restricted access 4. Medio Period Sites in the Southern Zone
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54 4 Medio Period Sites in the Southern Zone Jane Holden Kelley and David A. Phillips Jr. Before the Proyecto Arqueológico Chihuahua (PAC), the prehistory of the Casas Grandes culture ’s southern zone equated to the Medio period . The villages of that period were ­ obvious on the local landscape, and the first serious explorations of the area were by U.S. scholars who focused on such villages: Edgar Lee Hewett (1908, 1993), A. V. Kidder (1939), Henry Carey (1931), Donald Brand (1933, 1943), and E.  B. Sayles (1936) (see Chapter 1, this volume). Ever since, it has been clear that adobe-­walled houses with polychrome pottery could be found in the Babícora Basin and the upper Santa María and Santa Clara Valleys. Based on the early work, those areas ­ appeared to represent the southern and southeastern margins of the Casas Grandes culture. There was also a sense that within the southern zone, the sites of the Babícora Basin were most like the better-­known, more numerous examples to the north. The density of sites seemed to diminish as one traveled southeast and east: the upper Santa María Valley was less hospitable to prehistoric farmers, and the Santa Clara Valley was marginal. Sayles’s survey notes (now at the Arizona State Museum) indicate that he found no large mounds and only a few small ones, along the Santa María between Buenaventura and Namiquipa.1 The PAC has not appreciably changed perceptions of the southern and southeastern boundaries of the Casas Grandes culture. We heard of a Medio period site in the Matachic area, and rumors persist of mound sites in the Papagochic Valley a bit farther south, but the stories were not confirmed. Our short visits to the Carichic and Guerrero localities failed to identify such sites, and the Casas Grandes sherds observed by the PAC south of its usual study area were not associated with house mounds. Instead, sites resembled those we investigated in the Bustillos Basin (see MacWilliams 2001 and Chapter 9, this volume). While additional sites of the Casas Grandes culture may yet be found south of the Babícora Basin and the upper Santa María, we feel that the culture’s southern extent is largely defined by the three areas discussed here. The boundary to the west is another open question; suffice it to say that Casas Grandes cliff dwellings are present west of Las Varas and Madera and that Eduardo Gamboa Carrera is working in that region (Gamboa Carrera and Mancera-­Valencia 2008). The Babícora Basin Three site clusters have long been known around the margins of the Babícora Basin and along its extension to the northwest, the Las Varas Valley . Past projects differed in how they grouped mounds as sites, and the early surveys took place before detailed topographic maps were available, so locations were vague. The Las Varas group received the lion’s share of attention from the early archaeologists. In 1921, Brand (1933, 1943) recorded more than 20 mounds along the 9.7 km (6 mi) stretch of the Río Las Varas, southeast of the modern pueblo of the same name (see­Figure 4.1). Figure 4.1. Sites in the Las Varas and El Zurdo drainages recorded by the PAC. Jane Holden Kelley and David A. Phillips Jr. 56 A. V. Kidder — ​the first on the ground but the last of the pioneers to publish his work  — ​dug a site between Carey’s Mounds 2 and 5, near the pueblo of Las Varas (see Carey 1931:Figure 3). Carey’s (1931) map did not show the mound where Kidder worked, so he wondered if it had been swept away by the Arroyo Las Varas (which was nibbling at it in 1924). Carey’s map shows five mound sites near Las Varas in which Kidder excavated. Sayles’s 1933 survey forms (now at the Arizona State Museum) indicate nine sites (Chih I:9:1 to Chih I:9:9) in much the same area. One of these, Chih I:9:6, is the PAC’s El Zurdo (Ch-­159) (Kelley 2008, 2009a, 2009b). Carey may have visited this site, as a large group of mounds appears at more or less the right place on his Las Varas map (Carey 1931:Figure 3). It seems safe to conclude that the Las Varas site cluster included at least nine Medio period habitation sites: seven downstream from the town of that name, Ch-­180 upstream from...