Mogollon culture

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Map of major prehistoric archaeological cultures

Mogollon culture /mʌɡɪˈjn, m-/ [1] is an archaeological culture of Native American peoples from Southern New Mexico and Arizona, Northern Sonora and Chihuahua, and Western Texas, a region known as Oasisamerica. [2] [3] [4]

Indigenous peoples of the Americas Pre-Columbian inhabitants of North, Central and South America and their descendants

The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the Pre-Columbian peoples of North, Central and South America and their descendants.

New Mexico State of the United States of America

New Mexico is a state in the Southwestern region of the United States of America; its capital and cultural center is Santa Fe, which was founded in 1610 as capital of Nuevo México, while its largest city is Albuquerque with its accompanying metropolitan area. It is one of the Mountain States and shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and Arizona; its other neighboring states are Oklahoma to the northeast, Texas to the east-southeast, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua to the south and Sonora to the southwest. With a population around two million, New Mexico is the 36th state by population. With a total area of 121,592 sq mi (314,920 km2), it is the fifth-largest and sixth-least densely populated of the 50 states. Due to their geographic locations, northern and eastern New Mexico exhibit a colder, alpine climate, while western and southern New Mexico exhibit a warmer, arid climate.

Arizona state of the United States of America

Arizona is a state in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western and the Mountain states. It is the sixth largest and the 14th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico; its other neighboring states are Nevada and California to the west and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California to the south and southwest.


The Mogollon culture is one of the major prehistoric Southwestern cultural divisions of the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. [5] The culture flourished from the archaic period, c. 200 CE, to either 1450 [6] or 1540 CE, when the Spanish arrived. [5]

Southwestern United States Geographical region of the USA

The Southwestern United States, also known as the American Southwest, is the informal name for a region of the western United States. Definitions of the region's boundaries vary a great deal and have never been standardized, though many boundaries have been proposed. For example, one definition includes the stretch from the Mojave Desert in California to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and from the Mexico–United States border to the southern areas of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. The largest metropolitan areas are centered around Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tucson, Albuquerque, and El Paso. Those five metropolitan areas have an estimated total population of more than 9.6 million as of 2017, with nearly 60 percent of them living in the two Arizona cities—Phoenix and Tucson.

Geography of Mexico

The geography of Mexico describes the geographic features of Mexico, a country in the Americas. Mexico is located at about 23° N and 102° W in the southern portion of North America. From its farthest land points, Mexico is a little over 3,200 km (2,000 mi) in length. Mexico is bounded to the north by the United States, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, to the east by the Gulf of Mexico, and to the southeast by Belize, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea. The northernmost constituent of Latin America, it is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. Mexico is the world's 13th largest country, three times the size of Texas.

Spanish colonization of the Americas Overseas expansion under the Crown of Castile

The overseas expansion under the Crown of Castile was initiated under the royal authority and first accomplished by the Spanish conquistadors. The Americas were incorporated into the Spanish Empire, with the exception of Brazil, Canada, the eastern United States and several other small countries in South America and The Caribbean. The crown created civil and religious structures to administer the region. The motivations for colonial expansion were trade and the spread of the Catholic faith through indigenous conversions.


The rock wall of the canyon, the Cueva de las Ventanas cliff-dwelling is located left of center above a debris-covered cone. 40Casas2.jpg
The rock wall of the canyon, the Cueva de las Ventanas cliff-dwelling is located left of center above a debris-covered cone.

The name Mogollon comes from the Mogollon Mountains, [6] which were named after Don Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollón, Spanish Governor of New Spain (including what is now New Mexico) from 1712 to 1715. The name was chosen and defined in 1936 by archaeologist Emil W. Haury. [5]

Mogollon Mountains

The Mogollon Mountains or Mogollon Range are a mountain range in Grant County and Catron County of southwestern New Mexico, in the Southwestern United States. They are primarily protected within the Gila National Forest.

Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon Spanish colonial governor

Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon was a Spanish military officer who served as governor of Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico between 1712 and 1715, replacing Jose Chacón Medina Salazar y Villaseñor.

New Spain viceroyalty of the Spanish Empire (1535-1821)

The Viceroyalty of New Spain was an integral territorial entity of the Spanish Empire, established by Habsburg Spain during the Spanish colonization of the Americas. It covered a huge area that included territories in North America, South America, Asia and Oceania. It originated in 1521 after the fall of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the main event of the Spanish conquest, which did not properly end until much later, as its territory continued to grow to the north. It was officially created on 8 March 1535 as a viceroyalty, the first of four viceroyalties Spain created in the Americas. Its first viceroy was Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco, and the capital of the viceroyalty was Mexico City, established on the ancient Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

Cultural traits

Macaw Pens at Paquime, Chihuahua Casas Grandes Macaw Pens.JPG
Macaw Pens at Paquimé, Chihuahua

The distinct facets of Mogollon culture were recorded by Emil Haury, based on his excavations in 1931, 1933, and 1934 at the Harris Village in Mimbres, New Mexico, and the Mogollon Village on the upper San Francisco River in New Mexico [7] Haury recognized differences between architecture and artifacts from these sites as compared with sites in the Hohokam archaeological culture area and the Ancestral Pueblo archaeological culture area. Key differences included brown-paste, coil-and-scrape pottery, deeply excavated semi-subterranean pit-houses and different ceremonial architecture. Eight decades of subsequent research have confirmed Haury's initial findings. [8] Today, the distinctiveness of the Mogollon pottery manufacture, architectural construction, ground-stone tool design, habits and customs of residence location, and mortuary treatment is generally recognized. [9] [10]

Mimbres, New Mexico Census-designated place in New Mexico, United States

Mimbres is a census-designated place in Grant County, New Mexico, United States. Its population was 667 as of the 2010 census. Mimbres has a post office with ZIP code 88049. New Mexico State Road 35 passes through the community.

San Francisco River river in the United States of America

The San Francisco River is a 159-mile-long (256 km) river in the southwest United States, the largest tributary of the Upper Gila River. The river originates near Alpine, Arizona and flows into New Mexico before re-entering Arizona and joining the Gila downstream from Clifton, Arizona.

Hohokam ethnic group

The Hohokam were an ancient Native American culture centered in the present US state of Arizona. The Hohokam are one of the four major cultures of the American Southwest and northern Mexico in Southwestern archaeology. Considered part of the Oasisamerica tradition, the Hohokam established significant trading centers such as at Snaketown, and are considered to be the builders of the original canal system around the Phoenix metropolitan area, which the Mormon pioneers rebuilt when they settled the Lehi area of Mesa near Red Mountain. Variant spellings in current, official usage include Hobokam, Huhugam, and Huhukam.

The earliest Mogollon pithouses were deep and either circular or oval-shaped. Over time, Mogollon people built rectangular houses with rounded corners and not as deep. Their villages also had kivas, or round, semi-subterranean ceremonial structures. [11]


Man and crane, Mangas-Mimbres pot, c. 1000 AD, showing figure-ground reversal Man and crane, Mangas-Mimbres pot.jpg
Man and crane, Mangas-Mimbres pot, c. 1000 AD, showing figure-ground reversal

Mogollon origins remain a matter of speculation. One model holds that the Mogollon emerged from a preceding Desert Archaic tradition that links Mogollon ancestry with the first (late Pleistocene) prehistoric human occupations of the area (around 9000 BCE). In this model, cultural distinctions emerged in the larger region when populations grew great enough to establish villages and even larger communities. An alternative possibility holds that the Mogollon were descendants of early farmers who migrated from farming regions in central Mexico around 3500 BCE, and who displaced descendants of the antecedent Desert Archaic peoples. A third view is that at the time of the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture the Cochise culture [11] (the early pithouse, late Desert Archaic, antecedents of the Mogollon) had been immigrants into the area about 5000 BCE, and were not linked to the earlier inhabitants, but were receptive to cultural dissemination from the farmers of Central Mexico.[ citation needed ]

The Pleistocene is the geological epoch which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world's most recent period of repeated glaciations. The end of the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the last glacial period and also with the end of the Paleolithic age used in archaeology.

The Cochise Tradition refers to the southern archeological tradition of the four Southwestern Archaic Traditions, in the present-day Southwestern United States.

The Mogollon were, initially, foragers who augmented their subsistence efforts by farming. Through the first millennium CE, however, dependence on farming probably increased. Water control features are common among Mimbres branch sites from the 10th through 12th centuries CE.

The nature and density of Mogollon residential villages changed through time. The earliest Mogollon villages are small hamlets composed of several pithouses (houses excavated into the ground surface, with stick and thatch roofs supported by a network of posts and beams, and faced on the exterior with earth). Village sizes increased over time and by the 11th century surface pueblos (ground level dwellings made with rock and earth walls, and with roofs supported by post and beam networks) became common. Cliff-dwellings became common during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Research on Mogollon culture has led to the recognition of regional variants, of which the most widely recognized in popular media is the Mimbres culture (Mimbres Mogollon branch). Others include the Jornada, Forestdale, Reserve, Point of Pines (or "Black River"), San Simon, and Upper Gila branches. Although the Mimbres culture is the most well-known subset of the Mogollon archaeological culture-area, the entire Mogollon occupation spans a greater interval of time (roughly one millennium) and a vastly larger area than is encompassed by the Mimbres culture.

Developmental periods

Kinishba Ruins near Fort Apache, Arizona Kinishba.jpg
Kinishba Ruins near Fort Apache, Arizona

Mogollon culture is often divided into five periods proposed by Joe Ben Wheat in 1955:

An alternate way of viewing Mogollon culture is through three periods of housing types:


Archaeological sites attributed to the Mogollon culture are found in the Gila Wilderness, Mimbres River Valley, along the Upper Gila river, Paquime and Hueco Tanks, an area of low mountains between the Franklin Mountains to the west and the Hueco Mountains to the east. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in southwestern New Mexico was established as a National Monument on 16 November 1907. It contains several archaeological sites attributed to the Mimbres branch. At the headwaters of the Gila, Mimbres populations adjoined another more northern branch of the Mogollon culture. The TJ Ruin, for example, is a Classic Mimbres phase pueblo, however the cliff dwellings are Tularosa phase. The Hueco Tanks State Historic Site is approximately 32 mi (51 km) northeast of El Paso, Texas. [14]

Mimbres branch

Looking out from one of the Gila Cliff cave dwellings GilaCliffDwellings Interior.jpg
Looking out from one of the Gila Cliff cave dwellings

Mimbres may, depending on its context, refer to a tradition within a subregion of the Mogollon culture area (the Mimbres branch or the Mimbres Mogollon) or to an interval of time, the "Classic Mimbres phase" (also known as the "Mimbres culture"; 1000–1130 CE, roughly) within the Mimbres branch.

The Mimbres branch is a subset of the larger Mogollon culture area, centered in the Mimbres Valley and encompassing the upper Gila River and parts of the upper San Francisco River in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona as well as the Rio Grande Valley and its western tributaries in southwest New Mexico. Differentiation between the Mimbres branch and other areas of the Mogollon culture area is most apparent during the Three Circle (825–1000 CE roughly) and Classic Mimbres (1000–1150) phases, when architectural construction and black and white painted pottery assume locally distinctive forms and styles. [15] Classic Mimbres phase pottery is particularly famous pottery, and Classic Mimbres pottery designs (mainly drawn from the Swarts Ruin excavations of 1924–1927) were imitated on Santa Fe Railroad "Mimbreños" china dinnerware from 1936 to 1970.

Mimbres sub-group pot with geometric design Museum Rietberg Schaudepot Amerika Topferei 1 A.jpg
Mimbres sub-group pot with geometric design

Three Circle phase (825/850–1000) pithouse villages within the Mimbres branch are distinctive. Houses are "quadrilateral", usually with sharply-angled corners; plastered floors and walls; and average about 17 m2 (180 sq ft) in floor surface area. Local pottery styles include early forms of Mimbres black and white ("boldface"), red-on-cream, and textured plainware. Large ceremonial structures (often called "kivas") are dug deeply into the ground and often include distinctive ceremonial features such as foot drums and log grooves.

Classic Mimbres phase (AD 1000–1130) pueblos can be quite large, with some composed of clusters of communities, each containing up to 150 rooms and all grouped around an open plaza. Ceremonial structures were different from the previous pithouse periods. Most common were ceremonial rooms within roomblocks. Smaller square or rectangular semi-subterranean kivas with roof openings are also found. (The word "kiva", a Hopi term with specific meaning, has generally been applied to Northern Pueblo populations. It may be a poor term in discussing the Mogollon in their broadest contexts. [16] ) The largest Classic Mimbres sites are located near wide areas of well-watered floodplain suitable for maize agriculture, although smaller villages exist in upland areas.

Mimbres pottery

Mimbres bowls at Stanford University Mimbres p1070222.jpg
Mimbres bowls at Stanford University

Ceramics, especially bowls, produced in the Mimbres region is distinct in style and painted with geometric designs and representational images of animals, people, and cultural icons in black paint on a white background. Some of these images suggest familiarity and relationships with cultures in northern and central Mexico. The elaborate decoration suggest the Mimbres Mogollons enjoyed a rich ceremonial life. Early Mimbres black-on-white pottery, called Mimbres Style I (formerly "Boldface Black-on-White"), is primarily characterized by bold geometric designs, although some early examples feature human and animal figures.

Mimbres black-on-white bowl, ca. 1000-1150 CE at the California Academy of Sciences Mimbres black-on-white bowl.jpg
Mimbres black-on-white bowl, ca. 1000–1150 CE at the California Academy of Sciences

Both geometric and figurative designs grew increasingly sophisticated and diverse over time. Classic Mimbres Black-on-White pottery (Style III) is characterized by elaborate geometric designs, refined brushwork, including very fine linework, and may include figures of one or more animals, humans, or other images bounded either by simple rim bands or by geometric decoration. Birds figure prominently on Mimbres pots, including images such as turkeys feeding on insects and a man trapping birds in a garden. Fish are also common.

Mimbres bowls are often found associated with burials, typically with a hole punched out of the center, known as kill holes. Most commonly Mimbres bowls have been found covering the face of the interred person. Wear marks on the insides of bowls show they were actually used, not just produced as burial items.

Mimbres pottery is so distinctive that until fairly recently, the end of its production around 1130 to 1150 was equated with the "disappearance" of the people who made it. More recent research indicates that substantial depopulation did occur in the Mimbres Valley, but some remnant populations persisted there. [17] Both there and in surrounding areas, people changed their pottery styles to more closely resemble those of neighboring culture areas, and dispersed into other residential sites with different types of architecture.


The area originally settled by the Mogollon culture was eventually filled by the unrelated Apache people, who moved in from the north. However, contemporary Pueblo people in the southwest claim descent from the Mogollon and other related cultures. [18] [19] Archaeologists believe that the Western Pueblo villages of the Hopi and Zuni people are potentially related to the Mogollon. [20] Ceramics traditions and oral history link the Acoma, Hopi, and Zuni, to the Mogollon. [21]

See also


  1. "Mogollon". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. Flores Rangel, Juan Jose (2010). Historia de México I (in Spanish). Cengage Learning Editores. p. 81. ISBN   978-6074811667 . Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  3. Brody et al. 23
  4. Austin and Lujan 38
  5. 1 2 3 Peregine, Peter N.; et al. (2001). Encyclopedia of Prehistory: Volume 6: North America. Springer. p. 287. ISBN   978-0306462603 . Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  6. 1 2 3 "Mogollon culture". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  7. Haury, Emil W. The Mogollon Culture of Southwestern New Mexico. Medallion Papers No. XX. Gila Pueblo, Globe, Arizona, 1936.
  8. Among others this research was conducted by teams based out of the Field Museum of Natural History, the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona, the Amerind Foundation, the Mimbres Foundation, and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. Recent or ongoing excavations have been conducted by teams from Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Texas Austin, University of Texas, San Antonio, University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and University of Oklahoma.
  9. Cordell, Linda, Archaeology of the Southwest, 2nd edition (San Diego: Academic Press, 1997), page number unknown
  10. Fagan, Brian M. (2005). Ancient North America: The Archaeology of a Continent (4th ed.). New York: Thames and Hudson. ISBN   978-0-500-28532-9. page number unknown
  11. 1 2 "Mogollon". Logan Museum of Anthropology. Beloit College. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  12. Wheat, Joe Ben (1955). "Mogollon Culture Prior to A. D. 1000". Memoirs of the Society for American Archaeology. p. 11: Table 1. JSTOR   25146631.Missing or empty |url= (help)
  13. "Who or What Is Mogollon". Archaeology Southwest. May 2013. p. 1. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  14. "Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site". Texas Parks & Wildlife. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  15. Brody, et al.[ page needed ]
  16. Lekson, Stephen H. Archaeology of the Mimbres Region, Southwestern New Mexico. BAR International Series 1466. Archaeopress, Oxford, 2006.
  17. Nelson, Margaret C. Abandonment, Continuity, and Reorganization: Mimbres During the 12th Century. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1999.
  18. Skibo et al. 234
  19. Kelly, Shannon. "Mogollon Rim, Arizona." Archived 2007-12-13 at the Wayback Machine .. Land Use History of North America: Colorado Plateau. Retrieved 29 jan 2013.
  20. Gregory, David A., and David A. Willcox, eds. Zuni Origins: Toward a New Synthesis of Southwestern Archaeology. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 2007. ISBN   978-0816524860
  21. Hutt, Sherry (25 October 2005). "Notice of Intent to Repatriate a Cultural Item: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Gila National Forest, Silver City, NM, and Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL". National NAGRA. Federal Register 70, no. 206. pp. 61, 837–61, 838. Retrieved 16 November 2015.

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Further reading