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Archaeology without Borders

Contact, Commerce, and Change in the U.S. Southwest and Northwestern Mexico

Edited by Laurie D. Webster and Maxine E. McBrinn

Publication Year: 2008

Archaeology without Borders presents new research by leading U.S. and Mexican scholars and explores the impacts on archaeology of the border between the United States and Mexico. Including data previously not readily available to English-speaking readers, the twenty-four essays discuss early agricultural adaptations in the region and groundbreaking archaeological research on social identity and cultural landscapes, as well as economic and social interactions within the area now encompassed by northern Mexico and the U.S. Southwest. Contributors examining early agriculture offer models for understanding the transition to agriculture, explore relationships between the spread of agriculture and Uto-Aztecan migrations, and present data from Arizona, New Mexico, and Chihuahua. Contributors focusing on social identity discuss migration, enculturation, social boundaries, and ethnic identities. They draw on case studies that include diverse artifact classes - rock art, lithics, architecture, murals, ceramics, cordage, sandals, baskets, faunal remains, and oral histories. Mexican scholars present data from Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas, Michoacan, Coahuila, and Nuevo Leon. They address topics including Spanish-indigenous conflicts, archaeological history, cultural landscapes, and interactions among Mesoamerica, northern Mexico, and the U.S. Southwest.

Published by: University Press of Colorado


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pp. v-vii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-xi

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1. Creating an Archaeology without Borders

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pp. 1-22

Pre-Hispanic contacts and cultural continuity between the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico have commanded the interest of archaeologists since the earliest work in the region. Many of the founders and early practitioners of archaeological research in the Southwest, such as A. V. Kidder, Emil Haury, and Earl H. Morris, also spent time working in Mesoamerica. It was natural that they considered cultural continuity to extend over the international border into Mexico. Between the two world wars, E. B. Sayles (1936), Walter W. Taylor (2003; see also Gonzáles Arratia, Chapter 22), and other U.S. archaeologists conducted fieldwork in northern Mexico. Since then, the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia...


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2. The Transition to Agriculture in the Desert Borderlands: An Introduction

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pp. 25-33

This is an exciting and challenging time to be studying the transition to agriculture in the Desert Borderlands (northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States). Such an explosion of new information has occurred in recent years that it is difficult to keep up-to-date, even with the World Wide Web and electronic mail. The opportunities to serve as discussant during the session on Early Agriculture at the 2004 Southwest Symposium in Chihuahua City and to adapt those comments for publication in this volume have been valuable learning experiences. As an archaeologist who knows more about transitions to agriculture in eastern North America than in Mexico or the U.S. Southwest, I bring something of an outsider’s perspective to this region and only hope this has sufficient value to offset its drawbacks...

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3. The Setting of Early Agriculture in Southern Chihuahua

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pp. 35-54

The history and details of how agriculture spread and became entrenched over vast areas are difficult to elucidate. In this chapter, physiographic, environmental, and recently acquired archaeological information from southern Chihuahua is used to contextualize the arrival of maize agriculture in the region sometime between ca. 4000 and 1500 b.c. The purpose of doing so is to better understand settlement patterns and other aspects of adaptation in the region during the interval when agriculture arrived and to build a foundation for further research...

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4. Modeling the Early Agricultural Frontier in the Desert Borderlands

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pp. 55-70

In 1998 excavations near Tucson in southern Arizona along the path of a highway construction project uncovered a series of canals dating between about 3,000 and 2,400 years ago (in uncalibrated radiocarbon years) (Mabry 2006b). This confirmed the earlier discovery of canals about as old at a nearby site in the same floodplain (Ezzo and Deaver 1998). Shortly thereafter, some Basketmaker II canals of almost the same age were found near Zuni Pueblo in northwestern New Mexico (Damp et al. 2000). This new and unexpected evidence for very early irrigated farming in both the southern and central parts of southwestern North America led Mabry to search the literature to find out if these canals were truly anomalous. A surprisingly wide variety of different types of farming can be identified or inferred for the Early Agricultural period, including most of those documented historically...

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5. Early Agriculture on the Southeastern Periphery of the Colorado Plateau: Diversity in Tactics

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pp. 71-88

The recent discovery of Late Archaic irrigation features in the Zuni area has raised questions about current arguments that attempt to explain the dispersal of maize across the Colorado Plateau (Damp, Hall, and Smith 2002). These arguments include the northward expansion of farming communities (Berry 1982, 1985; Elyea 1999) versus the integration of maize into local foraging economies (Irwin-Williams 1973; Minnis 1992; Vierra 1994a, 1996; Wills 1988). Others disagree as to whether cultivation initially occurred in lowland (Matson 1991) versus upland settings (Ford 1985; Vierra and Foxx 2002). Finally, some researchers suggest that economies dependent on maize agriculture were present in the region during the first millennium b.c. (Damp, Hall, and Smith 2002), and others believe it did not arrive until...

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6. A Method for Anticipating Patterns in Archaeological Sequences: Projecting the Duration of the Transition to Agriculture in Mexico—A Test Case

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pp. 89-106

Discussions of early agriculture have long been synonymous with historical arguments about the timing of migration of farmers or the diffusion of crops and technology from centers of domestication, as well as interpretive arguments about whether the spread of new subsistence strategies was more likely the result of the migration of farming people or the adoption of new strategies by local populations. Yet there are no good arguments about the conditions under which people do not migrate or crops and technology do not diffuse. Therefore, we have many interpretive arguments that accommodate what is known and tell a nice story but little development of the theoretical principles that allow us to specify the conditions under which we do and do not expect to find agriculture. Developing the generalizations...

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7. The Case for an Early Farmer Migration into the Greater American Southwest

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pp. 107-142

Humans are fascinated with humans. Our fascinations include: How did we get where we are? How did we fill up the earth? Why and how did we become farmers? Why do we speak so many languages, or perhaps, why do we speak so few? Addressing these and similar questions helps us place ourselves in the world. Sometimes the answers come in small pieces; sometimes they are what we expect. In other cases, however, unexpected insights change our perceptions markedly, and the answers are far from what we predicted. The unexpected nature of the behavior in the wild of our close relatives, the chimpanzees, is a classic case in point. Perhaps not of that scale, but certainly paradigm breaking, is the idea that farming was invented only a handful of times in a handful of places, and it was the farmers themselves who rapidly spread farming to much of the world from these core places. We have long thought about the significance of the initial adoption of agriculture, yet the story of...


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8. Exploring Social Identities through Archaeological Data from the Southwest: An Introduction

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pp. 145-154

Social identity refers to the various ways people identify themselves in relation to their membership in diverse social groups. The use of the term “social identity,” as opposed to gender, clan, ethnicity, class, nationality, or religion, recognizes the nested and mutable identities individuals espouse as well as individual choice in affiliation. A single individual in any society will have several social identities, such as household member, kin relation, participant in a religious group, hunter, and speaker of a particular language. The social identities of individuals change throughout their lives, as they assume, often by choice, roles in diverse groups. Making inferences about the social identities of people in the past is critical to contemporary archaeology in the United States, for both academic and legal reasons (Ferguson 2004). Discussions relating to social identity are at the core of questions about ancient migrations, the formation of alliances, and maintenance of social boundaries of inclusion and exclusion that have been...

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9. Archaeological Models of Early Uto-Aztecan Prehistory in the Arizona-Sonora Borderlands

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pp. 155-184

A number of researchers have attempted to follow a trail of linguistic clues back to the origins of the Uto-Aztecan language family, unusual both for its large north- south geographical range spanning the boundary between tropical and temperate environments and for the large variety of subsistence adaptations and social structures represented among its contemporary speakers. But while some linguistic detectives are convinced the Arizona-Sonora borderlands at the juncture of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico were the homeland of foragers who were the first speakers of the ancestral Uto-Aztecan “proto-language” (Campbell 1977; Fowler 1983; Hale and Harris 1979; Lamb 1958; Miller 1983b; Romney 1957; Suárez 1979), others argue that this region was a frontier of northward expansion by the original Uto-Aztecan speakers, who may have been the first farmers in the...

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10. Interaction, Enculturation, Social Distance, and Ancient Ethnic Identities

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pp. 185-208

Noting abundant evidence of ancient migrations in the American Southwest, a number of researchers have recently called for the development of more sophisticated models of ancient identity and interaction (e.g., Bernardini 2002; Clark 2001; Duff 2002; Lyons 2003; Stone 2003; see also Blake 2004; Jones 1997; Lilley 2004; Meskell 2002). Current approaches can typically be characterized as either “interactionist” or “enculturationist” in emphasis. The interactionist perspective privileges agency, whereas the enculturationist perspective emphasizes structure...

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11. Networking the Old-Fashioned Way: Social and Economic Networks among Archaic Hunters and Gatherers in Southern New Mexico

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pp. 209-225

Social identity is difficult to see archaeologically. Finding those differences in material culture that signify social differences, as language often does, has proven a formidable task. Most efforts in this area have looked for material differences in peoples of the recent past (Croes 1987; Grosball 1987; Patterson 1987; Rogers 1995) or even in the present (David et al. 1991), when we know ethnographically that differences existed. How much more difficult, then, is it to ask this question outside of the period when text can inform us? We figuratively shrug our shoulders and give up when the people being studied are far enough in the past. When we look at the Archaic or Paleoindian periods, archaeologists use terminology that...

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12. Architectural Metaphor and Chacoan Influence in the Northern San Juan

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pp. 227-256

In the fall of 1928, a group of elders from Acoma Pueblo decided to visit the capital of their new nation in Washington, D.C. During their visit, one of them worked with anthropologists from the Bureau of American Ethnology to record the origin story he learned when he was initiated into the Koshari society as a young man. The early episodes of this narrative (published in Stirling 1942) describe the beginning of time, before the Acomas emerged from the fourth world below to begin their life in this world. As is common in origin stories (e.g., Littleton 1982), the Acoma man’s narrative provides a social charter for the society in which he lived, in that it explains the origins of leadership positions and medicine societies, spells out their roles and duties, and establishes the basis of their authority. The narrative also lays out the basic tenets of Acoma religion and worldview by explaining what the...

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13. Life's Pathways: Geographic Metaphors in Ancestral Puebloan Material Culture

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pp. 257-270

Recognizing the cultural importance of metaphors helps archaeologists and art historians understand how shared ideas facilitate interaction among social groups, past and present. Metaphors describe one thing in terms of another. We usually think of metaphors as verbal expression, but visual metaphors are just as frequent and important and are sometimes amenable to archaeological analysis. Particular expressions and contexts of metaphors should help us trace migration, pilgrimage, and the spread of religious systems across time and space. Metaphors may also provide evidence for transformations and innovations in ritual practice, iconography...

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14. The Dynamic Nature of Cultural Identity during the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries in Central New Mexico

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pp. 271-282

Architectural, ceramic, kiva mural, and faunal data from two sites along the Lower Rio Puerco in central New Mexico indicate that fourteenth- and fifteenth-century residents of the region were struggling with two contradictory aspects of identity. On the one hand, residents of the region had adopted a new ritual system that focused on village-wide social integration. On the other hand, social groups with different migration histories into the villages were emphasizing their unique heritage. I argue that these seemingly contradictory behaviors reflect the dynamic nature of identity and the attempts made by people to negotiate their place in a new social...


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15. Avances del Norte de M

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pp. 285-290

In 1994 the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia en México (INAH) in Chihuahua organized the conference “The Archaeology of the Northern Border- lands of Mexico” to share recent knowledge about the pre-Hispanic cultures of northwestern Mexico. The conference included research by Mexican archaeologists working in the border states of Baja California, Sonora, and Chihuahua and was also attended by archaeologists from other states in northern Mexico, including Durango, Coahuila, and Nuevo León. INAH also invited numerous North American archaeologists...

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16. Imaginary Border, Profound Border: Terminological and Conceptual Construction of the Archaeology of Northern Mexico

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pp. 291-300

In The Sociologist’s Position, Pierre Bourdieu states that reality is the sum of its relations and that banishing the idea of its transparency is indispensable to the study of the social realm (Bourdieu, Chamboderon, and Passeron 1975:37–38). Preconceptions are barriers, and false constructions are unconscious and uncontrollable pre- constructions to the essence of sociological discourse. These preconceptions incite one to believe that facts should correspond with certain images arising from language, the primary instrument in the construction of the world. If not subjected to methodical criticism, they fall victim to our tendency to accept such pre-constructed ideas as facts of common language. This rigorous definition is useless, and possibly...

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17. Epic of the Toltec Chichimec and the Pur

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pp. 301-333

Archaeologists have long been intrigued with relationships between Mesoamerica and the southwestern United States (for an overview of this subject, see Cordell 1997; McGuire 1993; Willcox 1986). Emil Haury’s (1945, 1976) studies at Snaketown, Arizona, highlighted interactions between the Hohokam Culture and western Mexico, particularly the Chupícuaro Culture. J. Charles Kelley (1966) later identified shared iconographic elements of Hohokam and Chalchihuites ceramics...

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18. Mesoamerican Influences in the Imagery of Northern Mexico

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pp. 335-342

This chapter examines symbolic imagery from archaeological sites in northern Mexico, primarily the state of Durango, where painted figures found on large rocks may have formed parts of sanctuaries. Images attributed to a group of hunter-gatherers known as the Zacateco appear to show Mesoamerican influences. Other imagery suggests distinct influences from the southwestern United States via Paquimé in Chihuahua. Some influences may have been brought to Durango by traders traveling between Mesoamerica...

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19. Turquoise: Formal Economic Interrelationships between Mesoamerica and the North American Southwest

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pp. 343-353

No society in the history of humankind has valued the mineral turquoise more than the ancient Mesoamericans. Massive use of turquoise eventually supplanted jade as the most common and widespread gemstone within that ecumene. As a mineral with such a high profile, its acquisition and procurement, from initial mining to eventual use for prestigious artifacts, deserve much more systematic study and documentation than has been the case to date. What follows is a summary from the perspective of procurement and distribution between the southwestern United...

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20. The Cultural Landscape of Cliff Houses in the Sierra Madre Occidental, Chihuahua

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pp. 355-364

This study examines cultural landscapes in the highland catchment area of the Río Papigochic and its tributaries, the Río Chico and the Río Tutuaca, in the Sierra Madre Occidental in the northeastern part of the state of Chihuahua. The central part of the project is in the municipality of Madera in that state (Figure 20.1). In general, the ecosystems of the Huápoca and Sírupa canyons and the highland catchment area of the Papigochic are very fragile, and conservation of the region’s immense biodiversity is important. Among other considerations, the region is a migratory bird route and is important for the hydraulic recharging of areas of the...

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21. All Routes, All Directions: The Prehistoric Landscape of Nuevo Le

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pp. 365-372

The first humans to occupy the diverse territories of Nuevo León encountered an environment in the process of change. They coexisted with the last Pleistocene species in northeastern Mexico, including the bison and mammoth. Much later, the marked climatic changes of the initial Holocene led to a considerable reduction in plant species. This impacted the population of herbivores, whose numbers had already declined before the reduction in forage, and even more dramatically the carnivores, including humans, who depended on the former for their subsistence. The human ability to adapt to an omnivorous diet, however, proved so successful that from the arrival of indigenous peoples to Nuevo León around 12,000 years ago until their historic disappearance, they were able to sustain a lifeway based on the...

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22. Contributions of Walter W. Taylor to the Archaeology of Coahuila, 1937–1947

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pp. 373-383

The first archaeological project developed, organized, and designed for the state of Coahuila in northern Mexico was the U.S. National Museum’s Coahuila Expedition, directed by Walter W. Taylor.1 The project required several seasons of field- work, followed by a long period of inconclusive analysis. The focus of this chapter is Taylor’s site work in northeastern Coahuila.2 The geographical point of reference is the settlement of Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila, where Taylor established his base camp and planned his surveys and excavations...

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23. Archaeology and Physical Anthropology: A Reflection on Warfare in the Archaeological Vision

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pp. 385-392

In Mexico the relationship between archaeology and physical anthropology has operated as an arrangement between separate disciplines rather than as an interdisciplinary one. This relationship has been constrained in the fields of demography, health, disease (the latter badly interpreted and in some cases exaggerated or invented), and particularly death and violence, including human sacrifice, cannibalism, and warfare. Focusing on this latter point, in this chapter I argue that Mexican archaeologists have failed to adequately consider the importance of warfare in their interpretations and that physical anthropologists have inadequately contributed to...

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24. Pacification of the Chichimeca Region

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pp. 393-404

To the Spanish conquerors, northern New Spain represented a difficult problem in terms of domination and control. Spaniards began moving north after the conquest of the Basin of Mexico in 1521, with the aim of exploring and expanding the area of domination. Not until 1541, however, when a fierce attack occurred against the Cazcanes in the Mixtón War, did confrontations intensify, foretelling the war and bloodshed to come...

List of Contributors

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pp. 405-408


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pp. 409-420

E-ISBN-13: 9780870819742
E-ISBN-10: 0870819747
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870818899
Print-ISBN-10: 0870818899

Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 14 b/w photos, 28 line drawings, 13 maps, 15 table
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Commerce -- Southwest, New.
  • Indians of Mexico -- Mexico, North -- Migrations.
  • Indians of North America -- Southwest, New -- Migrations.
  • Indians of Mexico -- Commerce -- Mexico, North.
  • Indians of Mexico -- Mexico, North -- History.
  • Indians of North America -- Southwest, New -- History.
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