Chronological frameworks for the Southwest are many, varied, and often controversial. No single set of terms or chronological classification properly suits every type of investigation; therefore Southwestern archæologists have, over the years, created "better" systems, as well as made changes to existing systems which have already proved useful. This presents problems for people not specialised in Southwestern archæology--most of us would prefer one frame in which to place our data.|
Two kinds of chronological frameworks exist for the Southwest: those which are intended to apply to the entire area and encompass all the peoples of that place, and those which are intended for one small area or one specific cultural group such as the Hohokam or the Anasazi.
The first important Southwestern framework of any kind was the Pecos Classification, devised at the Pecos Conference of 1927 (Kidder 1927). This classification was a simple division of all of known Anasazi culture into eight time units--of uncertain length and unknown antiquity--chiefly based on changes in architecture and pottery. At the time it was developed it was expected that this classification would be applicable to the entire Southwest as then archæologically understood; however, it was eventually agreed that the Pecos Classification was only really applicable to the San Juan drainage area, or at most to the Anasazi culture. Some changes have been made to the original periodic definitions and more recent archæological evidence has refined the periodic precision, but the general ideas of the Pecos Classification still form the basis of chronological division for the Anasazi culture.
With the realisation that the Pecos Classification could not adequately encompass any people but the Anasazi, and with the "creation" of the Hohokam name for the culture of southern Arizona, Winifred and Harold Gladwin proposed a new system in 1934 (Gladwin and Gladwin 1934). This chronological scheme continues in use today, though as with the Pecos Classification, many modifications have been made to the original model. The Gladwins named the Hohokam periods Colonial, Sedentary, Classic, Recent, and Modern.
Intense archæological activity in the 1930s Southwest soon brought to light another major regional culture which required its own classification and division. Argument over whether this newly identified culture--the Mogollon (Gladwin and Gladwin 1935; Haury 1936)--actually differed from the Anasazi to the north and the Hohokam to the west and south continued for more than a decade. Eventually consensus emerged that the Mogollon was a distinct and important component of the prehistoric Southwest, though one which shared its origins with the Hohokam.
A fourth major subculture--Hakataya or Patayan--appears in the chart below. This designation brings together several groups, including the Yuman, the Caddoan, the Sinagua, and the Cohonina, which were linguistically different but which occupied common areas of the Southwest and descended from common ancestors. Hakatayan cultural divisions are far less well-defined than those of the other Southwestern peoples, in part because of the fragmentary nature of evidence about the Hakataya subculture, and also due to the tendency of the dispersed Hakatayan peoples to show cultural influences of the peoples they traded with and lived near.
Chronological subdivision of the four major Southwestern archæological cultures. (Ortiz 1979: 29)
The chart above reflects some scholars' belief that the ancient Cochise people continued on as the Hohokam and Mogollon; this point is under some debate and warrants scrutiny (Haury 1976: 351). Certainly the early Hohokam and late Cochise occupied the same geographic region, yet evidence indicates that their methods of survival were somewhat different. While the Hohokam relied on irrigation and agriculture, the Cochise were mainly, if not wholly, hunters and gatherers. Perhaps because the Cochise and the Hohokam exploited different parts of the arid environment in which they lived, no evidence of confrontation between the groups exists. Within a few centuries of the arrival of the Hohokam however, most of the Cochise people who had remained in the area had adopted the Hohokam ways. (Haury 1976: 352)
This site prepared as part of WestWeb by Warrick Bell and Catherine Lavender. Graphics © 1998, 1999 Warrick Bell.
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Last modified 29 September 1999