Anthropological Papers at the University of Arizona

Paper #66
Beyond Chaco: Great Kiva Communities on the Mogollon Rim Frontier

Author(s): Sarah A. Herr*
Publisher: Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona 66, 2001, $16.95
Order From: http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/books.php

 

Abstract
During the eleventh and twelfth centuries A.D., the Mogollon Rim region of east-central Arizona was a frontier, situated beyond and between larger regional organizations such as Chaco, Hohokam, and Mimbres. On this southwestern edge of the Puebloan world, past settlement poses a contradiction to those who study it. Population density was low, yet the region was overbuilt with great kivas, a form of community-level architecture.

Using a frontier model to evaluate household, community, and regional data, Sarah Herr demonstrates that the archaeological patterns of the Mogollon Rim region were created by the flexible and creative behaviors of small-scale agriculturalists. Herr's research shows that the eleventh- and twelfth-century inhabitants of the Mogollon Rim region were recent migrants, probably from the southern portion of the Chacoan region. These early settlers built houses and ceremonial structures and made ceramic vessels that resembled those of their homeland, but their social and political organization was not the same as that of their ancestors. Mogollon Rim communities were shaped by the cultural backgrounds of migrants, by their liminal position on the political landscape, and by the unique processes associated with frontiers.

As migrants moved from homeland to frontier, a reversal in the proportion of land to labor dramatically changed the social relations of production. Herr argues that when the context of production changes in this way, wealth-in-people becomes more valuable than material wealth, and social relationships and cultural symbols such as the great kiva must be reinterpreted accordingly.

*Sarah A. Herr is a senior project director at Desert Archaeology in Tucson, Arizona. She began work in the Mogollon Rim region in 1993 with the Silver Creek Archaeological Project, University of Arizona. Her continuing research in the area focuses on understanding the social and political organizations of regions dominated by small settlements.

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