Ancestral Pueblo: Southern Colorado Plateau (Anasazi)Eastern (Mountain) AnasaziUpper San Juan

Tradition Name: Upper San Juan

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

The Upper San Juan or Gobernador region straddles the Colorado-New Mexico border in the area of the upper reaches of the San Juan River and its tributaries. Archaeological research in this area began in the early decades of this century, with the greatest amount of work in the 1950s and 1960s as part of the Navajo Reservoir Project. Various pottery forms produced in this region seem to exhibit elements of two distinct ceramic traditions. One is associated with an Anasazi occupation dating from about A.D. 200 to 1100, as well as a Navajo tradition described elsewhere in this document.

The consistent recognition of ceramics belonging to the Upper Juan tradition is often difficult. Traits and styles distinctive to the Upper San Juan region are not well documented, and the nature and distributions of boundaries are poorly known and appear to have changed through time. However, it is clear that at least some of the pottery recovered from this region is distinct from that produced in other adjacent regions during the same periods, and that a long lived continuous and distinct Anasazi ceramic tradition is represented in this region. Pottery produced in this region in various locations and time spans may share characteristics with pottery produced in both the San Juan region to the west and the Gallina and Jemez regions to the southeast. The assignment of this tradition here to an Eastern Anasazi branch is the result of evidence of for a continual sequence of production that includes the Upper San Juan, Gallina, and Jemez regions. Some of the types described, however, exhibit traits that are very similar to that noted in the Northern San Juan regionn and thus also one could make the argument that areas of the Upper San Juan were more closely linked to the Northern San Juan of the Central Anasazi Branch. This is particular trued for some periods such as during the late Pueblo i where the occurrence of Piedra Black-on-white and other traits seem to reflect a wave of migrants of groups from areas to the west in the Northern San Juan Regin. A possiblility is that pottery commonly assigned to types defined for the Upper San Juan tradition includes both forms produced by Keres groups long associated with the Central Anasazi traditions and Towa groups associated with Eastern or Mountain Anasazi traditions. There is some evidence that both groups may have resided in the Chimney Rock area during the Pueblo II period. Still, the placement of this tradition here into the Eastern Anasazi may be justified in that it seems to provide insights cocerning the origin and nature of material culture and adaptive strategies long assoicated with distinct Towa-speaking groups who at times occupied different highland areas in northcentral New Mexico.

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