restricted access 1. Introduction to the Proyecto Arqueológico Chihuahua
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1 1 Introduction to the Proyecto Arqueológico Chihuahua Jane Holden Kelley Between 1990 and 2010 it was my privilege and great pleasure to serve as one of the leaders (along with Joe D. Stewart and Richard D. Garvin) of the Proyecto Arqueológico Chihuahua (PAC). Our principal goal was to explore the south end of the Casas Grandes culture area, which before then was all but unknown. This volume summarizes the project’s findings for those interested in the archaeology of Chihuahua, the prehistory of the greater region, and the initial development of social complexity. The Casas Grandes area is particularly relevant to understanding the dynamics of so-­ called midlevel societies (see Whalen and Minnis 2001a, 2001b:​ 7, 2009:1) because part of that area developed into what has been called the most complex society in the Southwest/Northwest (e.g., Plog 1997:​173).1 But only part of it did; as Michael Whalen and Paul Minnis learned in northwest Chihuahua, and as we learned in the PAC study area, the Casas Grandes culture is a case study in how uneven the social evolution of a midlevel society can be. The culture has been known by at least two names. For many years the project opted to use Donald Brand’s (1933) term “Chihuahua culture ” rather than the more widely used “Casas Grandes culture” because Brand’s term has historical precedence and draws attention to regions outside the immediate vicinity of ancient Casas Grandes (Paquimé). Brand’s designation is not problem-­free, however; it implies that one is talking about the entire state of Chihuahua, which is not the case. After a heartfelt plea by Rafael Cruz Antillón (a Mexican archaeologist active in Chihuahua and the author of a ­chapter in this volume) to conform more closely to Mexi­ can usage, in this volume we refer to the entire culture as “Casas Grandes.” The PAC worked at the south and southeast edges of the Casas Grandes culture area (­ Figure 1.1). In time we came to refer to our study area as the southern zone (and, on occasion, to northwest Chihuahua as the northern zone).2 In this volume we continue to use “southern zone” as shorthand for the portion of the Casas Grandes culture area that falls within the PAC study area. The southern zone actually includes at least three districts, to use Hewett’s (1908, 1993) term; from west to east they are (1) the Babícora Basin in the municipio of Gomez Farías (Figure 1.2), (2) the upper Santa María Valley, within the municipio of Namiquipa (Figure 1.3), and (3) the Santa Clara Valley, partly in the same ­ municipio. The upper reaches of the north-­ flowing Ríos Santa María and Santa Clara are home to the local southern limits of the Casas Grandes culture area. The southern zone is also the part of the Casas Grandes culture area farthest from Paquimé, the southeastern limit of midlevel societies in the Southwest/Northwest, and, east of the Sierra Madre Occidental, the part of the Casas Grandes culture area closest to Mesoamerica. 2 JANE HOLDEN KELLEY The Research Context I will not attempt a comprehensive historical review of Chihuahuan archaeology; that has been done by Whalen and Minnis (2001b, 2004; see also Cabrero G. 1993; Kelley and MacWilliams 2005; Kelley and Villalpando 1996; Mendiola 2008; Phillips 2002; Woosley and Ravesloot 1993). Here I stress the developments most relevant to understanding the PAC. Some of this historical context will be revisited in the chapter on the Medio period. The First Wave: Early 1900s Edgar Lee Hewett traveled through the southern zone in 1906, during his horseback reconnaissance of the east flank of the Sierra Madre Occidental, and his 1908 dissertation broke new ground by recognizing spatial variability within the Southwest/Northwest culture area (codified in his notion of “districts” [Hewett 1908, 1993]). Hewett concluded that the Babícora district represented the southern limit of both the Pueblo and Southwest/Northwest culture areas. Soon Figure 1.1. The PAC study area. The four subareas are circled. 3 Introduction to the PAC after, the Mexican Revolution made archaeological studies impossible. Nonetheless, as Hewett’s dissertation shows, the international boundary was not the intellectual barrier that it later became. When Chihuahua was again safe for foreign travelers, four U.S. archaeologists — ​A. V. Kidder, H. A. Carey, Donald Brand, and E. B. Sayles  — ​ ventured into the southern zone. Similar early efforts took place on the other...


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