Hohokam and Ancestral Pueblo, there is no widely accepted chronology for the development of the Mogollon culture. The scholars Alfredo López Austin and Leonardo López Luján, for their historical analysis of the region, borrowed a chronology proposed earlier by Paul Martin, who himself divided Mogollon history into two general periods; the "Early" period runs from 500 BC until AD 1000, and the "Late" period begins in the eleventh and goes to the sixteenth century.

The first period featured a more or less slow cultural development. Technological changes were produced very gradually, and the form of social relationships and organizational patterns remained almost static for 1500 years. During the Early period, the Mogollons lived in rocky dwellings from which they defended themselves from the incursions of their hunter neighbors. Much like the Ancestral Pueblo, the Mogollon also lived in semisubterranean abodes that often featured a kiva.

In the eleventh century, the population in the Mogollon area multiplied much more rapidly than it had in the preceding centuries. It is probably that in this period, the area benefited from trade relations with Mesoamerica, a fact that facilitated the development of agriculture and the stratification of society. It is also possible that Ancestral Pueblo influence could have grown at this time, because the Mogollon began to construct buildings of masonry, just like their northern neighbors.

The Mogollon culture reached its height in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. At this time, the culture's major centers grew in population, size, and power. Paquime, in Chihuahua, was perhaps the largest of those. It dominated a mountainous region that contains many archaeological sites known as casas alcantilado, outposts constructed in hard-to-reach caves on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Madre. Paquime traded with the heart of Mesoamerica, to which it provided precious minerals like turquoise and cinnabar. It also controlled the trade of certain products from the coasts of the Gulf of California, especially its Nassarius conch shells. Paquime received heavy influence from the Mesoamerican societies, as evidenced by the presence of arenas for the Mesoamerican ballgame and the remains of animals native to tropical Central America like the macaw.

The decline of the main centers of Mogollon power began in the thirteenth century, even before the apex of Paquime. By the fifteenth century, a large part of the region had become abandoned by its former inhabitants. The people of the Mimbres River emigrated and eventually settled in present-day Coahuila. It is supposed that the Taracahitas (including the Yaquis, Mayos, Opatas, and Tarahumaras) that currently live in northeastern Mexico are descendants of the Mogollones.


The Fremont area covered a large part of modern-day Utah. It was situated to the north of the Ancestral Pueblo cultural area. Its cultural development as a part of Oasisamerica took place between the fifth and fourteenth centuries. Scholars contend that the Fremont culture was derived from the Ancestral Pueblo culture. Theoretically, the Fremont communities would have emigrated toward the north, bringing with them the customs, social organization structures, and technology of the Ancestral Pueblo. This hypothesis neatly explains the presence of ceramics in Utah that are very similar to those found in Mesa Verde.

A second hypothesis suggests that the Fremont culture may have been derived from buffalo-hunting societies, probably from a culture of Athabaskan origin. As time passed, the foreign culture would have adopted the culture of their southern neighbors. In both this theory and the aforementioned, there is a justification for the less-complex development in Fremont as opposed to other regions of Oasisamerica because of their more suitable climates for agriculture.

The decay of the Fremont culture began as early as the second half of the 10th century and was completed in the 14th century. Upon the Spaniards' arrival, the region was occupied by the Shoshones, an Uto-Aztecan group.


The Patayan area occupies the western part of Oasisamerica. It comprises the modern-day states of California and Arizona in the U.S., and Baja California and Sonora in Mexico. The Patayans were a peripheral culture whose cultural development was probably influenced by their Hohokam neighbors to the east. From them they would have learned the Mesoamerican ballgame, cremation techniques, and techniques for the production of ceramics.

The Patayan culture began to disappear in the fourteenth century. When the Spanish arrived in the region, the Colorado River Valley was only occupied by the river-dwelling Yuman peoples.

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde

Montezuma Castle Arizona USA

Montezuma's castle

Chaco canyon

Chaco Canyon

See also


  1. ^ Danna A. Levin Rojo, Return to Aztlan: Indians, Spaniards, and the Invention of Nuevo México (University of Oklahoma Press, 2014), ISBN 978-0806145617, pp. 50ff. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  2. ^ Lopez Austin and López Luján 28–29
  3. ^ Culture e religioni indigene in America centrale e meridionale, By Lawrence Eugene Sullivan
  4. ^ The essence of anthropology, by William A. Haviland, Harald E. L. Prins, Dana Walrath, Bunny McBride
  5. ^ Mexico's Indigenous Past, By Alfredo López Austin, Leonardo López Luján, Bernard R. Ortiz De Montellano
  6. ^ Lopez Austin and Lopez Lujan 29
  7. ^ Archaeology of prehistoric native America: an encyclopedia, By Guy E. Gibbon, Kenneth M. Ames
  8. ^ World Regional Geography By Joseph J. Hobbs, Andrew Dolan
  9. ^ Case studies in environmental archaeology, by Elizabeth Jean Reitz, C. Margaret Scarry, Sylvia J. Scudder


  • Alfredo Lopez Austin; Leonardo Lopez Lujan (2005). Mexico's Indigenous Past. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-08061-3723-0. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
Anasazi State Park Museum

Anasazi State Park Museum is a state park and museum in Southern Utah, United States, featuring the ruins of an ancient Anasazi village referred to as the Coombs Village Site.


Aridoamerica denotes an ecological region spanning Mexico and the Southwest United States, defined by the presence of the culturally significant staple foodstuff Phaseolus acutifolius, a drought-resistant bean. Its dry, arid climate and geography stand in contrast to the verdant Mesoamerica of present-day central Mexico into Central America to the south and east, and the higher, milder "island" of Oasisamerica to the north. Aridoamerica overlaps with both.Because of the relatively hard conditions, the pre-Columbian people in this region developed distinct cultures and subsistence farming patterns. The region has only 120 mm (4.7 in) to 160 mm (6.3 in) of annual precipitation. The sparse rainfall feeds seasonal creeks and waterholes.The term was introduced by American anthropologist Gary Paul Nabhan in 1985, building on prior work by anthropologists A.L. Kroeber and Paul Kirchhoff to identify a "true cultural entity" for the desert region. Mexican anthropologist Guillermo Bonfil Batalla notes that although the distinction between Aridoamerica and Mesoamerica is "useful for understanding the general history of precolonial Mexico," that the boundary between the two should not be conceptualized as "a barrier that separated two radically different worlds, but, rather, as a variable limit between climactic regions." The inhabitants of Aridoamerica lived on "an unstable and fluctuating frontier" and were in "constant relations with the civilizations to the south."

Basketmaker culture

The Basketmaker culture of the pre-Ancestral Puebloans began about 1500 BC and continued until about AD 500 with the beginning of the Pueblo I Era. The prehistoric American southwestern culture was named "Basketmaker" for the large number of baskets found at archaeological sites of 3,000 to 2,000 years ago.

Casas Grandes

Casas Grandes (Spanish for Great Houses; also known as Paquimé) is a prehistoric archaeological site in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. Construction of the site is attributed to the Mogollon culture. Casas Grandes has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is under the purview of INAH.

Casas Grandes is one of the largest and most complex Mogollon culture sites in the region. Settlement began after 1130 CE, and the larger buildings developed into multi-storied dwellings after 1350 CE. The community was abandoned approximately 1450 CE. Casas Grandes is regarded as one of the most significant Mogollon archaeological zones in the northwestern Mexico region, linking it to other sites in Arizona and New Mexico in the United States, and exhibiting the expanse of the Mogollon sphere of influence.

Casas Grandes complex is located in a wide, fertile valley on the Casas Grandes or San Miguel River, 35 miles (56 km) south of Janos and 150 miles (240 km) northwest of the state capital, the city of Chihuahua. The settlement relied on irrigation to support its agriculture.

The archaeological zone is contained within the eponymous modern municipio (municipality) of Casas Grandes. The valley and region have been inhabited by indigenous groups for thousands of years.

Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. The structure built by the Ancestral Puebloans is located in Mesa Verde National Park in their former homeland region. The cliff dwelling and park are in the southwestern corner of Colorado, in the Southwestern United States.

Cuarenta Casas

Cuarenta Casas is an archaeological site in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. Construction of the site is attributed to the Mogollon culture.

Located in Vallecito in the municipality of Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Forty Houses is believed to be the southernmost site related to the period of Mogollon influence. The site consists of a series of cliff dwellings built in natural caves in the cliffs of Huapoca Canyon. The best known is the Cueva de las Ventanas (Cave of the Windows). Early Spanish explorers named the site Cuarenta Casas (forty houses) based on their speculation of the total number of structures. The area consists of five main cave communities: Cueva del Puente, Cueva de la Serpiente, Nido del Aguila and Cueva Grande.

El Vallecito

El Vallecito is an archaeological site located in the city of La Rumorosa, in the Tecate Municipality, Baja California, Mexico.

It is believed that Baja California had human presence for thousands of years, however the available evidence indicates an occupation approximate from 8000 BCE. Some sites are more recent, it is estimated that they were developed in the last thousand years, though the engravings, more resistant to erosion, could be older.The site was inhabited by the Kumeyaay ethnic group whose territory comprised from Santo Tomas, Baja California, to the San Diego coast in California. The eastern region ranged from the Escondido, California, area up to the mountains and deserts in northern Baja California, including the area of Laguna Salada and part of the sierra Juarez known as La Rumorosa.This site has more than 18 sets of cave painting of which only six may be visited.The Vallecito is considered one of the most important of the region. There are several important archaeological zones; however, officially not yet been appointed by the responsible authorities.The site has many cave paintings or petroglyphs made by the ancient peninsula inhabitants. It is known that the territory was occupied by nomadic groups who lived in the region and that they based their existence in hunting and the harvesting of fruits, seeds, roots and sea food.The decorated rocks with white, black and red figures are pictures made approximately three thousand years ago, when various migratory flows penetrated the Baja California region, known as Yuman or Quechan, which came from what is now the United States.

Fremont culture

The Fremont culture or Fremont people is a pre-Columbian archaeological culture which received its name from the Fremont River in the U.S. state of Utah, where the culture's sites were discovered by local indigenous peoples like the Navajo and Ute. In Navajo culture, the pictographs are credited to people who lived before the flood. The Fremont River itself is named for John Charles Frémont, an American explorer. It inhabited sites in what is now Utah and parts of Nevada, Idaho and Colorado from AD 1 to 1301 (2,000-700 years ago). It was adjacent to, roughly contemporaneous with, but distinctly different from the Ancestral Pueblo peoples located to their south.


Heishe or heishi (pronounced "hee shee") are small disc- or tube-shaped beads made of organic shells or ground and polished stones. They come from the Kewa Pueblo people (formerly Santo Domingo Pueblo) of New Mexico, before the use of metals in jewelry by that people. The name is the word for shell bead in the Eastern Keresan language of the Santo Domingo Indians.The oldest specimens of heishe date back to around 6000 BCE, although the same technique was used in northern Africa 30,000 years ago, using ostrich eggshell.Modern heishe beads are commonly mechanically mass-produced; however, some artists still handmake beads. The beads are hand-chipped, with holes drilled through their centers using pointed stones.


Huápoca is an archaeological site located 36 kilometers west of Ciudad Madera, in the Huápoca Canyon region, northwest of the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

Visitors to the Huápoca region visit the Rio Papigochi and sites such as the Aguila and Serpiente caves, the Huápoca Spa and the Huápoca bridge, with access to the archaeological sites.In the Madera region, there are approximately 150 archaeological sites scattered across the cliffs. Most of them are in varying states of repair, with some damage caused by several factors, including the lack of attention, care and surveillance. Adobe floors are broken in several places, and walls are damaged with graffiti, even over old glyphs.

Indigenous peoples of the North American Southwest

Indigenous peoples of the North American Southwest refers to the area identified with the current states of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada in the western United States, and the states of Sonora and Chihuahua in northern Mexico. An often quoted statement from Erik Reed (1964) defined the Greater Southwest culture area as extending north to south from Durango, Mexico to Durango, Colorado and east to west from Las Vegas, Nevada to Las Vegas, New Mexico. Other names sometimes used to define the region include "American Southwest", "North Mexico", "Chichimeca", and "Oasisamerica/Aridoamerica". This region has long been occupied by hunter-gatherers and agricultural people.

Many contemporary cultural traditions exist within the Greater Southwest, including Yuman-speaking peoples inhabiting the Colorado River valley, the uplands, and Baja California, O'odham peoples of Southern Arizona and northern Sonora, and the Pueblo peoples of Arizona and New Mexico. In addition, the Apache and Navajo peoples, whose ancestral roots lie in the Athabaskan-speaking peoples in Canada, entered the Southwest during the 14th and 15th century and are a major modern presence in the area.

Navajo National Monument

Navajo National Monument is a National Monument located within the northwest portion of the Navajo Nation territory in northern Arizona, which was established to preserve three well-preserved cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloan People: Keet Seel (Broken Pottery) (Kitsʼiil), Betatakin (Ledge House) (Bitátʼahkin), and Inscription House (Tsʼah Biiʼ Kin). The monument is high on the Shonto plateau, overlooking the Tsegi Canyon system, west of Kayenta, Arizona. It features a visitor center with a museum, two short self-guided mesa top trails, two small campgrounds, and a picnic area. Rangers guide visitors on free tours of the Keet Seel and Betatakin cliff dwellings. The Inscription House site, further west, is currently closed to public access.

The Sandal Trail is an accessible self-guided walk that provides views of the spectacular canyonlands and rugged topography near the visitor center. Interpretive signs provide information on local flora and other topics. The 1-mile (1.6 km) round-trip trail ends at an overlook of the Betatakin ruins across the 560-foot-deep (170 m) Betatakin Canyon. The National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.


The O'odham peoples, including the Tohono O'odham, the Pima or Akimel O'odham, and the Hia C-ed O'odham, are an indigenous Uto-Aztecan peoples of the Sonoran desert in southern and central Arizona and northern Sonora, united by a common heritage language, the O'odham language. Today, many O'odham live in the Tohono O'odham Nation, the San Xavier Indian Reservation, the Gila River Indian Community, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Ak-Chin Indian Community or off-reservation in one of the cities or towns of Arizona.

Oshara Tradition

Oshara Tradition, the northern tradition of the Picosa culture, was a Southwestern Archaic Tradition centered in New Mexico and Colorado. Cynthia Irwin-Williams developed the sequence of Archaic culture for Oshara during her work in the Arroyo Cuervo area of northwestern New Mexico. Irwin contends that the Ancestral Puebloans developed, at least in part, from the Oshara.


Patayan is a term used by archaeologists to describe prehistoric and historic Native American cultures who inhabited parts of modern-day Arizona, west to Lake Cahuilla in California, and in Baja California, between 700–1550 A.D. This included areas along the Gila River, Colorado River and in the Lower Colorado River Valley, the nearby uplands, and north to the vicinity of the Grand Canyon.

Picosa culture

The Picosa culture encapsulates the Archaic lifestyles of people from three locations with interconnected artifacts and lifestyles. It was named by Cynthia Irwin-Williams in the 1960s for those areas: Pinto Basin (PI), Cochise Tradition (CO) and San Jose (SA), which all together is "Picosa".The people in the disperse locations in the American Southwest lived in similar housing, used similar burial practices and had similar lifestyles. The artifacts from the sites demonstrate similarity in the technology used and personal material goods. The Picosa culture has been found in the states of California, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. It was the predecessor to the Oshara Tradition.

Salado culture

Salado culture, or Salado Horizon, was a human culture of the Tonto Basin in southeastern Arizona from approximately 1150 CE through the 15th century.

Distinguishing characteristics of the Salado include distinctive Salado Polychrome pottery, communities within walled adobe compounds, and burial of the dead (rather than cremation). The Salado were farmers, using simple irrigation techniques to water fields of maize, beans, pumpkins, amaranth, and cotton. They also hunted local game and gathered buds, leaves, and roots to supplement their diet. They traded with other cultures, as indicated by archaeological finds of seashells from the Gulf of California and macaw feathers from Mexico.


The Sinagua were a pre-Columbian culture that occupied a large area in central Arizona from the Little Colorado River, near Flagstaff, to the Salt River, near Sedona, including the Verde Valley, area around San Francisco Mountain, and significant portions of the Mogollon Rim country, between approximately 500 CE and 1425 CE.

Since fully developed Sinagua sites emerged in central Arizona around 650 CE, it is believed they migrated from east-central Arizona, possibly emerging from the Mogollon culture.

Yucca House National Monument

Yucca House National Monument is a United States National Monument located in Montezuma County, Colorado between the towns of Towaoc (headquarters of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe) and Cortez, Colorado. Yucca House is a large, unexcavated Ancestral Puebloan archaeological site.



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