Ancestral Pueblo: Southern Colorado Plateau (Anasazi)Central Anasazi

Branch Name: Central Anasazi

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2013

The Central Anasazi ceramic traditions, as defined here, refers to a series of well-known Anasazi pottery types. Observations relating to change over time defined for the traditions grouped here into this branch originally formed much of the basis for trajectories used to defined periods of the Pecos Classification scheme. As defined here, this branch refers to a very large area of the southwest Colorado Plateau centered in the San Juan Basin and covers much of northwest New Mexico, as well as small portions of southwest Colorado, and southeast Utah. For most of the traditions assigned here to this branch, the early types are associated with a long-sequence of pottery with similar styles initially decorated with mineral paint, with a shift to decoration in organic paint during the early twelfth century. Exceptions to this pattern include an organic and mineral painted series defined for most of the sequence for Chuska decorated pottery and the continuations of mineral painted pottery displaying distinct ceramic styles in the Southern Cibola region.

In general, most of trends in decoration of both gray and white ware pottery are fairly similar across the different regions defined for the branch, and pottery exhibiting various styles is assigned to different traditions based on differences in temper and paste used in different regions. The broad nature of such changes in ceramics and other material culture over a very wide area included in the tradition within this branch has resulted in the use of approaches and terminology derived from specific areas to describe changes that took place in regions across the Central Anasazi. For example, trends noted during the Dolores Project often form the basis for recent characterization of Pueblo I pottery developments that are assumed to impetus for later patterns. This tendency is most strongly reflected by references to changes during the Pueblo II in terms of Chacoan or Chaco and those during the Pueblo III as Mesa Verde or Post-Chaco. While developments that took place in some these specific areas were spectacular and important, an important issue is whether such areas should be viewed as the source or center of changes noted in surrounding regions.

Most of the regions defined for the Central Anasazi branch display similar sequences of ceramic changes for occupations dating from the Basketmaker III to Late Pueblo periods that rather than indicative of derivation from any specific source seems to indicate a long history of ties between groups in different regions. The view advocated by this author is that similarities in ceramics and other material culture noted for the different regions defined for the Central Anasazi reflect groups ancestral to modern Keres Pueblos some of which today result in the Southern Cibola region and others in the Middle Rio Grande (Wilson 2013). Another possibility sometime proposed is that groups residing in the Northern San Juan region, who were long distinguished from groups in surrounding regions, reflect the ancestors of the modern Tewa speakers in the Northern Rio Grande (Ortman 2012).

More study and data is required before such differences can be adequately resolved. An potentially fruitful line of inquiry could focus on whether a boundary for distributions of ceramics and other material culture similar to that defined for late components in regions in the Rio Grande used to dilineate Keres and Northern Tewa communities, can be recognized between contempory components in the Northern San Juan and other Central Anasazi regions. The possibility of Tewa migrants from the Northern San Juan into the Northern Rio Grande would impy a pre-existing or tranplanted boundary between Keres and Tewa groups that may be similarily defined. A boundary resulting from the movement of Keres groups from various Central Anasazi regions into and against areas long occupied by the Tewa would imply the creation of new boundaries and dynamics between populations. Thus, futher characterizations and comparisons of the long pottery sequences in areas peripheral to both the Northern San Juan and San Juan Basin may provide important insights concerning the origin and relationships of communities in different regions.

Related Traditions