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33 CHAPTER THREE Ancient Zuni Settlement and Community Organization Ancestral Pueblo residents of the Zuni region were often at the forefront of significant pan-regional changes in settlement patterns and community organization during the late pre-Columbian era (roughly AD 1000– 1500). The well-dated archaeological record of this area provides an excellent opportunity to understand how intraregional shifts in population circulation, settlement, and social interaction contributed to the creation of new forms of community organization. This chapter provides an overview of the geography, environment, and culture history of the Zuni region and the El Morro Valley study area. I also summarize earlier archaeological research aimed at understanding the long-term development of communities in the broader Cibola area. Some of these studies have been particularly influential during the last 25 years of archaeological research examining community organization in the Southwest. Defining the Zuni Region Although among the first areas of the American Southwest to be subjected to archaeological study (Cushing 1890; Fewkes 1891; Mindeleff 1891), definitions of what constitute the Zuni region and the wider Cibola area have fluctuated over time (Carlson 1970; Gladwin 1957; Kintigh 1996, 2007; LeBlanc 1989). A number of different aspects of the archaeological record have been used as regional markers, including architecture , settlement patterns, and pottery styles, but these indicators 34 population circulation and zuni communities do not always exhibit overlapping geographic distributions. On the other hand, all definitions consistently note that the area of dense, long-term settlement now located in the modern Zuni Indian Reservation and immediately surrounding locales was the primary population and social center of the area. This is the area most often referred to as the Zuni region and represents the geographic and demographic core of the ancient Cibola area, which also includes more distant areas, such as the upper Little Colorado River valley and Rio Puerco valley. Although the archaeological records of these latter areas are similar to those of the Zuni region in many respects, they often exhibit important differences that are likely the product of interaction with residents of districts adjacent to the Cibola area, such as the Mogollon region to the south or the San Juan Basin to the north. These more distant areas are occasionally explored in this book, although most of the analyses focus on the core Zuni region, which is geographically defined by the Zuni River and its main tributaries, including Jaralosa Draw and Hardscrabble Wash (fig. 3.1). This area is physically bounded by the Zuni Mountains on the northeast, the Continental Divide and a chain of volcanic craters to the east, the edge of the 50 km t figure 3.1. The Cibola area and Zuni region. Ancient Zuni Settlement and Community Organization 35 Zuni Plateau to the south, and the confluence of the Zuni and Little Colorado Rivers to the west. Zuni Region Geography, Climate, and Agriculture The geography and climate of the Zuni region are defined by its location on the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. Much of the area contains numerous narrow canyons dissecting sandstone mesas covered in piñon, juniper, and ponderosa pine forests. Expansive grasslands, such as the floor of the El Morro Valley or rolling ridges west of the Arizona-New Mexico state line, are present at the margins of the region. The entire region slopes down from the Continental Divide on the east, and all of the drainages eventually funnel into the Little Colorado River. Along the Zuni River and its tributaries elevation ranges from over 7,200 feet on the floor of the El Morro Valley to roughly 6,000 feet at the Arizona–New Mexico state line. The Zuni Mountains represent the nearest accessible mountainous area, topping out at nearly 9,000 feet. Winter snow pack in the Zuni Mountains is vital for feeding surface streams and groundwater that support agriculture in the region (Ferguson and Hart 1985). The El Morro Valley is situated in the eastern portion of the region, nestled between the Zuni Mountains and a series of 300–500-foot-tall mesas (more accurately described as cuestas) that define its southern and eastern edges (fig. 3.2). Much of the valley floor is covered in volcanic deposits from cinder cones located to the east along the Continental Divide. As in most parts of the Southwest, precipitation in the Zuni region is closely correlated with elevation (Ferguson and Hart 1985:12–13). Modern records indicate that these differences are fairly minor within the primary areas of ancient habitation...


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