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TH E PRE HISPANIC ET HNOBOTANY O F PAQ UIMÉ AND ITS NEIGHBOR S
The Prehispanic Ethnobotany of Paquimé and Its Neighbors PAUL E. MI NNIS and M ICHAEL E. W HALEN
The University of Arizona Press www.uapress.arizona.edu © 2020 by The Arizona Board of Regents All rights reserved. Published 2020 ISBN-13: 978-0-8165-4079-2 (hardcover) Cover design by Leigh McDonald Cover photo: Aerial view of the extensive fields on the Río Casas Grandes floodplain with Paquimé in background #A37B8 CG. Courtesy of the Amerind Foundation. Designed and typeset by Sara Thaxton in 10.5/14.5 Minion Pro (text) and Baskerville (display) Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Minnis, Paul E., author. | Whalen, Michael E., author. Title: The prehispanic ethnobotany of Paquimé and its neighbors / Paul E. Minnis and Michael E. Whalen. Description: Tucson : University of Arizona Press, 2020. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2020011822 | ISBN 9780816540792 (hardcover) Subjects: LCSH: Ethnobotany—Mexico—Chihuahua (State) | Excavations (Archaeology)— Mexico—Chihuahua (State) | Casas Grandes Site (Mexico) | Chihuahua (Mexico : State)—Antiquities. Classification: LCC GN560.M6 M56 2020 | DDC 581.6/3097216—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020011822 Printed in the United States of America ♾ This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).
Dedicated to Patricia A. Gilman y a nuestros amigos de Chihuahua
List of Illustrations Preface Introduction: Paquimé, Its Neighbors, and Ethnobotany
ix xiii 3
1. Environmental Setting
2. Foods: Domestic and Community
4. Wood Use
5. Anthropogenic Ecology
Appendix 1: Methodology Appendix 2: Taxa Recovered from Our Excavations Appendix 3: Data Summaries References Cited Index
109 111 115 143 155
Figures I.1 I.2 I.3 I.4 I.5 I.6 I.7 I.8 I.9 I.10 I.11 I.12 I.13 I.14 I.15 I.16 I.17 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 2.1 2.2
Map of northwestern Chihuahua and adjacent regions. Paquimé before excavation. Paquimé during excavation. Map of the six sites around Paquimé excavated by the authors. Aerial view of Site 317. Map of Site 317. Aerial view of Site 231. Map of Site 231. Aerial view of Site 204. Map of Site 204. Aerial view of Site 242. Map of Site 242. Excavation of Site 315. Map of Site 315. Excavation of Site 565. Map of Site 565. Aerial view of El Pueblito. Map of major biotic zones in the Upper Río Casas Grandes region. Río Piedras Verdes valley in the Sierra Madre Occidental west of Paquimé. Woodlands in the foothills west of Paquimé. Desert plains and grasslands east of Paquimé. The modern canal system. Scattergram comparison of ubiquity rank-order scores for lowland sites (315 and 565). Scattergram comparison of ubiquity rank-order scores for a lowland site (315) and an upland site (204).
4 6 7 12 13 13 14 14 15 15 16 16 18 19 20 20 21 24 26 27 28 30 37 39
2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 5.1
Scattergram comparison of ubiquity rank-order scores for Early and Late Medio period contexts at Site 204. Little barley seed from Site 315. The first chile seed recovered from Site 315. An agave in bloom. An unexcavated formal oven west of Mata Ortiz. Excavated oven next to the ball court at Site 204. A cluster of formal (Type 1A1) metates at Paquimé. The Unit 1 and Unit 9 ovens at Paquimé. The Unit 9 oven at Paquimé during excavation. Sotol. Cuarenta Casas, a cliff dwelling southwest of Paquimé. Extensive Río Casas Grandes floodplain near Paquimé. Map of the Río Casas Grandes floodplain upstream (south) of Paquimé. Granary at Cueva de la Olla next to domestic rooms. A series of trincheras on the piedmont west of Paquimé. Maps of small trincheras systems. Partially excavated rock mulch feature. Locations of upland agricultural survey areas. A chief field south of El Pueblito. Map of a chief field south of El Pueblito. Scattergram comparison of wood abundance and ubiquity rank-order scores for Site 315. In situ architectural beams at Paquimé. Scattergram comparison of wood ubiquity rank-order scores for lowland sites (315 and 565). Scattergram comparison of wood ubiquity rank-order scores for a lowland site (315) and an upland site (204). Ubiquity scores for Early and Late Medio period wood at Site 204.
40 42 44 47 48 48 51 52 53 54 60 65 66 68 70 70 71 73 75 76 83 84 88 89 98
Tables I.1 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 3.1 3.2 3.3
Summary of Sites Excavated in the Study Area. Recovered Charred Propagule Taxa. Comparison of Propagule Ubiquity Scores from Lowland Sites (315 and 565). Comparison of Propagule Ubiquity Scores from a Lowland Site (315) and an Upland Site (204). Rank-Order of Early versus Late Medio Period Propagules from Site 204. Chile Seeds from Sites 315 and 565. Summary of Terraces from the Agricultural Survey Locations. The Largest Upland Fields. Summary of Interviews with Modern Upland Farmers.
12 34 36 38 40 44 72 75 79
4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5. A.1 A.2 A.3 A.4 A.5 A.6 A.7 A.8 A.9 A.10 A.11 A.12 A.13 A.14 A.15 A.16 A.17 A.18 A.19 A.20 A.21 A.22 A.23 A.24 A.25 A.26 A.27 A.28 A.29 A.30
Rank-Order Comparison of Wood Remains in Flotation Samples from Lowland Sites (315 and 565). Rank-Order Comparison of Wood Remains in Flotation Samples from an Upland Site (204) and a Lowland Site (315). Wood in Flotation Samples from Special Sites (242 and El Pueblito). Wood Remains from Earthen Ovens. Ubiquity of Riparian Woods. Wood Abundance from Site 204 Midden Sequences. Ubiquity Rank-Order of Flotation Sample Woods from Early and Late Medio Contexts at Site 204. Ubiquity Percentages for Common Reed by Site. Ubiquity Scores for the Most Common Weeds. Summary of Propagules from Flotation Samples from All Excavations. Site 317. Site 231. Site 242. Site 204, Area 1A. Site 204, Area 1B. Site 204, Area 2. Site 204, Area 3. Site 204, Area 4. Site 204, Mound B. Site 204, Mound C. Site 204, Midden. Site 315, Area A. Site 315, Area B. Site 315, Area C. Site 315, Area D. Site 315, Area E. Site 565, Areas A/B. Site 565, Area Z. El Pueblito. Oven at Site 188. Oven at Site 239. Oven at Site 257. Oven 317. Oven 204, North. Oven 204, Ball Court. Wood Summary for All Excavations. Site 317. Site 231. Site 242.
87 88 90 90 96 97 98 99 101 116 117 117 118 118 119 119 120 121 122 122 123 123 124 125 125 126 126 127 127 128 128 128 128 129 129 130 131 131 132
A.31 A.32 A.33 A.34 A.35 A.36 A.37 A.38 A.39 A.40 A.41 A.42 A.43 A.44 A.45 A.46 A.47 A.48 A.49 A.50 A.51 A.52
Site 204, Area 1A. Site 204, Area 1B. Site 204, Area 2. Site 204, Area 3. Site 204, Area 4. Site 204, Mound B. Site 204, Mound C. Site 204, Midden. Site 315, Area A. Site 315, Area B. Site 315, Area C. Site 315, Area D. Site 315, Area E. Site 565, Area A. Site 565, Area B. Site 565, Area Z. El Pueblito. Oven at Site 188. Oven at Site 257. Oven 317. Oven 204, Ball Court. Oven 204, North.
132 133 133 134 134 135 135 136 136 137 137 138 138 139 139 140 140 141 141 141 141 142
aquimé (also known as Casas Grandes), its neighbors, and its antecedents are important and interesting parts of the prehispanic history in northwestern Mexico and the U.S. Southwest (NW/SW). Not only is there a long history of human occupation of this region, but Paquimé is also one of the better examples in the NW/SW of centralized influence and some control by leaders. Unfortunately, it is also a region with a regrettable of lack of research compared with the U.S. Southwest to the north and Mesoamerica to the south. The paucity of research is especially severe for paleoethnobotany (also known as archaeobotany and prehistoric/prehispanic ethnobotany), the study of the relationships between plants and people in the past. The research reported here, along with recent work, especially in central Chihuahua and at Cerro Juanaqueña, an Archaic period site north of Casas Grandes, are nearly the sum total of systematic prehispanic ethnobotanical data in far northwestern Mexico. The Joint Casas Grandes Expedition (JCGE; Di Peso 1974; Di Peso et al. 1974) in the late 1950s–early 1960s offered the first in-depth picture of the central town, Paquimé, and other smaller projects worked in outlying areas at the periphery of the Casas Grandes world, especially to the north in the U.S. Southwest. What was missing was a knowledge of the intervening area around Paquimé. The core research discussed in this volume is the result of two decades of our survey, excavation, and laboratory research focused on Medio period (AD 1200–1450) sites near Paquimé in northwestern Chihuahua. We also draw on the limited paleoethnobotanical research at El Pueblito/Cerro Moctezuma, unique sites near Paquimé (Pitezel 2003, 2011), and on Proyecto Arqueológico Chihuahua to the south in central Chihuahua (e.g., Adams 2017; Kelley and Phillips 2017). All of this research is augmented by Guevara Sánchez’s (1984, 1986) monographs on Cuarenta Casas, a cave site in the mountains west of Paquimé, and by a few earlier projects on sites that were a part of the Casas Grandes tradition. Our research has benefited from the efforts of literally hundreds of people. Most were members of our survey and excavation crews who came from five countries (United States, Mexico, Canada, the Netherlands, and Spain). Crew members for the first four sites are
acknowledged in Whalen and Minnis (2009a). Crew members during excavation of Site 315 and Site 565 are acknowledged in Whalen and Minnis (2009b, 2010) and Whalen (2012). Crew members during the additional agricultural studies include Ryan Howell, Abbie Bollans, Elizabeth Toney, and Carissa Lee. The senior author conducted most of the technical ethnobotanical analyses and supervised other analyses done by students. Joelle Morgan (2010) analyzed the flotation samples from the first season at Site 315 for her master’s thesis, Michael McKay sorted the El Pueblito flotation samples, and Ryan Howell conducted several analyses. Other collaborators on environmental study of the region include Suzanne Fish (pollen), Jonathan Sandor and Jeffrey Homburg (soils), and Arturo Márquez-Alameda (ethnographic study of modern agriculture). Wendy Hodgson and Andrew Salywon provided insights on local agaves. Various colleagues who assisted in a variety of ways include Robert Bye, Karen Adams, Emily McClung de Tapia, Michael Diehl, and two anonymous reviewers. We want to thank the Amerind Foundation, Adriel Heisey, Society for American Archaeology, and Google Earth for permission to use their photographs. All other photographs and figures are by the authors. The staff at the University of Arizona Press, as always, helped bring this volume to fruition with good humor. Years of productive discussion with Mexican colleagues, most with the Chihuahua office of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), have helped sharpen our thinking. These colleagues include Rafael Cruz Antillón, Beatriz Braniff Cornejo, R. Ben Brown, Arturo Guevara Sánchez, Emiliano Gallaga Murrieta, Eduardo Gamboa Carrera, Arturo Márquez-Alameda, and José Luis Punzo Díaz. Directors of the INAH regional office in Chihuahua facilitated our research in many ways: Arturo Guevara Sánchez, José Luis Perea González, and Elsa Rodriguez Garcia. In addition, the many staff members of the Centro INAH-Chihuahua, Museo de las Culturas del Norte, and Zona Arqueológica Paquimé have been most helpful. Funding has been obtained from multiple grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society, as well as a pilot grant from the J. M. Kaplan Fund. Internal funds and resources from the Universities of Oklahoma and Tulsa were critical to our research. The volume began while the senior author was a University Ruin Residential Scholar at the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology. The support, advice, and collegiality of the faculty and staff at the School of Anthropology are much appreciated. Our work was conducted under permits from the INAH, which curates the artifacts including flotation material and screened botanical specimens. Help, advice, and friendship were extended to us by many residents in the Casas Grandes region who share our love of the area and its prehispanic heritage. Professor Julian Hernández Chávez deserves special thanks for his decades of support, knowledge, and, most of all, his friendship. Dr. Patricia Gilman helped in a variety of professional and personal ways.
TH E PRE HISPANIC ET HNOBOTANY O F PAQ UIMÉ AND ITS NEIGHBOR S
Paquimé, Its Neighbors, and Ethnobotany There are many houses of great size, strength, and height. They are six and seven stories, with towers and walls like fortresses for protection and defense against the enemies who undoubtedly used to make war on its inhabitants. The houses contain large and magnificent patios paved with enormous and beautiful stones resembling jasper. There are knife-shaped stones which support the wonderful and big pillars of heavy timbers brought from far away. The walls of the houses were whitewashed and painted in many colors and shades with pictures of the buildings. The structures had some kind of adobe walls. However, it was mixed and interspersed with stone and wood, this combination being stronger and more durable than boards. — BA LTA SA R D E O B R E G Ó N, O B R E G Ó N ’ S H I S T O RY O F 16 T H C E N T U RY E X P LO R AT I O N S I N W E S T E R N A M E R I C A , 15 8 4 ( T R A N S . G E O RG E P. H A M M O N D A N D AGA P I TO R E Y )
ar northern Mexico is a large and archaeologically rich area. The archaeological site of Paquimé in northwestern Chihuahua (Figure I.1) has astonished scholars and visitors alike ever since its first European visitors in the mid-sixteenth century, as described above. In fact, it is one of the first ancient sites described by Spanish explorers in the region. Research prior to the JCGE (Di Peso 1974; Di Peso et al. 1974) in the middle of the twentieth century was exploratory, preliminary, limited, and provided only an opaque glimpse of the archaeology of northwestern Chihuahua. This lack of research is in stark contrast to its two adjacent regions, the U.S. Southwest and Mesoamerica, which are two of the most intensively studied archaeological areas in the world. Fortunately, there has been a recent renaissance in Chihuahua archaeology and numerous summaries are available (e.g., Bradley 2000; Braniff Cornejo 2001; Cruz Antillón and Maxwell 2017; Fish and Fish 1999; Guevara Sánchez 1985; Mendiola Galván 2008, 2017; Minnis and Whalen 2004, 2016; Minnis and Whalen, eds. 2015; Newell and Gallaga 2004; Phillips 1980; Punzo Díaz and Villalpando Canchola 2015, 2016; Whalen and Minnis 2001a). Northwestern Mexico’s status as a near archaeological terra incognita has had unfortunate consequences that we hope our research helps rectify. The first is obvious. With few archaeologists having worked in the region, there has been a paucity of research and a resulting lack of detailed knowledge of its prehispanic history. Second, much of the interpretive discussion of the archaeology of the Casas Grandes region has been driven by the
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FIGURE I.1. Map of northwestern Chihuahua and adjacent regions.
large number of archaeologists in the U.S. Southwest. There are many hundreds of professional archaeologists in the U.S. Southwest and Mesoamerica in contrast to a few dozen in northern Mexico. Southwestern archaeologists have long noted that many items, beliefs, and icons among prehispanic and modern indigenous groups in the U.S. Southwest had their ultimate origin to the south in Mesoamerica and west Mexico. One consequence is that far too often the history of the complex array of ancient cultures in northern Mexico has been narrowed to simple questions of the long-distance movement of goods and ideas between Mesoamerica and the NW/SW (for a recent summary of the archaeology of northern Mexico, see Nelson et al.  and Pailes ). In short, “Paquimé as a cultural conduit” has been the overarching view of the site. An analogous and reverse situation would be if the dominant perspective of Chaco Canyon, for example, was mostly as a northern terminus of “Mesoamerican-Southwest interaction.” Neither has there been much discussion of northwestern Mexico from a southern perspective. Mesoamerican archaeologists historically have not been especially interested in northern Mexico, which at best had been seen as a far distant periphery of a well-developed core. Third, the human ecological context of prehispanic groups has rarely been studied in northern Mexico. The post-1960s “New Archaeology” emphasized populational and cultural adaptations, with a focus on the role of natural environments. For all its theoretical and methodological flaws, there is a substantial corpus of research on past environments and adaptive behaviors in the U.S. Southwest that has been largely absent in northern Mexico. We hope our research helps to begin rectifying these problems as it has concentrated on the local environmental and cultural settings of Paquimé and its neighbors (e.g., Whalen
Paquimé, Its Neighbors, and Ethnobotany
and Minnis 2001a, 2009a). To continue this trend in the present volume, we examine ethnobotanical relationships during the Medio period (AD 1200–1450), when Paquimé was at its most influential. We start with analysis of food production, distribution, and consumption. The results show that these economic pursuits were more complex and important than the dismissive and often-heard statement “they ate corn.” Community-wide ceremonial use of plants, as discussed in chapters 2 and 3, are especially interesting at Paquimé. Since these people were farmers, we explore in greater detail the distribution and organization of agricultural production. Agriculture was widespread in the region and deeply embedded in the political, social, and religious characteristics of the Paquimé tradition. We argue that Paquimé’s unique location allowed its potential leaders to more easily harvest surpluses that could have fueled their ambitions through feasts and other forms of gift giving. We are not suggesting that the unusual abundance of high-quality farmland around Paquimé caused its development, but rather it was an essential part of the cultural changes that occurred during the Medio period and likely even before. Despite the fact that wood use for construction, material culture, and fuel is a major task for villagers throughout the world, wood acquisition is usually ignored or trivialized in the archaeological literature. Wood is too often seen only as a datable material, not an artifact category worthy of study itself. As shown in chapter 4, the patterns of wood use help illuminate economic activities in the Casas Grandes area, both at domestic and community-wide levels. Finally, all human groups impact their biotic environment through intended and sometimes unintended consequences. The final analytic chapter therefore explores anthropogenic ecology. We would expect this study area with its high population density, intensive agriculture, and a vibrant extractive economy to have had significant effects on the immediate environment during the Medio period. And these impacts would likely have affected how the people of the Casas Grandes region acquired the basic resources for life. We were surprised by some of our results.
The Joint Casas Grandes Expedition Any discussion of the archaeology of the Casas Grandes region must start with the JCGE (1958–1961), which was a watershed in our understanding of prehispanic Chihuahua (Figures I.2 and I.3). The JCGE was under the direction of Charles C. Di Peso of the Amerind Foundation and Eduardo Contreras Sánchez of Mexico’s INAH. Di Peso oversaw the three years of excavations during which about half of the site was excavated and stewarded his laboratory crew for more than an additional decade to publication of the monumental Casas Grandes: A Fallen Trading Center of the Gran Chichimeca (Di Peso 1974; Di Peso et al. 1974). The INAH’s representative, Contreras Sánchez, mapped the site and project excavations in addition to directing restoration, and he later published shorter summaries of the project (Contreras Sánchez 1985, 1986). The results of this project further reinforced the view that Paquimé was special, as seen in the recovery of about four million shell artifacts, hundreds of parrot remains, hundreds of copper items, intricate polychrome pottery, a
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FIGURE I.2. Paquimé before excavation (courtesy of the Amerind Foundation).
complex water distribution system, an abundance of ritual features, and massive multistory buildings, all attesting to the vibrancy and importance of Paquimé during the Medio period, Paquimé’s greatest florescence beginning around AD 1300 (Contreras Sánchez 1985, 1986; Di Peso 1974; Di Peso et al. 1974; Whalen and Minnis 2012). Due to the presence of the artifacts from farther south and west in Mexico, Di Peso (1974) characterized this site as “a trading center of the Gran Chichimeca,” centrally involved in long-distance exchange among the U.S. Southwest, northern Mexico, and Mesoamerica. He hypothesized that Paquimé was not only involved in trade but that the changing fortunes of long-distance trade was the reason for its florescence and for its decline. Di Peso’s interpretation fit into the intellectual perspective of northern Mexico at the time. The JCGE also excavated the Convento site, an early Spanish mission complex overlaying a pre-Medio (Viejo period; AD 600/700–1100/1200) village component. This one site, then, bracketed the Medio period with pre-Medio and post-Medio time periods. In
Paquimé, Its Neighbors, and Ethnobotany
FIGURE I.3. Paquimé during excavation (courtesy of the Amerind Foundation).
addition, JCGE personnel excavated several small sites and conducted some limited survey (see Di Peso  for a summary of the project’s efforts).
Paquimé in Regional and Historical Context The prehistory of Chihuahua began many millennia before the Medio period. The Paleoindian period is documented in northwestern Chihuahua and beyond, and some of the early defining research on the Paleoindian period occurred nearby in the southeast corner of Arizona. However, this time period is only tangentially related to the topic of this volume. The Late Archaic period (1500 BC–AD 300) in northwest Chihuahua is relevant to an understanding of the prehispanic ethnobotany of Chihuahua. A remarkable site, Cerro Juanaqueña, which has altered our understanding of the Late Archaic in Chihuahua, is located next to the wide floodplain near Janos where the Río San Pedro joins the Río Casas Grandes. Before research at Cerro Juanaqueña, the Late Archaic period in northwestern Chihuahua was characterized as a time of hunter-gatherers, some of whom casually farmed Mesoamerica-derived crops, especially maize (e.g., Di Peso 1974). Small residential groups were assumed to have had seasonal rounds that took advantage of resources in the mountains, plains, and foothills. Recent research at Cerro Juanaqueña and other cerro de trincheras sites in northwestern Chihuahua has changed that view. Cerros de trincheras are hilltops with low rock walls in various configurations. Cerros de trincheras are not to be confused with trincheras, low rock walls that served to enhance agricultural fields on slopes. Some
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cerros de trincheras are large, but most are quite small. Some are old, dating to the Archaic period, whereas others date to later times periods including the Medio period. One of the largest, if not the largest, cerro de trincheras, Cerro Juanaqueña, dates to the Late Archaic and is composed of a massive set of stone terraces on a low hill east of Janos and north of Paquimé (Hard and Roney 1998, 2007, 2019; Roney and Hard 2004). The major efforts to construct the nearly 500 stone terraces at this site, along with the substantial fill behind the terraces and a varied artifact inventory, are suggestive of a large and lengthy occupation, certainly more than a small group using the hill as a temporary camp. Most relevant to this volume is the fact that the remains of maize were recovered. Interestingly, there may have been domesticated amaranth based on the fact that the seed coats of many Cerro Juanaqueña amaranth remains are within the range of cultivated amaranths (Fritz 2007, 2019). In addition, the charred remains of at least 21 other taxa were found in flotation samples (Hanselka 2000). The evidence indicates that at least in this one location, and likely at others, there were substantial Late Archaic residential villages with a significant investment in farming. In sum, then, Cerro Juanaqueña may indicate that this region was an especially favorable place for agriculture, a place sought out by some of the earliest village farmers in the NW/SW with the resultant social and cultural transformations that are part of the “Neolithic Revolution.” The ethnobotany of the time between the Late Archaic and Medio periods is poorly known largely because of the lack of research on the Viejo period (AD 600/700–1100/1200; Kelley 2017; Kelley and Phillips 2017; Kelley and Searcy 2015, 2017; Stewart et al. 2005). The JCGE excavated a Viejo period occupation at the Convento site, 6 km north of Paquimé along the west bank of the Río Casas Grandes. As would be expected in the absence of flotation, the only plant remains recorded were maize cobs. Recent research at Viejo period sites to the south in central Chihuahua yielded the remains of maize, beans, and a variety of naturally available resources (Adams 2017), as well a broader knowledge of the Viejo period (Kelley and Phillips 2017). If the pithouse villages of the Viejo period in the Paquimé area were similar to pithouse villages to the north across the international border, where far more research has been conducted, then it is best to assume that during the Viejo period, crops, especially maize, were major food sources supplemented by naturally available resources (e.g., Fish 2004; Huckell and Toll 2004). Few doubt that Paquimé during the Medio period was one of the premier and most important communities in the ancient NW/SW. There is, however, little agreement about Paquimé’s origin and its end (e.g., Phillips and Carpenter 1999; Phillips and Gamboa 2015, 2016; Schaafsma and Riley 1999; Whalen and Minnis 2017). Several scholars suggest that outside influences were responsible for Paquimé’s rise. Di Peso (1974) saw Mesoamerican traders (pochteca/puchteca) as the source, whereas Lekson (1999) looks north toward Chaco elites as the organizers of Medio period Paquimé. In contrast, we view the rise of Paquimé as largely driven by local dynamics where emergent elites in a complex social landscape expropriated Mesoamerican and west Mexican items and symbols in competition with others (Whalen and Minnis 2009a). In light of Cerro Juanaqueña, the dynamic processes of population aggregation and agricultural intensification with new social relationships may have begun well before the Medio period.
Paquimé, Its Neighbors, and Ethnobotany
It is clear that Paquimé’s influence extended widely in the surrounding area of the International Four Corners (where Chihuahua, Sonora, New Mexico, and Arizona meet, along with a small slice of far West Texas), a view with which we agree. However, we have argued that Paquimé’s actual control was geographically restricted to a portion of northwestern Chihuahua, whereas others, including Di Peso (1974), see a much wider hegemony. Di Peso (1974:320) suggested that Paquimé was catastrophically destroyed when it was attacked and sacked: “There is some evidence to suggest that the Paquimians did not stage a revolt against their overlords, but rather were attacked by enemy peoples who burned the city by igniting the first floor master beams.” Others, including ourselves, suggest that Paquimé’s end was less dramatic as its power and influence dwindled, leaving descendants living in small local hamlets and villages (Phillips and Carpenter 1999; Phillips and Gamboa 2015, 2016; Whalen and Minnis 2012). These differing models will ultimately only be resolved by far more research in northwestern Chihuahua. Complicating any interpretation of the Casas Grandes world, in contrast with the Hohokam/O’odham, Ancestral Puebloan/Puebloan, and many areas of Mexico, is the fact that relationships between precontact and postcontact groups is very unclear. By the time the first European explorers described the area, not only was Paquimé seemingly abandoned but no indigenous groups in the area were living in Medio period– like pueblos. Rather, the local inhabitants are described by Spanish chroniclers as hunter-gatherers or those who lived in scattered rancheria settlements. We suspect some of these groups were the descendants of the Medio period people after the end of the elite superstructure centered at Paquimé. The end of the Medio period was largely just the end of the centralized and archaeologically visible rituals and artifacts (Whalen and Minnis 2012). Platform mounds, ball courts, large quantities of exotica, large buildings, and ritually significant pottery types (e.g., Ramos Polychrome) ceased being constructed and used, leaving only unadorned homesteads, hamlets, and small villages that lack the archaeological visibility of the Medio period at its height. Whenever the end of the Medio period, we do not have obvious continuity from prehispanic traditions and modern indigenous groups, with the resulting loss of close ethnographic and historical analogies as well as local indigenous narratives.
Notes on the Prehispanic Ethnobotany of Paquimé and Its Neighbors Foundational to our discussion here is the distinction between the domestic and community economies. Paquimé was more than a domestic residence; it was a regional center impacting to varying degrees hundreds of smaller communities. By domestic, we mean those activities and behaviors determined largely by and focused on small family groups, however those families were constituted. They could have been nuclear families, extended families, and lineages. We use the term community economy to denote decisions and actions that transcend individual households and lineages. We use this term because it clearly
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recognizes the interdependence of political, ritual, and social relationships. For the purposes of this volume, we see no useful point in trying to separate specific spheres of life that can be so closely intertwined, especially as many have argued that religious practitioners, practices, and organization were critical elements of Paquimé’s special place in the prehispanic NW/SW (e.g., Di Peso 1974; Rakita 2009; VanPool and Newsome 2012; VanPool and VanPool 2007, 2015, 2016; Whalen and Minnis 2009a, 2012). The key differences between domestic and community economies, decision-making transcending family units, can occur at different levels and can sometimes be difficult to see in archaeological studies. For example, economic activities organized by lineages may transcend nuclear or extended families but may lack strong centralized control or coordination. Still, as we will discuss in this volume, there are interesting examples of community economy at Paquimé and among its neighbors even if we do not know the exact nature of their social organization. Whatever the role of long-distance exchange was for the rise, success, and ultimate end of the Paquimé-centered archaeological tradition, the emphasis on exchange has obscured what we believe is an equally important set of factors, that of its domestic and community food economies. We explore the idea that the wealth that is so obvious at Paquimé came from its fortuitous setting that allowed an unusually productive and stable food supply and for the production of surpluses, which could have fueled the aspirations of competing individuals and lineages. For example, feasts are often integral and necessary parts of community-wide ritual and events (e.g., Dieter and Hayden 2001; Mills 2004), but holding large-scale feasts can be difficult without adequate surpluses. The quality of the Río Casas Grandes valley and its environs around Paquimé for farming was recognized long ago in the sixteenth century by Baltasar de Obregón when he wrote, “This is the most useful and beneficial of all rivers we found in the provinces. Its shores are covered with beautiful and tall poplars, willows, and savins. It can readily and at little cost be utilized for irrigating the fertile shores” (Hammond and Rey 1928:204). Unfortunately, the JCGE as well as excavations prior to it occurred before archaeologists commonly used techniques to retrieve the data necessary to understand the ethnobotany of the Paquimé area. As a result, the massive, eight-volume excavation report only devotes nine pages to plant remains and two pages to palynological analysis, which contrasts with 222 pages for stone artifacts and over 400 pages devoted to ceramics (Di Peso et al. 1974). Since the JCGE, techniques to recover plant remains, such as flotation, have become a standard part of archaeological research protocol. Our research, therefore, is the first and largest flotation dataset for the Paquimé area. These data combined with some survey information and the results from other projects in the International Four Corners give us an initial glimpse into the ethnobotany of ancient Paquimé and its nearby contemporaries. The results of the research discussed here may have value beyond understanding Paquimé, despite how interesting the Paquimé polity is itself. An enduring question in archaeology has been the origin and development of characteristics that together have been termed complexity, although there continues to be much theoretical discussion about the definition and meaning of complexity. These characteristics can include high population density, prestige differences, bureaucracies, strong intercommunity relationships,
Paquimé, Its Neighbors, and Ethnobotany
and economic specialization, among others. Paquimé, along with Hohokam and Chaco traditions, is one of the best examples of a regional complex polity in the NW/SW (e.g., Crown and Judge 1991; Minnis and Whalen 2016; Minnis and Whalen, eds. 2015; Neitzel and Woosley 1999; Whalen and Minnis 2009a), although Paquimé may be smaller than previously believed (Whalen et al. 2010). Too often, discussion of the rise of traits associated with complexity in the NW/SW has emphasized ceramics and exotic goods. To complement these discussions, Paquimé can offer a comparative example of how these ethnobotanical relationships articulate with emergent complexity. Aspects highlighted here are the relationships between environmental potential, domestic economy, and the community economy. For example, in chapter 2, we investigate the role of feasting in the community economy, and in chapter 3, we describe the first archaeological evidence in the NW/SW of fields communally worked and under the control of leaders. These are typically called chief, or cacique, fields. We will also consider how the seemingly high population density affected their local environment and what effects, if any, anthropogenic ecology had on the ancient people of northwestern Chihuahua.
The Structure of Research Paquimé itself was studied by the JCGE, so we know much about the central and most important community in the region, and other projects have examined farther outlying areas. We believed that the next logical research step was putting Paquimé in its regional context by focusing on its near neighbors that were intermediate between Paquimé and the outer reaches of the Casas Grandes world. Our field research program began in 1989 and can be divided into three components. During the first, we conducted reconnaissance and two years of systematic surveys largely north and west of Paquimé. We concentrated on the river valleys and foothills for two reasons. First, this is where the greatest concentration of Medio period sites occur, an observation noted by nearly all since the earliest archaeologists (e.g., Brand 1933; Sayles 1938). Second, the logistics of traveling in the mountains is very difficult and can be dangerous in places. Ultimately, our large systematic surveys and smaller, more focused surveys, such as one that recorded ball courts, recorded more than 400 sites and locations, most with Medio period occupations. In general, the survey data are not central to the research in this volume and have been published elsewhere (e.g., Whalen and Minnis 2001a). The second component of research was excavation, and the data from this phase form the basis for the analyses discussed here. We have tested six sites, the first five under our co-direction and the last under the direction of Michael E. Whalen (Table I.1; Figure I.4). Based on our interpretation of survey data, we first examined four sites in what we suggest were at the outer edge of Paquimé’s strongest influence. These sites ranged from two small villages/hamlets (Sites 317 and 231; Figures I.5–I.8), one of the largest communities in the region (Site 204; Figures I.9 and I.10), and a likely administrative/ritual center (Site 242; Figures I.11 and I.12).
TABLE I.1. Summary of Sites Excavated in the Study Area. Site Number
315 317 204 242
Lowlands Uplands Uplands Uplands
Medium Small Large Small
565 El Pueblito
hamlet without public ritual features village near Paquimé hamlet with ovens village with ball court and ovens special site with Paquimé-like architecture, large ball court, platform mound, and massive fields village near Paquimé special site near major ritual feature (Cerro Moctezuma), massive fields, and oven
not near major drainage along Río Casas Grandes not near major drainage along Arroyo la Tinaja not near major drainage
along Río Casas Grandes on mesa, not near water feature
FIGURE I.4. Map of the six sites around Paquimé excavated by the authors.
FIGURE I.5. Aerial view of Site 317, looking south (courtesy of Adriel Heisey).
FIGURE I.6. Map of Site 317.
FIGURE I.7. Aerial view of Site 231, looking southwest (courtesy of Adriel Heisey).
FIGURE I.8 . Map of Site 231.
FIGURE I.9 . Aerial view of Site 204, looking southeast (courtesy of Adriel Heisey).
FIGURE I.10 . Map of Site 204.
FIGURE I.11. Aerial view of Site 242, looking northwest (courtesy of Adriel Heisey).
FIGURE I.12. Map of Site 242.
Paquimé, Its Neighbors, and Ethnobotany
In the absence of previous excavation in the region, this range of site types allows us to make simple comparisons between site location and site types. More recently, we have worked at two sites in the Río Casas Grandes valley within a few kilometers of Paquimé. Site 315 is a medium-sized community on the opposite (east) bank of the valley from Paquimé (Figures I.13 and I.14; Whalen and Minnis 2009b, 2010). Site 565 is a little larger site a kilometer south of 315, also on the east bank of the valley (Figures I.15 and I.16; Whalen 2012; Whalen and Minnis 2009a, 2010). Understanding the prehispanic ethnobotany of the Upper Río Casas Grandes area was an important part of our research, and remains from flotation samples form the core data. Most of the flotation data came from our excavations, from which we studied a total of 495 flotation samples containing 18,789 recovered prehispanic propagules. In addition, 8,964 individual wood specimens were identified, of which 70% came from flotation samples. Appendix 1 explains the procedures used to select, process, and sort samples; appendix 2 lists the taxa recovered with their scientific and common names; the tables in appendix 3 provide the paleoethnobotanical data by site and excavation unit. In addition, the analytic and interpretive frameworks used are outlined in each chapter. In many ways, the analysis of plant remains, especially propagules (technically seeds, fruits, and associated anatomical structures), merit unique analytic considerations. The third component of field research was a set of specialized studies. Four of these are directly relevant to this volume. First, we conducted two short field seasons mapping prehispanic agricultural fields in upland locations, most recognized by the presence of stone terraces. Second, in collaboration with Suzanne Fish, Jonathan Sandor, and Jeffrey Holmberg, we did limited soil and pollen studies. The third specialized study was an initial reconnaissance of the modern irrigation system in the Río Casas Grandes valley from its beginning near Anchondo north to Casas Grandes. Modern geomorphology and hydrology are questionable models for ancient times, given dramatic modern modifications to the Río Casas Grandes floodplain, river channeling, and a system to draw massive amounts of water from the river to supply two lakes near Nuevo Casas Grandes. The fourth ancillary phase was a series of short interviews conducted by Arturo Márquez-Alameda who spoke with five Mata Ortiz farmers who cultivate upland fields. In addition, we will use the limited amount of ethnobotanical data from the excavation of El Pueblito, located on a high and isolated mesa above the Río Casas Grandes valley (Figure I.17; Pitezel 2003, 2011). Like Site 242 and Paquimé, this site was more than just a domestic community. The unique and dramatic location of El Pueblito suggests that it was positioned to overlook, and be visible from, a large portion of the core areas around Paquimé. It also was connected by a well-worn trail to a shrine/signaling facility, Cerro Moctezuma, on the highest point near Paquimé (Swanson 2003). This volume focuses on macroplant remains, particularly propagules and wood charcoal, plus data on agricultural fields. We do not deal in any detail with fibers or items of material culture made from wood. These deserve their own discussion. Likewise, we do not consider the morphology of maize cobs or kernels. The relationships between maize genetics and morphology (especially of cobs) as they are related to environmental conditions
FIGURE I.13. Excavation of Site 315, looking west.
Paquimé, Its Neighbors, and Ethnobotany
FIGURE I.14. Map of Site 315.
are very complicated. We made the decision to focus limited analytic time and resources on analyzing as large a number of flotation samples as possible. All botanical remains from our research, including those of maize remains, are available for study from the INAH. The structure of our data allows us to begin to evaluate how differences in environmental setting and site activities affected prehispanic ethnobotany. For example, did sites next to the best fields farm more or differently from those with different agricultural potential? Did upland and lowland sites use different resources? Is there evidence of more anthropogenic ecological changes in areas with higher population density? Did administrative/ritual centers use plants differently from domestic communities? The data are limited in two ways. The first is the lack of a history of intensive archaeological and paleoethnobotanical research in surrounding areas, precluding intensive comparison. Second, our research was structured to concentrate on the Medio period. Therefore, with our current data, we cannot examine longterm changes through time, especially changes from the Viejo period to the Medio period. The answers to many questions raised here will largely be preliminary. But they are a start. As for all archaeological research, finding concordances between different datasets helps strengthen interpretations. While the central datasets of this volume are plant remains, we will also discuss other data bearing directly on people-plant relations in the Casas Grandes world.
FIGURE I.15. Excavation of Site 565, looking southwest.
FIGURE I.16. Map of Site 565.
Paquimé, Its Neighbors, and Ethnobotany
FIGURE I.17 . Aerial view of El Pueblito, located on the flat area in the center of the image (cour-
tesy of the Amerind Foundation).
Thoughts on Prehispanic Ethnobotany The relationships between plants and people are complex, interdependent, and reciprocal. The traditional focus of ethnobotany on the economic use of plants in its narrow sense has been replaced by the recognition of a wide range of relationships embedded in environmental and cultural contexts. These include obvious physical variables such as the ecology, demography, and biochemistry of plants. A firewood, for example, that does not burn well due to its physical nature is less likely to be used than wood that burns with a hot, low-sparking, and sustained flame. However, physical characteristics of plants do not solely determine their use. Less desirable woods may be used when the cost of transporting more desirable woods becomes prohibitive due, for example, to overexploitation of local woods. Human groups also frame ethnobotanical relationships in often intricate systems of cultural meaning and traditional ecological knowledge. It is harder to understand the cultural meaning in prehispanic ethnobotany compared with the ethnobotany of living communities. This is especially the case for times and places lacking written records or having no direct ethnographic connections. Paquimé meets these last two characteristics. However, we can glimpse difference in ethnobotanical relationships by contrasting the domestic and community economies. Understanding prehispanic ethnobotany has several other considerations different from ethnobotanical research with living groups. First, not all ethnobotanical relationships will leave enduring signatures in the archaeobotanical records. For example, uses of medicinal
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plants are especially hard to determine from macroplant remains, but we need to remember that the differences between “food” and “medicine” are rarely clear and cross-culturally the same. Second, we need to use multiple datasets to construct the best interpretations. The core data used here are macroplant remains, which are augmented by other relevant data. Third, a common traditional definition of paleoethnobotany has been the study of plant remains from archaeological sites. For far too long, plant remains have not been considered “normal” artifacts, like lithics, ceramics, and architecture. Rather, their study was the domain of a few specialists whose research far too often came at the end of the research process and whose results were relegated to appendices at the back pages of archaeological reports. However, a fuller understanding of the relationships between plants and people necessitates evaluating perceived patterns with those patterns found in other datasets, such as ceramics, settlement patterns, and agricultural features. Fourth, a major issue is identifying what plant remains actually represent human behaviors. For example, seeds are naturally deposited in soils, including at archaeological sites, so we must distinguish naturally deposited propagules, both during a site’s occupation as well as post-occupation, from culturally deposited propagules. All these interpretive constraints are offset by the power of time. That is, the archaeological record covers the vast majority of human existence. As an example, let’s take North America, where humans have lived for more than 10 millennia but where historical records only cover the past 500 years, or less than 5% of humanity in North America. So, unless we are willing to ignore 95% of human experiences in North America, prehispanic ethnobotany is important. This is especially true for areas such as Casas Grandes, where there is no clear indigenous continuity. The frequent and frustratingly patchy nature of our data is offset by the depth of our perspective. The importance of Paquimé and its neighbors is especially important for Mexico. The prehispanic heritage of Mexico has been an important part of Mexican identity with the spectacular archaeological remains of central and southern Mexico—Aztec, Maya, Zapotec, and Olmec, for example—defining this prehispanic heritage. The north has not been seen as contributing significantly to the prehispanic identity of Mexico. Paquimé, as the best-known archaeological site in far northwestern Mexico, has special value for the people of this important region of Mexico. Our work, including this prehispanic ethnobotanical research, honors an important part of the history of this major part of modern Mexico. Furthermore, this initial study of the prehispanic ethnobotany of Paquimé and its neighbors is a first step to understanding how the relationships between plants and people in this region help us appreciate the origin and history of this fascinating polity and what we might learn from it. The story of the Casas Grandes tradition perhaps has valuable lessons for humanity that transcend the local region (e.g., Ingram and Gilpin 2015; Ingram and Hunt 2015; Minnis 1999, 2013, 2019). How ancient farmers made a living in this arid to semiarid region and the effects their livelihood had on the local biota, their relations with plants, and their connections with other peoples is worthy of serious study.
Environmental Setting It is surrounded by the fertile and beautiful plains, attractive uplands, and small ranges of mountains. — BA LTA SA R D E O B R E G Ó N, O B R E G Ó N ’ S H I S T O RY O F 16 T H C E N T U RY E X P LO R AT I O N S I N W E S T E R N A M E R I C A , 15 84 ( T R A N S . G E O RG E P. H A M M O N D A N D AGA P I TO R E Y )
orthwestern Chihuahua is a diverse and often verdant ecological mosaic where major topographic zones meet (Figure 1.1). As such, the area had a wide range of naturally available resources for its ancient inhabitants. More importantly for ancient farmers, several major river valleys offered dependable, abundant, and reliable farming. In fact, we suspect that the Casas Grandes region was one of the better locations for making a living as a farmer in the prehispanic NW/SW. Here we provide a very general description of the region’s environments.
General Topography, River Valleys, and Climate Two major environmental zones meet in the Casas Grandes area (e.g., Schmidt 1973, 1992), which we will call the Upper Río Casas Grandes. Extensive plains, grasslands, and playas with isolated mountains extend to the east while to the west is the massive continental Sierra Madre Occidental with elevations of 2,500 m (8,202 ft.) west of Paquimé and 3,000 m (9,850 ft.) farther south. Between the two are river valleys and foothills/piedmonts. As our survey documented, the piedmonts of the Sierra Madre were surprisingly densely occupied at least during their Medio period (Whalen and Minnis 2001a). Paquimé and most of our study area centers around the Río Casas Grandes and several of its tributaries, the Río Palanganas, Río Piedras Verdes, Arroyo la Tinaja, Arroyo Grande, and Arroyo Tapicitas. This area is surrounded by mountains, the Sierra Madre Occidental to the west, Cerro Moctezuma just west of Paquimé itself, the Sierra Escondida and Sierra el Capulín to the northwest, and the Sierra América to the southeast. Of special importance for ancient farmers from the Late Archaic through Protohistoric periods were the river valleys. There are three major rivers in northwestern Chihuahua, with numerous tributaries. The Río Casas Grandes is the largest with a 16,600 km2
FIGURE 1.1 . Map of major biotic zones in the Upper Río Casas
(6,410 sq. mi.) catchment. The next largest, the Río del Carmen, is 11,800 km2 (4,560 sq. mi.), and the Río Santa María is 10,700 km2 (4,130 sq. mi.). For comparison, the Río Casas Grandes is larger than the nearby Mimbres River (2,860 km2, 1,104 sq. mi.), about the same size as the Chaco River (13,000 km2, 5,020 sq. mi.) and the Salt River (15,460 km2, 5,950 sq. mi.), smaller than the Río Sonora (26,000 km2, 10,040 sq. mi.), and far smaller than the Gila River (149,969 km2, 57,903 sq. mi.) and the Rio Grande / Río Bravo del Norte (472,000 km2, 182,240 sq. mi.) (Whalen and Minnis 2001a). The Río Casas Grandes valley, then, is at a geographic scale similar to several of those better-known drainages north of the international border. The region is arid to semiarid (Schmidt 1973). Precipitation is bimodally distributed within the year. Winter storms blanket wide areas providing soil moisture and water for
the dry spring. The summer monsoons provide rainfall during the months of late June through September. The monsoons are particularly critical for farming and for the plant growing season. Not only is sparse precipitation a characteristic of this region but so too is its variability. Yearly winter precipitation can vary widely, and this variability can affect naturally available resources and stream flow needed for irrigation. Total rainfall during the monsoon season can not only range widely from year to year but individual monsoon storms can be very localized, resulting in some locations receiving far less or far more moisture than adjacent locations. Monsoon variability can also affect the abundance and amount of native plant resources and farming dependent on rainfall.
Vegetation and Biotic Communities Within each of the two major topographic zones near Paquimé are many biotic communities and microhabitats that ancient peoples used. While some zones, such as the major river valleys, were focal points for indigenous settlement, even the most seemingly desolate locations, such as the extensive dunes of northeast Chihuahua, had useful resources. There are several general descriptions of biotic communities of northwestern Chihuahua (e.g., Brand 1933, 1936; LeSueur 1945; Rzedowski 1978; Schmidt 1973). To facilitate comparisons with other regions in northwestern Mexico and the southern United States, basic biotic community descriptions here follow Brown (1992; Brown and Lowe 1994) who provides a reasonably detailed summary of the biotic communities of the NW/SW. Specifically, Brown enumerates five biotic communities present in northwestern Chihuahua: (1) Rocky Mountain and Madrean Montane Conifer Forests (Brown’s number 122.3), (2) Madrean Evergreen Woodlands (123.3), (3) Plains and Great Basin Grasslands (142.1), (4) Semidesert Grasslands (143.1), and (5) Chihuahua Desertscrub (153.2). The first two are mountainous whereas the latter three are in the lowland river valleys and desert plains.
Rocky Mountain and Madrean Montane Conifer Forests This biotic association is found in the Sierra Madre Occidental west of the Casas Grandes heartland between about 2,000 and 3,000 m (6,500–9,800 ft.) (Figure 1.2). Dominating the lower elevations of this zone are ponderosa and related pines with Douglas fir, true firs, and spruce at higher elevations. The understory is dominated by grasses, grasslike plants, and forbs with shrubs and small trees. While precipitation is relatively high, around 450– 750 mm (18–30 in.), and river flow is good, the frost-free period is the shortest in the region (averaging 160 days in the lower elevations of this zone [Herold 1965]), limiting somewhat the predictability of farming success. However, ancient farmers could have manipulated microhabitat conditions in this zone to increase the frost-free period by planting on warmer south-facing slopes and mid-slope elevations, which avoid the cold-air drainage effect. We know of no systematic and large-scale archaeological survey in the mountains of the Casas Grandes region, but there are numerous cliff dwelling and surface sites that appear
FIGURE 1.2. Río Piedras Verdes valley in the Sierra Madre Occidental west of Paquimé.
to be mostly Medio period (e.g., Bagwell 2006; Di Peso 1974; Guevara Sánchez 1984, 1986, 1988; Lazcano Sahagún 1995, 1999, 2012; Lister 1953, 1958; Luebben et al. 1986). Their relationships to other contemporary groups have been debated for decades. We believe that it is most likely that Medio period communities in the higher mountains were largely like other hinterland communities in other environmental settings around northern Chihuahua and adjacent locations. That is, they are culturally and ritually related to Paquimé, but their daily lives were centered on their local setting. Various resources would have been available in the mountains that not only would support the local villagers but also were used elsewhere. Large beams from conifers would be valuable for material culture and construction needs as well as for fuel. Although these forests were usually quite distant from major ancient human settlements, they were used extensively by lower-elevation communities as is evidenced by the large pine beams at Paquimé itself (Dean and Ravesloot 1993; Di Peso 1974; Scott 1966). Berries and some edible bulbs would have been available from this zone, and medicinal plants would have been present. This zone would have offered meat sources, especially mule and white-tail deer, as well as other animals such as turkeys and bear. With a low human population density, the animal populations and plant populations likely faced less overexploitation than populations closer to more densely occupied settlements.
Madrean Evergreen Woodlands Found between 1,400 and 2,000 m (4,600–6,550 ft.), this zone is dominated by oaks, junipers, and piñon pine with a variety of shrubs and cacti as well as other succulents such as agave and sotol. There are numerous shrubs, grasses, and forbs (Figure 1.3). The frost-free period (225 days at Casas Grandes) is reasonable for farming and precipitation is good (300 mm [12 in.] at Casas Grandes). This is perhaps the most productive zone for natural resources. Acorns and piñon nuts could have been important food sources, as were various succulents, agaves, and sotol. In addition, riparian and aquatic food would have been available. There was a dense Medio period occupation in parts of this zone. Drainages with arable land had the most and largest communities, including Paquimé. We excavated three sites along major drainages: Site 204 along the Arroyo la Tinaja, an upland tributary of the Río Casas Grandes, with sites 315 and 565 along the Río Casas Grandes itself. The gently
FIGURE 1.3. Woodlands in the foothills west of Paquimé.
sloping piedmont at the base of the Sierra Madre has an unexpectedly large number of Medio period sites that include three sites we tested (242, 317, 231; Whalen and Minnis 2001a, 2009a). We have documented extensive agricultural features in this zone, which are an indication of its importance to Medio period communities and probably to their predecessors (Minnis et al. 2006). These features are discussed in detail in chapter 3.
Plains and Great Basin Grasslands, Semidesert Grasslands, and Chihuahua Desertscrub These three zones are the dominant biotic communities in the plains, playas, and dunes mostly to the east of Paquimé and extending 200 km (125 mi.) to the Río Bravo del Norte / Rio Grande near Ciudad Juárez, Mexico / El Paso, Texas (Figure 1.4). The elevation ranges from around 1,200 m (3,940 ft.) near Ciudad Juárez to 1,500 m (4,920 ft.) near Casas Grandes. While they appear desolate, there are important resources in these zones. Mesquite, which was likely more closely associated with river valleys and sandy soils in the past, provided reliable food, fuel, and adhesives among other uses. Other plant resources include various cacti, yuccas, agaves, and annual grasses and annuals. In addition to plants, significant fauna, such as antelope, rabbits, and perhaps bison, are present in this zone. Rabbits are particularly abundant. For example, rabbits are by far the most common fauna remains from excavation of the Villa Ahumada area (Cruz Antillón and Maxwell 1999). Like the higher elevations in the mountains, the relatively low human density of the desert plains likely provided more sustainable hunting and gathering. Special biotic settings within the desert plains are large playas (seasonal lakes). The major river valleys of northwestern
FIGURE 1.4. Desert plains and grasslands east of Paquimé.
Chihuahua flow into these zones, and where there was arable land, Medio period communities are present (Douglas and MacWilliams 2015, 2016).
Environmental History Environments are dynamic, and the mountains and plains of northwestern Chihuahua are no exception. There are no studies of environmental history specific to the Upper Río Casas Grandes. Still, we would expect general changes noted elsewhere in the Chihuahuan desert to apply to the Casas Grandes region. The overall biotic patterns of northwestern Chihuahua and adjacent areas were established many millennia before the Medio period, but there has been some smaller-scale variation in climate, sediment deposition and erosion, and vegetation (e.g., Martin 1963; Montúfar López 1987; Nordt 2013; Roy et al. 2012; Van Devender 1990; see Brown , Cartron et al. , and Garvin and Kelley  for summaries of ecological and paleoecological studies in northern Mexico). A small palynological study of deposits from one of the reservoirs at Paquimé offers insights into ecological changes related to the community’s history. Gerald Kelso (cited in Di Peso et al. 1974:4:35) found an increase in pine pollen, an increase in Tidestromia (wooly tidestromia / honeysweet) and composites (sunflower family), a slight increase of oak, and a decrease in weedy pollen (mostly cheno-am). Di Peso and colleagues (1974:4) interpreted these changes as relating to a decrease in disturbance plants with the abandonment of Paquimé, although the exact dating of the pollen samples is not clear. Suzanne Fish (1997), as discussed in chapter 3, conducted a preliminary study of pollen from agricultural terraces in our study area. She concludes that there is no pollen evidence that the prehistoric vegetation differed significantly from that of today and, specifically, no indication for greater arboreal cover and density in the past. While we have only an imprecise understanding of ecological dynamics during prehispanic times, the record for changes during the past 100–150 years is more complete. Studies largely from north of the international border document significant environmental changes during the past century (e.g., Bahre 1991; Hastings and Turner 1965; Humphrey 1987; Turner et al. 2003; Webster and Bahre 2001; York and Dick-Peddie 1969). Specifically, there has been a reduction in robust grasslands and an expansion of trees and shrubs, such as mesquite, junipers, and oaks, into non-riparian lowlands and piedmont zones. These changes seem to be due to climatic dynamics, hydrological changes, suppression of fire, and increases in livestock. There are hints of significant changes in the subsurface water regime in the Casas Grandes region. Brand (1933:15) noted a drying up of springs, and he also observed that “the increasing use of springs and river valleys for irrigation on haciendas and colonias of the region [had] contributed markedly to the lessening flow of rivers in their lower courses.” This trend continues to the present (INEGI 1988). We suspect the density of Medio period sites in the piedmont just west of Mata Ortiz, including our sites 242, 317, and 231, were sustained by nearby springs at the base of the Sierra Madre that no longer seem to flow
FIGURE 1.5. A modern canal system. It diverts large amounts of water from the Río Casas Grandes to two large reservoir lakes near Nuevo Casas Grandes (courtesy of Google Earth).
consistently. There have been significant changes to the Río Casas Grandes streamflow during historical times, such as reduction in streamflow. One factor was the construction of an enormous, industrial-scale canal taking Río Casas Grandes water from Buena Fe, near Site 565, to two large lakes southeast of Nuevo Casas Grandes (Figure 1.5). Another factor is the substantial expansion of orchards and agricultural fields.
Summary The general vegetational patterns present today are quite similar to those during the Medio period. Significant changes that were most important for understanding prehispanic occupations include changes in surface and subsurface hydrology. While it is true that environments do not dictate the patterns of human behavior, it is also true that the nature, organization, abundance, and reliability of resources are important factors in the human experience. The environment is not a passive stage upon which human history plays out; rather, it is an interactive part of the human experience. Although much research needs to be conducted, we suggest that the local setting of Paquimé was a significant factor that helped fuel its political/economic/religious activities. First, Paquimé and its neighbors had access to a diversity of naturally present resources in the surrounding plains, mountains, and river valleys. Second, and more importantly, Paquimé had an excellent ability to produce agricultural surpluses because of its location, where agriculture was especially bountiful, as considered in chapter 3.
Foods Domestic and Community
tudy of Paquimé’s food economy offers an opportunity to examine both domestic- and community-scale production, distribution, and consumption in the ancient NW/SW. It has long been recognized that Paquimé was more than just a residential community, and this view only becomes more obvious with recent research (see various chapters in Cruz Antillón and Maxwell 2017; Minnis and Whalen 2016; Minnis and Whalen, eds. 2015). In addition to having a large residential population, Paquimé was a regional center of ritual, political, ideological, and economic activities, and presumably of power. This is as true for the human/plant interactions as it had been in more archaeologically spectacular ways, such as the abundance of exotica and massive architecture. In fact, we think that the food economy was a central factor in Paquimé’s importance in late prehispanic times. While the plants used by people in the Casas Grandes area were generally the same as in other areas of the ancient NW/SW, the presence of several unusual plants and the impressive community food economy provide tantalizing hints of the important roles plant use played in the region.
Interpretive Framework We focus in this chapter on macroplant remains, mostly from flotation samples. Propagule is a general term for seeds and fruits that are the core data for this discussion of food. When we use the terms “seed” or “fruit,” we do so in a nontechnical way that includes names of different reproductive structures with scientific designations such as achene, caryopsis, or drupe, et cetera. We will use nontechnical terms unless more precise botanical terms are needed. Propagules from archaeological sites are only an indirect measure of plant use, including use of plants for food for several reasons. The first issue to consider is separating naturally dispersed seeds from archaeologically relevant ones. Plants can produce millions of seeds, many of which become embedded in soil, so it is necessary to try to separate ancient from
modern propagules. Unless there is a specific reason to believe otherwise, charred seeds will be considered prehispanic and uncharred ones modern (Minnis 1981). The second issue is likelihood of preservation. Some foods are unlikely to be preserved as macroplant remains under most archaeological contexts. These include tuberous foods, those soft foods eaten without processing, and foods consumed away from sites. For those foods more likely to be recovered, there is not an equal probability of preservation. For example, maize cob fragments (cupules) are very common in flotation samples throughout the NW/ SW, whereas maize kernels are less so. Cupules likely represent the use of cobs for kindling or fuel, and as such are only a very indirect measure of the importance of maize in the diet. Maize kernels, in contrast, likely represent accidental charring during food preparation and should be a more direct measure of the relative importance of maize in the diet. Likewise, archaeological context is critical to investigating food use. Remains from obvious cooking features are not only more direct evidence of food use than remains from other contexts such as room fill but also are less affected by the extreme amount of looting of Medio period sites. Because of this, the majority of flotation samples we analyzed were normally taken from distinct features. There are no standardized paleoethnobotanical protocols or analytic methods. Qualitative or presence/absence data can be easier to interpret; quantitative data can be harder to interpret because statistical approaches in paleoethnobotany are not standardized. We present three quantitative measures for propagules. The first is ubiquity, the number of samples containing a charred taxon divided by the total number of samples containing charred propagules of all types. The second is abundance, the number of individual charred propagules in a particular taxon divided by the total number of all charred propagules. The third is density, the average number of charred specimens of a particular taxon per liter of flotation soil. While we offer all three, we will only use ubiquity, which we feel is an interpretively safer quantitative measure given the large number of factors affecting the differential preservation of propagules. We suspect charred remains are normally the result of burning accidents. Both abundance and density can be affected by the magnitude of burning accidents (a single accident can produce a large number of charred propagules), which is a poorer measure of a plant’s importance than the number of burning accidents (ubiquity). Consider an extreme hypothetical example of a site with 20 flotation samples and a total of 1,000 charred propagules from two taxa. Eight hundred type A seeds were found in only one flotation sample. The 200 type B seeds were found in all 20 flotation samples. The abundance score would be 80% for A and 20% for B. The ubiquity scores would be 5% for A and 100% for B. We suggest that ubiquity would more likely reflect, all other things being equal, the relative importance of the two plants. Another important analytic issue is the number of samples. The recovery of macroplant taxa is related to the number of samples studied and follows a species-area curve in which there is typically a steep increase in the number of recovered types with increasing number of samples, which then flattens out at some point so more samples only marginally increase the number of new taxa recovered. Therefore, there are problems in comparing assemblages with far different sample sizes, especially very small assemblages. Under these cir-
cumstances, the most prudent approach is to compare only the most commonly recovered taxa. Sample sizes need not be huge for meaningful analyses. For example, Diehl (2017) calculated that flotation samples from 59 features was adequate for a study of macroplant remains at a large site in the Tucson, Arizona, area to acquire the most common taxa. A number of our excavations were limited, resulting in small assemblages of flotation samples. This in turn limits our best analyses to a few sites, particularly Sites 204 and 315. However, even small site assemblages can provide useful information, as will be discussed. In light of these interpretive issues, we prefer to compare like plant categories through time, location, and site types. This approach minimizes the effects of taphonomic processes that had not changed dramatically between time periods or location. We can, therefore, look at changes in frequency within a given taxon as well as rank-order changes between taxa as a measure of changes in plant use. At this time, we do not have adequate chronological control of sufficient data to examine with confidence food use changes within the Medio period, although they likely occurred. We expect that future research can address intra-Medio period changes in ethnobotanical relationships. Neither do we have sufficient pre-Medio and post-Medio contexts from our study area, so examining changes in the food economy in time is difficult with our data. Consequently, we will focus on changes (1) between Medio period sites located in different environmental settings around Paquimé and (2) between Medio period sites that likely played different roles in the Casas Grandes tradition. A major comparison is between sites in upland settings (Sites 204, 242, 317, and 231) compared with lowland sites (315 and 565) along the Río Casas Grandes. The latter are much better situated for highly productive irrigation farming. The ancient social landscape is also quite different. Site 242, Paquimé, and El Pueblito had special administrative and/ or ritual roles. Of these, only Site 242 had a reasonable flotation assemblage. Sites 231 and 317 represent small domestic villages in upland settings. Site 204 is one of the largest Medio period sites besides Paquimé, and it is located in an upland setting next to a tributary of the Río Casas Grandes. In contrast, Sites 315 and 565 seem to be medium-sized, domestic villages in the Paquimé core along the Río Casas Grandes. Table A.1 in appendix 1 summarizes the flotation sample numbers from different sites, site excavation components, and earthen ovens.
Recovered Taxa Nearly 50 taxa of propagules have been recovered from our screened and flotation samples (Tables 2.1 and A.2–A.25). We use the term nearly because this number includes the category “unknown,” which represents more than one plant type. The recovered types are at different taxonomic levels such as species, genus, and family or even more inclusive categories. Some propagules are not distinct to species or even genus. In many cases, charring can cause minimal distortion to propagule structure, allowing for precise identification. In other cases, charring can alter propagule morphology to the point that it can only be identified to an inclusive taxon (genus or family) or not identified at all. This accounts for
TABLE 2.1. Recovered Charred Propagule Taxa. Agave tissue and spines (century plant, maguey). Possible cultigen Amaranth (Amaranthus) Barley, Little (Hordeum pusillum) Bean (Phaseolus [bean, likely P. vulgaris]) Bean family (Fabaceae) Beeblossom (Gaura-type) Beeweed (cf. Cleome) Buckwheat (Polygonum) Bugseed (Corispermum) Cheno-am (Chenopodium and Amaranthus) Chenopod (Chenopodium) Chile (Capsicum annuum) Dropseed (Sporobolus) False pennyroyal (cf. Hedeoma-type) Fishhook cactus (Echinocactus) Geranium family (Geraniaceae) Gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) Grape (Vitis) Grass family (Poaceae) Horse purslane (Trianthema) Juniper (Juniperus) Maize cob fragment (Zea mays cupules) Maize kernel (Zea mays) Mesquite (Prosopis) Mustard family (Brassicaceae) Nightshade family (Solanaceae) Oak (Quercus) Piñon pine (Pinus cembroides) Plantain (Plantago) Poppy family (Papaveraceae) Prickly pear (Opuntia) Purslane (Portulaca) Rattlebox (cf. Crotalaria) Rock purslane (Calandrinia-type) Saltbush (Atriplex) Shell: Unknown hard, thin shell fragments; many with a distinctive palisaded cell structure Squash (Cucurbita) Spurge (Euphorbia) Stickleaf (Mentzelia) Summer poppy (Kallstroemia) Sumpweed (Iva, likely I. xanthifolia) Sunflower (Helianthus) Sunflower family (Asteraceae) Unknown Vervain (Verbena) Note: Boldface indicates a domesticated taxon.
a majority of the large number of unidentified specimens and those identified to the family level or above. Not all of these remains necessarily represent use of plants by the Casas Grandians; some could simply be naturally occurring ancient seeds that were accidently charred. The most likely candidates as accidental inclusions in the archaeological record are those plants with limited or no known uses, such as rattlebox (Crotalaria) or spurge (Euphorbia). Another category of likely accidental inclusions are plants that produce an enormous number of small seeds such as weedy species, like goosefoot, amaranth, and purslane, that are well adapted to disturbed habitats such a human habitations. This last category is especially problematic as these plants also are widely used food plants. Even if all the listed taxa represent use by the ancient Casas Grandians, these 45 surely are only some fraction of plants consumed by ancient peoples in northwestern Chihuahua. Minimally, they do show the diversity of food sources available to the ancient people of the Casas Grandes region.
Domestic Food Economy The remains of a number of cultivated plants were recovered. These include maize (cob fragments and kernels), common bean (seeds), squash (rind fragments), gourd (seeds and rind fragments), cotton (seeds and twine), chile (or chili; seeds and a perhaps a peduncle), little barley (seed), and perhaps agave (spines and tissue). The “Three Sisters”—maize, beans, and squash—are well represented. Gourd fruits normally were used for containers, but the seeds are edible. Likewise, the cotton was primarily raised for fiber, but the seeds are edible. We will discuss the last three—little barley, chile, and agave—later in this chapter. The remains of a wide range of locally available foods were also recovered. The seeds of weedy plants—especially amaranth, goosefoot, and purslane but also sunflower, tansy mustard, and dropseed—are found in these samples and likely reflect their abundance in the environment due to human and natural soil disturbance. Although sometimes present in low numbers, the seeds of perennials, documented in the ethnohistorical record as being widely used in the NW/SW, were found in our flotation samples. These include such plants such as oak, piñon, hackberry, juniper, grape, mesquite, and prickly pear. It is likely that they were more important foods than their meager presence in the archaeobotanical inventory would indicate. Given the many taphonomic and use variables, as well as questions of sample size that affect preservation of propagules in the archaeological record, we tend to be very conservative in our interpretations. First, we compare the two lowland sites (Sites 315 and 565), which are only a kilometer apart and in the same environmental setting, being on the eastern edge of the Río Casas Grandes floodplain within 2 km of Paquimé. Both date to the Medio period and are domestic villages, so we would expect very similar paleoethnobotanical assemblages. If they are similar, it gives us some confidence that taphonomic factors had not distorted the macroplant assemblages to the degree that they cannot be used to infer food use. Table 2.2 and Figure 2.1 provide the rank-order of propagules for these two sites.
TABLE 2.2. Comparison of Propagule Ubiquity Scores from Lowland Sites (315 and 565). 315 (N = 159) Maize cupule Unknown Maize kernel Bean family Cotton Purslane Bean Shell Grass family Prickly pear Chenopod Sunflower family Gaura-type Chile Horse purslane Squash rind Mesquite Amaranth Oak Hedeoma-type Sunflower Plantain Poppy family Agave? cf. Beeweed Little barley Nightshade family Mustard family Bugseed
82.4 62.2 30.2 29.9 17.0 12.0 10.7 10.1 8.8 6.3 5.0 4.4 3.8 3.2 2.5 2.5 2.5 1.9 1.9 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3
565 (N = 83) Maize cupule Maize kernel Unknown Cheno-am Purslane Bean Cotton Shell Chenopod Saltbush Horse purslane Squash rind Grass family Spine Amaranth cf. Gaura-type Bean family Chile Spurge Geranium family Prickly pear Agave Fishhook cactus Sunflower family
84.3 30.1 24.1 16.9 13.3 10.8 8.4 7.2 4.8 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2
Despite the unequal sample sizes, the two are similar at a statistically significant level with a Spearman’s rank-order correlation coefficient of rs = 0.61. This result is affected by the absence of a number of taxa from Site 565 and their presence at Site 315. Much of this is likely due to the much smaller number of samples from Site 565, where uncommon taxa were not found in the more limited flotation assemblage. If we compare just the taxa found at both sites, the Spearman’s rank-order correlation coefficient rises to rs = 0.80. The taxa that correspond most closely in the two assemblages are maize cupules, maize kernels, cotton, bean, purslane, grass family, and goosefoot (excluding “unknowns”). All seven categories are from cultigens and common weeds except the grass family, which may or may not be from a weedy grass species. The greatest disparities in the remains found in both sites are between the prickly pear and bean family. The two cultigens ranked differently between the two sites are little barley and chile. These two were present or more common from Site 315, but neither was especially common
FIGURE 2.1. Scattergram comparison of ubiquity rank-order scores
for lowland sites (315 and 565).
at that site. In short, despite some apparent, and perhaps real, differences between the two nearby sites, the two adjacent floodplain sites have a common food economy. It would be useful next to do a similar comparison among the upland site assemblages from Sites 242, 231, 317, and 204. However, our test excavations at the two small villages produced far fewer flotation samples than came from the far more extensive excavations at 204. Site 242 is special site and will be considered later. A total of 168 flotation samples was studied from 204, whereas for 231 we have only 31 samples, and for 317 the total is 25. We hesitate to draw comparisons among these sites given the great disparity in sample sizes other than to say that maize cupules and weed seeds are the most common recovered macroplant remains for all upland sites. We can, however, compare the upland site with the largest flotation data (204) with the lowland site with the fullest assemblage (315). These sites are contemporary but are situated in somewhat different settings. Site 204 is closer to upland resources, had an abundance of slopes available for terraced farming, and is situated next to a floodplain with a small riparian plant community and less arable potential. Site 315 is next to the largest floodplain, with verdant riparian woodlands and the best and most abundant farmland, closer to desert plains, and farther from upland resources. As can be seen in Table 2.3 and Figure 2.2, the two assemblages are not similar at a statistically significant level, with a Spearman rank-order correlation coefficient of rs = 0.29. Much of this dissimilarity is due to taxa infrequent in both samples. The rank-order value for only taxa found in both assemblages is rs = 0.63, a weakly statistically significant
TABLE 2.3. Comparison of Propagule Ubiquity Scores from a Lowland Site (315) and an Upland Site (204). 204 (N = 155) Maize cupule Unknowns Purslane Maize kernel Cheno-am Chenopod Agave (?) Amaranth Nightshade family Cotton Prickly pear Fabaceae cf. Rattlebox Shell Phaseolus Gourd seed Saltbush Grass family Poppy family Juniper Mesquite Mexican piñon Gourd rind Buckwheat Dropseed Sunflower family Sumpweed Summer poppy Grape Stickleaf Vervain Horse purslane
61.6 31.7 22.0 21.3 17.1 15.2 11.0 7.3 7.3 4.9 4.3 3.7 3.0 2.4 2.4 1.8 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6
315 (N = 159) Maize cupule Unknown Maize kernel Bean family Bean Cheno-am Purslane Shell Grass family cf. Gaura-type Chenopod Prickly pear Chile Mesquite Horse purslane Squash rind Sunflower family Amaranth Oak cf. Hedeoma-type Sunflower Plantain Poppy family Agave possible crop Saltbush cf. Beeweed Little barley Nightshade family Mustard family Bugseed
82.4 62.3 30.2 30.0 18.2 12.0 12.0 10.1 8.8 8.2 6.3 6.3 3.1 3.1 2.5 2.5 2.5 1.9 1.9 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 0.6 0.6 0.6
result suggesting to us that there is a region-wide common core use of plants for food with some important local differences. The taxa with the most similar rankings in the two sites are maize cupules, unknowns, maize kernels, cheno-am, purslane, poppy family, saltbush, and prickly pear. Of interest are some of the plants found at one site but not found or found very infrequently in the other. These include cultigens. Agave and gourd are present in the upland sample and absent in the lowland site, whereas beans, chile, little barley, and cotton were recovered from the lowland site and not from or infrequently from the upland site. This pattern is not surprising. Agave is more drought resistant than other crops and would
FIGURE 2.2. Scattergram comparison of ubiquity rank-order scores
for a lowland site (315) and an upland site (204).
logically be better suited to upland locations or was used more in upland settings because other crops were less successful in uplands. There is no obvious reason that gourd would be more common from Site 204. However, gourd remains were only found in two flotation samples, so differences may be simply due to a sampling issue. In contrast, cotton and beans require more water, although one cotton seed was found from Site 231, a small upland site. Also worth noting is the absence of chile and little barley from the upland site. Weed propagules from such plants as cheno-am, purslane, and amaranth are different. We are surprised that very common upland plants, especially piñon, juniper, and acorns, are very rare from all sites, even upland sites that are in woodlands today with abundant oak, juniper, and piñon. In short, cultigens, especially maize, and weeds dominate the flotation assemblages from upland and lowland sites. What is different is the apparent mix of crops and native plants based partly at least on site location. We have very limited data to compare possible changes in propagule use within the Medio period. The best data are from Site 204 where Excavation Area 1 is Early Medio and Area 4 is Late Medio. The other excavation units from 204 (Area 2, Area 3, Mound B, and Mound C) are chronologically mixed. We have total of 41 flotation samples with charred propagules from Area 1 (combining subareas A and B; Tables A.5 and A.6) and 24 flotation samples with charred propagules from Area 4 (Table A.9). We calculated the Spearman’s rank-order correlation coefficient for the most common taxa found in either area, a total of 14 types (Table 2.4; Figure 2.3). The rs = 0.57 is a very weakly statistically significant similarity. These preliminary data suggest that there were few major differences in the food economy from the Early to Late Medio period, at least at one site.
TABLE 2.4. Rank-Order of Early versus Late Medio Period Propagules from Site 204. Type Maize cupule Unknowns Maize kernel Goosefoot Purslane Cheno-am Mesquite Pigweed Nightshade family Agave Shell cf. Hedeoma Bean family Prickly pear
1.0 2.0 3.5 3.5 5.0 6.0 7.5 7.5 9.5 9.5 12.5 12.5 12.5 12.5
1.0 3.5 5.0 9.5 3.5 2.0 13.0 13.0 13.0 6.0 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5
FIGURE 2.3 . Scattergram comparison of ubiquity rank-order scores
for Early and Late Medio period contexts at Site 204.
However, more robust data in the future may well detect differences that our limited assemblages cannot. Chemical residue from ceramics offer evidence of the use of cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) and/or yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria Aiton) in the NW/SW, including one of our sites. Cacao is a Mesoamerican plant that contains psychoactive compounds such as caffeine and theobromine and was used widely in Mesoamerica (e.g., McNeil 2006). The yaupon holly is native to the southeastern United States and was used extensively by indigenous peoples in that region (Hudson 1979). It also contains caffeine and theobromine but in different proportions. Neither plant grows in or near the NW/SW. Cacao’s natural distribution was as far north as southeastern Mexico, and yaupon holly is naturally found as far west as central Texas and southeastern Oklahoma. Crown and others (2015) tested many ceramic remains from the NW/SW, including 14 sherds from Site 315. Six of the 14 sherds from Site 315 had the chemical signatures of either cacao and/or yaupon holly. This is an unusually high percentage (43%) compared to other sites in the NW/SW. It is noteworthy that chile remains were also found at Site 315, as discussed below, because cacao and chile were often used together in Mesoamerica. As Coe and Coe note, “Universally popular throughout Mesoamerica was the addition to the drink [meaning chocolate] of chilli (Capsicum annuum), dried and ground to a powder” (1996:89). The behavioral context of the use of either cacao or yaupon holly or both of these plants in the Casas Grandes area is not clear. In Mesoamerica, cacao tended to be an elite consumable, whereas yaupon holly was used more widely within native communities in the U.S. Southeast. While Site 315 had more exotic artifacts than the other domestic sites we excavated and is closer to Paquimé, it lacks clear evidence of its use as a special ritual or administrative center like Paquimé, Site 242, or El Pueblito. Since no samples from our other sites were tested for cacao or yaupon holly residue, we do not know if this association is limited to Site 315, but it is worth noting again the high percentage of our sherds with chemical signatures of cacao or yaupon holly.
Three Special Crops: Little Barley, Chile, and Agave Much of the domestic economy at the sites we excavated is similar to that of other contemporary agricultural groups in the NW/SW. That is, there seems to have been a dependence on maize, with the additional use of other crops and a range of locally available resources (Fish 2004; Minnis 1989; contra Sullivan 2015). As will be discussed later, the community food economy of the Casas Grandes tradition differs from other NW/SW groups in the intensity and scale of community food preparation and consumption. The Casas Grandes tradition is also notable in the presence of two plants, little barley and cultivated chile, the first rarely found elsewhere in the NW/SW, and the latter unique at this point in the prehispanic NW/SW. In addition, we discuss agave, another possible cultigen.
Little Barley Little barley (Hordeum pusillum Nutt.), a New World relative of the cultivated barley, is a weedy annual with a wide distribution in North America, including the NW/SW (USDA 2017). Little barley seems to have a limited distribution in Mexico. Lebgue and Valerio (1986:17) describe H. pusillum’s distribution in Chihuahua as corresponding to “suelos alcalinos del norte del estado” (alkaline soils in the north of the state). Based on personal observations and examination of the Mexican National Herbarium, Robert Bye (personal communication 2017) reports the presence of little barley also in northern Sonora and northern Baja California, with only one example from farther south in Mexico (Nuevo León). While we do not know if the modern distribution of little barley reflects its ancient distribution, it does seem most likely that the Casas Grandes area was at or close to the southern limits of little barley’s North American range. Little barley is a cool season grass with seeds that mature in the late spring or early summer, at a time before the maturation of most crops (Adams 2014; Bohrer 1991). Like most grasses, little barley seeds are primarily a source of starchy carbohydrates. There is evidence that it was cultivated by prehispanic groups in the New World (Adams 2014; Graham et al. 2017). The seeds of this plant are typical for grasses in that they are normally tightly enclosed by bracts, which aid in its dispersal and protect the seed from predation. However, an occasional mutation results in naked seeds, where the bracts do not tightly adhere to the grain, so it then can easily be separated from the chaff. In nature, this characteristic is selected against, whereas naked grains are valuable to humans and selected for during domestication. This phenomenon occurs in many domesticated grasses, such as wheat, barley, and maize, throughout the world (e.g., Schwanitz 1966). Ancient naked grains of little barley have been found in eastern North America (Gremillion 2018), in the Hohokam region of southern Arizona (Adams 2014), and in southwestern Colorado (Graham et al. 2017), although it seems to have been a minor crop at best in all these areas. We recovered one naked little barley seed from Site 315, which is to the best of our knowledge the first evidence of cultivated little barley in Mexico (Figure 2.4). It was recovered from a small oval-shaped hearth in Room 60. Also in the flotation sample were maize cupules and some unidentifiable seed fragments. There was also nothing unusual about this feature or the room it is in. Given that only a single specimen from one common context has been found, little more can be deduced about little barley’s use other than to note its presence and suggest that it was not a major crop. It needs to be FIGURE 2.4. Little bar- noted that grass phytoliths recovered in dental calculus from ley seed from Site 315. It is Paquimé could have been from little barley or other grasses approximately 2.5 mm long. (King et al. 2017).
Chile The second plant is the cultivated chile (Capsicum annuum L.). It has long puzzled archaeobotanists why chile has not been found in the prehispanic NW/SW. After all, the major crops grown in the ancient NW/SW, such as corn, beans, squash, cotton, gourd, and perhaps amaranth, among others, ultimately were derived from farther south in Mesoamerica and have been found in a wide range of archaeological sites throughout the NW/SW. Most of the important Mesoamerican crops that could have been grown in the NW/SW made their way to the ancient NW/SW (Minnis 1985a, 1992). These patterns suggest a surprisingly free flow of crops between the NW/SW and groups farther south in Mexico for millennia. Chile has been the most puzzling exception. Chile remains are found in Mesoamerica as far north as La Quemada in Zacatecas (Paula Turkon, personal communication 2016). While absent in the prehispanic archaeological inventory in the NW/SW, chile remains are common from some postcontact sites in the U.S. Southwest (Minnis and Whalen 2010). This led to the conclusion that chile was not cultivated in the NW/SW before its introduction by the Spanish or their indigenous central Mexican allies. There is no obvious reason why chile could not have been grown in the prehispanic NW/SW. Chile has been grown postcontact in many parts of the NW/SW, and it is an important modern-day commercial crop in parts of the NW/SW. In addition, there is no obvious reason why it could not have been transported over long distances. In fact, chile seeds would have been an ideal item for long-distance exchange; tens of thousands could have been carried easily because they are small, lightweight, and remain viable for long periods of time. Based on weighing three lots each of 100 modern New Mexico green chile seeds, we found that 1 kg contains 120,000 seeds (54,500 per lb.). Therefore, one would have expected that chiles, like many other important food plants in Mesoamerica, would have been present in the ancient NW/SW. This expectation is even stronger when one considers how quickly and widely this New World domesticate was incorporated into cuisines throughout the world—in numerous parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe—as a part of the Columbian Exchange, as noted by Andrews: “These pungent berries that had been a staple in the diet of New World Indians since prehistoric time were rapidly accepted and dispersed to the far reaches of the globe. Today they are the most used condiment in the world” (1984:1). Until recently, there has not been a satisfactory explanation for the absence of chile in the archaeological record of the NW/SW. In light of the history of chile use, the discovery of its remains in two of our sites is noteworthy (Figure 2.5). The chile seeds from the two sites we excavated that are in the Río Casas Grandes valley near Paquimé are the first record of this plant in precontact sites in the NW/SW. We have reported on the first chile seed we recovered (Minnis and Whalen 2010) and subsequent research has recovered more seeds. The original specimen came from a subfloor deposit in a small room at Site 315. Analysis of flotation samples from a second excavation season at Site 315 and excavations at Site 565, which is about a kilometer south of 315 on the same side of the Río Casas Grandes, yielded even more chile seeds. A total of 10–25 chile seeds have been identified (Table 2.5). All but one seed were recovered
FIGURE 2.5. The first chile seed recovered from Site 315. It is approx-
imately 2.8 mm in diameter, measured before it broke into two parts.
TABLE 2.5. Chile Seeds from Sites 315 and 565. Site
Rm 2, Feature 67 Rm 20, Feature 331
circular hearth hemispherical hearth
1 3 (12)c
Rm 24, Feature 365
Rm 5, Feature 47(b) Total
1 10 (25)
Other Plant Remainsb unknown specimen maize cupules, purslane, grass family, vegetative shell chenopod, unknown specimen, cotton, maize cupules, purslane, prickly pear maize cupules, maize kernels, prickly pear, bean family, cotton, mesquite, bean bean family, maize cupules, maize kernels, grass family, unknown specimen, cotton maize cupules
a The first number is the number of actual seeds recovered. Subsamples (25%) of two samples, from rooms 20 and 24, were sorted, so the number in parentheses is the estimated number of chile seeds present in the entire sample. b Only charred propagules in the same flotation sample are listed here. c One chile seed had attached tissue, and a likely chile peduncle was present in this sample.
from five different domestic rooms at Site 315. The one seed was from Site 565 and was also from a domestic room. In addition, a possible chile stem (peduncle) was noted in the flotation sample from Room 20 at Site 315. The social context of chile use in the Upper Río Casas Grandes valley is not obvious. Was chile a normal part of domestic cuisine in the Casas Grandes region, or was it a special item controlled by or restricted to certain segments of the population or limited certain types of events? Chile has only been found in the two sites near Paquimé. Despite examination of many flotation samples from outlying sites we excavated, no chile remains were identified. No chile remains have been reported from the limited paleoethnobotanical research at other sites in Chihuahua or Sonora. This might indicate that chile was an edible prestige good restricted to especially central and important communities or ceremonies. On the other hand, the chile remains do not appear in special or unique contexts in the two sites. In addition to the first chile seed found in a subfloor trash deposit, the other contexts were small hearths (Site 315) and a floor-level deposit (Site 565). There is nothing special about the hearths with chile remains; such hearths are very common in Medio period sites. Furthermore, there is nothing especially different about the rooms with chiles. They appear to have been ordinary domestic rooms. Chiles do not seem to be an especially ubiquitous ingredient since they were not found at other sites we’ve excavated. Even if chile cultivation was restricted to the main river valleys, like the Río Casas Grandes valley, we might expect wider distribution of chile to upland sites if it was a common part of Casas Grandes cuisine. Given the current paucity of data, we cannot fully assess the role of chiles in the Casas Grandes food economy, but it is significant to note that their presence is the first in the NW/SW. Chile use in the NW/SW is even more enigmatic in light of the archaeological distribution of wild chile (chiltepin; Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum [Dunal] Heiser & Pickersgill). This plant’s natural distribution in the NW/SW is as far north as the Baboquivari and Tumacacori Mountains south and southwest of Tucson and extends south into northwestern Mexico. It is also found in southeastern North America. This naturally available chile is eaten widely today in Sonora and among O’odham groups (Castetter and Bell 1942). Yet, only one possible chiltepin seed has ever been found among the thousands of flotation samples analyzed from Hohokam sites in Arizona (Miksicek 1987). We suspect that the use of chiltepin began or increased substantially during postcontact times given its near absence in prehispanic contexts, the same pattern we note for the cultivated chile. What we can say is that these first chile remains from the NW/SW indicate that chiles did occur in at least one area of the NW/SW, like so many of the other Mesoamericanderived crops. We have argued (Minnis and Whalen 2010) that prehispanic cuisines in the NW/SW were not highly spiced with the possible exception of the Casas Grandes region. It should be noted that our understanding of the ethnographic record for northern Mexico is not as full as we would like. Consistent with the conclusion that indigenous diets were not highly spiced is the fact that naturally piquant plant foods, such as native plants in the mustard family, in the NW/SW were not used in large quantities (Minnis 1989; Minnis and
Whalen 2010). Early use of chiles among indigenous groups in postcontact times seems to have concentrated where Spanish influence and control was strongest, especially among the northern Rio Grande Pueblos. Chiles from early historic period sites in parts of the U.S. Southwest other than the upper Rio Grande valley are rare. Only one cultivated chile seed has been found from sites in central and southern Arizona, having been recovered from a postcontact O’odham (Pima) homestead in the Phoenix Basin (Michael Diehl, personal communication 2017). The introduction of chiles then was only one of a number of major changes forced on and accepted by the indigenous food economies in the NW/SW (e.g., Crosby 1972; Dunmire 2004; Super 1988).
Agave Agave (Agave spp.) was an important and useful plant for indigenous groups historically documented in the southern U.S. Southwest and northwestern Mexico (Gentry 1982; Figure 2.6). For example, agave was the most important food source for the Western Apache and would even sustain them when other food sources failed (Buskirk 1986). In addition to eating the cooked hearts, agave provided construction material and fiber and was a beverage source (Buskirk 1986; Castetter et al. 1938; Ferg 2003). The status of agave as a naturally occurring or as a cultivated plant in the Casas Grandes tradition is ambiguous. It is inconceivable that agave was not used, and it may well have been a major food source. We have some agave remains—spines and tissue—in flotation samples particularly from upland sites, and lithic tools associated with agave processing have been recovered. Some of the best indicators of agave processing are earthen ovens. Such ovens had been used during prehispanic times and also in ethnographically documented contexts, such as among the Apache (Buskirk 1986; Castetter et al. 1938; Ferg 2003; Gentry 1982). We have several types of earthen ovens in the Casas Grandes region. Some are like earthen ovens common in the NW/SW. These are unelaborate pits dug into the ground that often have a debris field of discarded fire-cracked rock. We also have some that we call formal ovens (Figures 2.7 and 2.8). These are especially well-made pits, sometimes with plastered walls. The rocks removed to make the pit in formal ovens are normally deposited as a circle around the pit. Often, but not always, there is an inner ring of upright stones around the pit. Lacking in these formal ovens are spent and discarded fire-cracked rocks. Rather, the rocks heated during the last cooking episode remain in place in the pit. The earthen ovens in the Upper Río Casas Grandes valley do not fit the pattern normally associated with cooking agave (Minnis and Whalen 2005). For example, only a few ovens have fields of fire-cracked rock debris that are so common in other archaeological and ethnographical contexts. The most interesting exception with fire-cracked rock is Unit 1 at Paquimé. Unit 1’s four large ovens surround a large mound partially filled with fire-cracked rock debris. Another exception is the north oven at Site 204. This oven had been cleaned out at some point, leaving a debris field of fire-cracked rock. As will be discussed shortly, the formal earthen ovens we have recorded and excavated suggest their use was part of the community economy.
FIGURE 2.6. An agave in bloom.
Major questions about the role of agave in the Casas Grandes world remain. Was agave cultivated, similar to the practice of the Hohokam of southern and central Arizona (e.g., Fish and Fish 2014), or was it solely a naturally occurring resource? At this point, we have no evidence of its status as a cultigen, but more research is needed. Was it only a food source used in domestic settings or was it also part of the community food economy? We discuss this issue in the next section.
FIGURE 2.7. An unexcavated formal oven west of Mata Ortiz. Note the outer ring of rocks that were removed during construction of the pit, the inner row of upright stones, and the lack of fire-cracked rock debris.
FIGURE 2.8. Excavated oven next to the ball court at Site 204.
Community Food Economy and Special Sites Paquimé is best known for its community economy based on its inventory of exotic items like macaws, shell, and copper. If, as we argue, the prehispanic ethnobotany of Paquimé was critical to the rise of Paquimé, then we might expect to see examples of the importance of plant foods in its community economy. A logical question would be whether plant use was part of the community food economy. It would be useful to examine ethnobotanical differences among special sites, those that were ritual and/or administrative locations,
compared to sites that seem to have been mostly domestic villages. We have data from three sites whose special roles seem to transcend daily intra-village life in the Paquimé-centered tradition during the Medio period. Paquimé is the obvious first, El Pueblito is the second, and Site 242 is the third. Site 204 had aspects of ritual activity such as a ball court and a formal oven, but it was also a thriving and large domestic community. Other special sites may be present. For example, our survey crews recorded a small site several kilometers north of Paquimé with Paquimé-like architecture that we have termed an “architecture of power” (Whalen and Minnis 2001b). However, this site had been completely looted, room fill was removed to make adobes, and it was partially destroyed by a road, so we have no other data from this site. As mentioned previously, JCGE excavations occurred before flotation and widespread small screening became standard parts of the archaeological protocol. Besides wood from large beams, along with some cordage and woven textiles, relatively few other plant remains were recovered from this project except for maize cob fragments. A total of 352 lots of plant remains were collected by the JCGE (Di Peso et al. 1974:8:308). Maize cob fragments account for 71.6% of the total, and “unidentified” plant remains are 19.6%. The remaining 8% are cotton, squash/gourd, and “uncultivated” plants. The latter category includes hackberry (Celtis reticulata), a grass (Panicum fasciculatum), horse purslane (Trianthema portulacastrum), mesquite (Prosopis sp.), wheelscale saltbush (Atriplex elegans), walnut (Juglans microcarpa), agave, and piñon (P. cembroides). It is not certain from the report that these specimens were prehispanic or modern intrusives into archaeological deposits. In short, these data tell us little about the food economy of Paquimé, but they are consistent with the view that farming, especially of maize, was important, and nothing in this assemblage can be interpreted as part of the community food economy. The recent excavations of another special site, El Pueblito, were not extensive (Pitezel 2011). A total of 14 flotation samples had charred propagules. The most ubiquitous taxon was maize cupules in 6 samples, followed by purslane (5) and goosefoot (3). Infrequent taxa present were prickly pear, rock purslane, grass, amaranth, agave spine, sumpweed, and unknown. This small assemblage is similar to others in that maize cob fragments and weed seeds dominate the depauperate macroplant assemblage. As considered in chapter 5, wood and common reed remains are different at special sites such as El Pueblito compared with other site types. The ethnobotanical dataset from the third special site (242) is likewise small. The propagule assemblage from Site 242 is unremarkable. First, there were few taxa recovered from the 17 flotations samples containing propagules. The number of taxa from Site 242 is very similar to other upland sites with small flotation assemblages: Site 242 had 11 taxa from 17 samples, Site 317 had 10 taxa from 25 samples, and Site 231 had 19 taxa from 31 samples. And it is similar to the 11 taxa recovered from the 12 El Pueblito samples. What was recovered is much like botanical remains at other sites, most notably purslane (59% of samples with charred propagules), maize cupules (41%), and unknowns (29%). Infrequent taxa were goosefoot, maize kernels, amaranth, cultivated bean, grass family, possible morning glory family, and agave tissue or spines. Much of this certainly is due to the small number
of samples from each site. Still, we could have expected to see differences between small domestic villages and special sites in the types of plants used that would be preserved in flotation samples. We suggest again that there was a general similarity across sites in the types of plants found, although maybe not in the same specific mix of these plants used. Ignoring the ambiguous cases of little barley, chile, cacao/yaupon holly, and agave, there is little evidence for community-wide use of plant foods in the assemblages of plant remains themselves. The best evidence of community food economy is other archaeological data that hint toward special community food use. The first is the analysis of pottery sherds with interior pitting from Site 242 that may provide evidence of the large-scale production of a fermented beverage—most likely maize and/or agave beer—consumed during feasts or other community-wide events (Jones 2002; Whalen and Minnis 2009a; see Beck  for a wider discussion of fermentation in the prehispanic U.S. Southwest). Site 242, with its distinctive ritual features, including an unusually large and well-made ball court and the only platform mound known from a site in the region other than at Paquimé, lacks a formal oven found at Paquimé, near El Pueblito, and close to and at other sites. This would suggest to us that maize beer was more likely prepared at Site 242 since the typical agave producing facilities, earthen ovens, are missing. It may also indicate a somewhat different set of community activities at 242 contrasted with El Pueblito and Paquimé, both of which have formal earthen ovens. There was an informal thermal feature at 242 that was about 3 m in diameter and 50 cm deep. It was surrounded by a three-walled structure and with some fire-cracked rock debris around it. This oven is so unlike any others we excavated that we are unsure of its use, and we were unable to collect a flotation sample from it. It should be noted that sherds with interior erosion were also found at Site 204, so the production of a fermented beverage was also practiced at predominantly domestic sites, but ones with ritual features (ball court and formal oven). The second indicator of community ethnobotanical relationships (as will be discuss in the next chapter) are exceedingly large terraced fields next to Site 242. We have suggested these were fields controlled by leaders, unlike most fields that were used at a family level (Minnis et al. 2006). A third possible example is especially well-made metates (Type 1A1; Di Peso et al. 1974; VanPool and Leonard 2002) that likely were produced by specialists, as opposed to the far more common metate types, and may well have been used to prepare special meals (Figure 2.9). The 1A1-style metates need not have been so uniformly well made and symmetrical to grind foods and other materials. These metates are not limited to Paquimé or special sites, although they represent a higher percentage of metates at Paquimé than at other sites. Our surveys and excavations recorded many of them at Medio period sites throughout northwest Chihuahua (Whalen and Minnis 2001a, 2009a). Furthermore, we do not know what was ground in these metates. Therefore, the context of use of these metates remains an open and interesting question. The fourth and most obvious examples of community food use are cooking/heating features, especially those related to feasting (e.g., Dieter and Hayden 2001; Mills 2004). While the vast majority of the 400 cooking and heating features excavated by the JCGE at
FIGURE 2.9. A cluster of formal (Type 1A1) metates at Paquimé (courtesy of the Amerind
Paquimé were small hearths and most likely represented household-level use, very large earthen ovens were also excavated by the JCGE at Paquimé. These five exceptionally large ovens are suggestive of large-scale community feasting (Di Peso et al. 1974). In addition, we excavated six large and formal ovens at nearby outlying sites (Minnis and Whalen 2005; Whalen and Minnis 2001a). Four of the five large ovens at Paquimé (Unit 1) were located in a cluster at the north end of the site and average 4.1 m (13.5 ft.) in diameter and 2.7 m (8.9 ft.) deep (Figure 2.10). The fifth is next to a platform mound on the eastern side of the site in Unit 9, and it is likely the largest earthen oven in the NW/SW (Figure 2.11). The actual pit itself is 5.4 m (17.7 ft.) in diameter at the upper rim, 1.76 m (5.8 ft.) in diameter at the bottom, and 3.25 m (10.7 ft.) deep filled with fire-cracked rock, charcoal, and vegetative material (Di Peso et al. 1974). These large ovens are best interpreted as having prepared food for feasts held at Paquimé that attracted large numbers of visitors and participants (Minnis and Whalen 2005). The Unit 1 ovens may have been used differently than the Unit 9 oven. As mentioned previously, the Unit 1 ovens are unusual in that there was a large amount of fire-cracked rock in the Unit 1 mound located between the four ovens. In contrast, there was no debris around the Unit 9 oven, suggesting less frequent cooking episodes or more careful curation and disposal of fire-cracked rock. Another fascinating difference, as discussed in greater detail in chapter 3, is the wood assemblages. The Unit 1 woods are local whereas the Unit 9 wood is from farther away and unlike wood from anywhere else at Paquimé. One can speculate that the Unit 9 oven was used rarely for very special, visually obvious, and public
FIGURE 2.10. The Unit 1 and Unit 9 ovens at Paquimé (courtesy of the Amerind Foundation).
events, whereas the Unit 1 ovens were used more frequently to produce agave or other resources for less monumental events or purely for domestic consumption. We should not simply assume that agave was the sole item cooked in these formal ovens; while likely, there is very little direct evidence for this conclusion. There is terminological confusion in the JCGE report regarding what was found during excavation of the five large Paquimé ovens. According to the excavators, agave/sotol was noted during excavation of the large Unit 9 oven (Di Peso et al. 1974). Sotol is a different genus, Dasylirion, from Agave, although both can be cooked in earthen ovens (Figure 2.12). Also, according to the report (Di Peso et al. 1974:4:275), one Unit 1 oven (4-1) contained “sotol leaves.” Unfortunately, it seems that no specimens were saved from either oven to be identified more precisely by botanical specialists. The only agave remains recovered during JCGE excavations and identified by specialists were from a small feature in Unit 12, not one of the five large ovens (Bohrer and Fenner 1974). This specimen is described as an agave leaf base in one place but simply as a monocotyledon leaf base, a broader category, elsewhere. Therefore, while it is likely that agave was prepared in the large earthen ovens, the evidence is not definitive. Furthermore, we should be open to the idea that other resources were also prepared in the large ovens. Sotol, green maize, and cholla buds would be possible candidates. The distribution of large formal ovens offers a hint as to their importance to the ancient Paquimé-centered polity. Based on our survey data, all of these ovens are within 30 km
FIGURE 2.11. The Unit 9 oven during excavation (courtesy of the Amerind Foundation).
of Paquimé (Minnis and Whalen 2005; Whalen and Minnis 2001a). This is the region where Paquimé’s control and influence were the strongest (Whalen and Minnis 2001a). If these ovens were used to prepare food for community events, then they might be taken as indicators of the scale of Paquimé’s influence. Interestingly, their limited distribution largely matches the geographically restricted distribution of ball courts and unique stones interpreted as having been used to raise macaws, both indicators of strong relationships with Paquimé. Our excavations of large formal ovens in outlying sites does not clear up the issue of what was cooked in them. We analyzed flotation samples from the six formal ovens (Tables A.21–A.26). Maize cupules were the most common macroplant remains, being recovered from five of the six ovens. Seven other taxa were also found, including agave tissue. However, none of these types were so common, either in amount or in the number of ovens found, to indicate that that resource was the primary material processed in the oven. For example, we recovered agave only from a single oven and then only four small pieces. It is quite likely that much of these remains, especially the small seeds such as goosefoot, pigweed, and knotweed but also cob fragments and other plant remains, were incidental debris charred during use of the earthen ovens.
FIGURE 2.12. Sotol.
There are three possible explanations for the lack of evidence of the cooked material in the ovens. First, the ovens were not used for cooking plant material. In fact, the earliest explanation for these formal ovens in the Casas Grandes region was that they were used for metal smelting (Sayles 1938), a possibility that has been convincingly refuted (MacWilliams et al. 2001). Second, were non-plant resources being heated in the ovens? We think this is
unlikely, because the ethnographic evidence for the southern U.S. Southwest and northern Mexico clearly suggests that such ovens were used to cook plant resources (Castetter et al. 1938), and generally pit baking is used for cooking starchy foods (Wandsnider 1997). The third explanation of the absence of cooked remains and the one we suggest is the most likely is that the unusually large amount of cooking material was placed on top of the heated rocks in the pit oven, and this large cooking mass extended well above the ground surface. A smaller Western Apache example can be seen in Ferg (2003:20–21, Figures 21– 23), where the aboveground oven mound was about 4.6 m (15 ft.) in diameter and 1.2 m (4 ft.) high. We suspect that the inner row of upright stones placed around many of these ovens were used to hold the substantial aboveground cooking material and covering in place. If so, it is an indicator of how large the above oven mound was and how much food was being cooked. Furthermore, all but one of the ovens we excavated were unopened prior to excavation and lacked debris fields of fire-cracked rock. In the ovens we excavated, the fire was so hot that some rock and other material are vitrified (melted). We noted during excavation that the vitrified material always formed drips facing down, indicating that the mass of heated rocks in the pit ovens were not disturbed when the heated material was removed. Otherwise, the drips should have been more randomly oriented. This suggests that whatever was heated was at or above the ground surface since the unmoved rocks filled the pits. There are still three unusual characteristics of these ovens that baffle us. First, the wood use is overwhelmingly non-piñon pine (Pinus sp.). This is unexpected as Buskirk (1986:171) states in relation to the Western Apache that “the fuel was invariably oak, for pine and other woods were said to spoil the flavor of mescal.” Unless oak was overharvested, it would have been more easily available locally than pine. Second, it has been estimated that fire in these ovens reached at least 1200°F (650°C; MacWilliams et al. 2001). The extra wood in the lower cylindrical portion of the oven used to generate the high temperature likely was needed to cook unusually large amounts of agave in the aboveground mounded oven. Third, with one exception—an oven uphill from Site 204 in the Tinaja drainage—there are no debris fields of fire-cracked rock as is most common with earthen ovens used ethnographically to cook agave (Ferg 2003). Were these ovens used more than once? If so, where is the firecracked rock debris? Whatever the material being cooked in these ovens, the size, formality, and often closeness of the ovens to public ritual features—ball courts at a number of sites and platform mounds at Paquimé—clearly indicate that they were involved in production beyond the household level. In fact, production seems to have been massive. In a study among the Guarijio of southern Chihuahua, Dodd (2004) concluded that a 1 m (3.3 ft.) in diameter and 0.8 m (2.6 ft.) deep oven could process 90 kg (198 lbs.) of agave. Projecting this to the Unit 9 oven, which is 36.6 times the size of the Guarijio example, 3,285 kg (7,242 lbs.) of agave could have been prepared at one time. This oven clearly served a huge gathering at Paquimé. Assuming per-person consumption of 0.25 kg, one Unit 9 cooking event could feed over 13,000 people; at half a kilogram per person, the figure would be 6,500. We cannot calculate the production of agave-based alcoholic drink if this oven was used for that
purpose. Instead, let’s consider the cluster of formal pit ovens in Unit 1 at Paquimé. These four ovens average 7.7 m3 (271.9 ft.3) in volume, and between the ovens is a mound 2 m (6.6 ft.) high and 26 m (85.3 ft.) in diameter that is composed partially of ash lenses and firecracked rock (Di Peso et al. 1974:4:273; Minnis and Whalen 2005), obviously debris from pit oven use. Let’s first assume that this wastage is deposited on the mound and only on the mound. Let’s then assume that half of the pit debris—charcoal and spent heating rocks—is deposited on the mound. Finally, let’s also assume that three-fourths of the mound’s 350 m3 (12,360 ft.3) of volume is from cooking events. If so, then the Unit 1 mound represents 67 cooking episodes, or 17 for each of Unit 1’s four ovens. Again, using the Guarijio figure, these 67 cooking events could have yielded up to 58,000 kg (128,000 lbs.) of cooked agave. No doubt these estimates are crude and imprecise, but they still do point toward the massive scale of production, probably of agave. Contrast these figures with Ferg’s (2003) estimate that a typical agave-gathering trip by a Western Apache family would yield 202– 303 kg (424–675 lbs.). While we think these ovens demonstrate the size and importance of community feasting at Paquimé and outlying communities, as always there are many questions still to be answered. First, what was being prepared in these ovens and how? It is reasonable to assume it was agave, but definitive evidence for this is lacking, and we must not conclude that only agave was cooked in these formal ovens. Food or drink? Ethnographically, agave is usually cooked for food. However, agave is one of several plants used by communities in Chihuahua to produce fermented drinks (Bruman 2000; Ulloa et al. 1987). For example, the Tarahumara and Tepehuan use agave in this way (e.g., Bennett and Zingg 1935; Castetter et al. 1938; Merrill 1978; Pennington 1963, 1969), although maize is the more common plant used to make tesgüeno. Other alcoholic drinks, such as colonche, can be made from prickly pear (Ulloa et al. 1987). There is some archaeological evidence for fermentation in the Casas Grandes region. As previously mentioned, Sites 242 and 204, a ritual/administrative center and a large domestic village with some ritual features, yielded sherds from large vessels with interior pitting that could indicate surface etching by fermentation acids, although not necessarily from agave (Jones 2002; Whalen and Minnis 2009a). There is no reason to assume that agave hearts could not have been both eaten and at other times fermented. King and colleagues (2017) provide another perspective on this issue. They studied microfossils (starch granules, phytoliths, pollen, and diatoms) on dental calculus from teeth recovered by the JCGE. A total of 65 teeth out of 100 examined from both the Viejo and Medio periods had microfossils. Maize starch granules were common, and some granules seem to have been modified by fermentation. No agave microfossils were noted. This is suggestive of maize, not agave, having been the more common source for alcohol. Other questions remain. The association of formal pit ovens with ritual architecture as evidence of ritual feasting is reasonable, but the association is not perfect. Many ovens are near sites, but a significant minority are isolated. Others are at smaller sites. For example, Site 317 had two formal ovens. Some ovens are at sites with ball courts but not all. There are formal ovens away from sites and ritual features. In addition, one of the special ritual/ administrative sites we studied, Site 242, lacked a large formal oven even though it had the
only platform mound known outside of Paquimé, the largest ball court outside of Paquimé, and nearby extremely large chief fields, which are indications of this site’s special role in the community food economy (Minnis et al. 2006). There is a large oven downslope from El Pueblito that may be associated with that special site and with nearby exceptionally large fields. Was super-household production of presumably agave solely for ritual feasting or was some of it specialized economy production? The cluster of Unit 1 ovens at Paquimé could be an example of the latter (Minnis and Whalen 2005). Finally, how does the regional distribution of formal ovens, their presence concentrated within 30 km of Paquimé, specifically relate to the ritual and political landscape of northern Chihuahua and adjacent areas? Large formal feasting ovens are not unique to Paquimé and the Casas Grandes region. The closest example is among the Hohokam, where very large ovens likely were for processing large quantities of food used during communal feasting (e.g., Abbott and Spielmann 2014; Howard 1988). There are both interesting similarities and instructive differences between the two traditions. As would be expected for an area with extensive and intensive archaeological research over decades, many earthen ovens have been excavated (Howard 1988:Table 5.2). In contrast, fewer than a dozen have been excavated in the Casas Grandes region: five at Paquimé and the rest at outlying sites. Howard (1988) divides these large Hohokam ovens into five morphological types, two of which share some similarities with the Casas Grandes ovens. Howard’s Type 1 (“funnelshaped”) has a conical body with a cylindrical extension at the base of the oven. This type is generally like the six outlying formal ovens we tested, but there are differences. For example, some Hohokam ovens have a ring of rock surrounding the pit, and the rings appear to be spent fire-cracked rock. The outer ring of Casas Grandes ovens is composed of rocks removed during the digging of the central fire pit and are not fire-cracked. Furthermore, none of the Hohokam ovens that we are familiar with have the inner ring of upright stones common on some of our ovens. Howard’s Type 4 ovens are similar to the five large ovens at Paquimé not only in morphology but in the fact that they are larger than other ovens. In both the Casas Grandes and Hohokam areas, Type 4 ovens are the largest. The largest Hohokam oven, one from Snaketown, had a volume of almost 11 m3 (388.5 ft.3; Howard 1988:Table 5.2); the largest oven in the Casas Grandes area, the Unit 9 oven at Paquimé, has an estimated volume of nearly 25 m3 (882.9 ft.3), or almost 2.5 times the size of the largest Hohokam oven. Another similarity is that many of the large, formal earthen ovens are presumably associated with ritual facilities. In the case of Casas Grandes, ovens often associate with ball courts and mounds, whereas in the Hohokam area, ovens can associate with mounds and raceways, presumed public ritual features (Abbott and Spielmann 2014; Howard 1988). Are the similarities in oven morphology due to close cultural connections or more due to similar functional requirements? Viewed broadly, there is no archaeological evidence of strong cultural relationships between the Classic Hohokam period and the Medio period Casas Grandes tradition, although there can be no question that they were familiar with each other. What is most salient is that in both the Casas Grandes and Hohokam examples, food processing for feasting reflects a community food economy on a massive scale.
A Wider Regional View While this volume is one of two substantial paleoethnobotany reports for the Medio period, there has been some earlier and more limited research, all before flotation. We will first compare our results with research to the south with the Proyecto Arqueológico Chihuahua (PAC), which included both Viejo and Medio sites. Next, we will summarize data from earlier projects. The PAC was a long-term project that studied archaeological remains to the south of the Casas Grandes region in central Chihuahua (e.g., see Kelley and Phillips  for the most recent and comprehensive summary of this research). Both Viejo and Medio period sites and site components were excavated. The macroplant remains were analyzed using methodologies similar to ours but not exactly the same (Adams 2017). In addition, we cannot adjust for any possible differences in sampling strategies between the two projects. For example, the most common PAC flotation samples were smaller (2 L) than the ones we collected (4 L), and it is not clear if the sampling strategies were the same as ours. A total of 230 flotation samples were processed and an additional 787 other macroplant samples were retrieved during the PAC’s excavation compared to 509 flotation samples from our sites. The PAC recovered 30 taxa. While the PAC flotation assemblage is about half our flotation assemblage, both are still quite large, allowing a reasonable comparison. The major advantage of the PAC’s data is that there are data on Viejo period sites, the first ever collected systematically. Thus, one can examine changes through time between the Viejo and Medio periods. While we will compare their data to ours, it must be noted that there are three important differences besides sampling issues between the Viejo and Medio periods in the PAC’s study area and our study area. First, the environmental setting is different. The PAC study area had different farming and gathering potentials than the Upper Río Casas Grandes, probably less irrigation potential, and a greater use of dry farming. Second, the PAC’s ancient human population density was surely less, and may have been substantially less, than in our research area. Third, the Medio period occupants of the PAC’s study area were distant from the cultural tradition dominated and influenced by Paquimé. Therefore, we would not expect as robust a community food economy in the PAC’s study area as around Paquimé. The first and perhaps the second differences may not be as great between the two areas during the Viejo period, but clearly the third is magnified during the Medio period. The PAC obtained flotation and other macroplant remains from four Viejo period sites and a Viejo component at the El Zurdo site. Maize from the four Viejo sites was the most common cultigen with a ubiquity score of 57.9%, when combining flotation and macroplant samples, in contrast to the far lower ubiquity scores for other cultigens such as cultivated beans (9.8%) and cucurbits (0.7%). The most common naturally present plants recovered were juniper berries (7.7%) and piñon seeds (2.8%), with unknown propagules at 3.5%. Few weed seeds were found in Viejo period samples. The Viejo component at El Zurdo yielded three cultivated plants: maize (69.2%), beans (3.4%), and cotton twine (3.4%). In contrast to the other Viejo contexts from which no seeds from obvious weedy species were found,
weedy seeds were recovered from El Zurdo Viejo samples but were not very common. Cheno-ams were found in 15.4% of the El Zurdo samples. Basically, the Viejo data suggest a food economy focused on crops, especially maize with other crops, along with the use of a variety of local plants, particularly those from woodland species. The flotation assemblage from the four Medio period sites is somewhat different. Maize was the only cultigen recovered from Medio period samples with a ubiquity of 22% of all samples (or 48.4% of the flotation samples). Cheno-am seeds were found in 3.8% of the flotation samples, and the ubiquity for purslane was 2.8%. Propagules from nonweedy native plants were infrequent, with the most abundant being only found in 1.9% of the samples (ignoring unknowns with a ubiquity score of 2.8%). Maize ubiquity for the Medio period component at the El Zurdo site was 53.1% for all samples, or 46% for flotation samples alone. Weedy seeds from the El Zurdo site were uncommon: 8.1% for cheno-am. On the basis of a decrease in maize ubiquity from the Viejo to Medio periods, both from all sites as well as from Viejo and Medio components from El Zurdo, Adams (2017:95) suggests that Medio period farmers may have experienced difficulties growing crops compared to the Viejo period. There are a number of differences between the PAC’s and our flotation assemblages. Viejo samples from the PAC recovered cultigens not found in our samples. The PAC recovered tepary beans, which we did not. They had two species of cucurbits. Since we only had rind fragments, we do not know what species of cucurbit we recovered. We identified gourd remains, which the PAC did not. We also recovered chile, little barley, and cotton (seeds), which were absent in the PAC’s flotation remains. Agave was found in our samples but not in the PAC’s inventory. Most interestingly, the ubiquity of maize is far less in PAC sites. The highest maize ubiquity score for the PAC’s Medio period sites is 53.1% and ranges as low as 16.7%. These figures include not only flotation but other macroplant specimens. Recalculating the maize ubiquity based only on flotation samples so these data are more comparable to ours, the figures are different. The flotation ubiquity scores for maize from the five PAC Medio period sites or components are 100.0%, 70.0%, 46.0%, 38.5%, and 16.7%, with the largest Medio site sample (n = 37) being the 46.0%. (The 100% ubiquity was from a site with only two flotation samples.) In contrast, the ubiquity for just cupules (not including kernel or other maize remains) from our six sites are 41.2%, 74.2%, 76.7%, 84.1%, 85.3%, and 88.0%. If maize remains are an indication of the intensity or productivity of maize farming, then Medio period agriculture in the Upper Río Casas Grandes valley was much greater. Another major difference is the ubiquity of weed seeds. We were surprised how few weed seeds came from the PAC’s flotation samples. Purslane and cheno-am are the three most obvious and common weed categories and have ubiquity scores of only 3.8%, 2.8%, and 6.1% from the sites with these seeds, and they were absent from two Medio period sites. In contrast, cheno-am, purslane, and goosefoot are the most common plant remains in our flotation samples. The average per site for each of these three types for our six sites are far higher: 9.8%, 33.3%, 27.5%, 12.0%, 14.5%, and 14.2%. This difference is consistent with an interpretation that farming in the Upper Río Casas Grandes valley was intensive and that increased soil disturbance increased these weeds.
FIGURE 2.13. Cuarenta Casas, a cliff dwelling southwest of Paquimé.
There are a number of cliff/cave dwellings in the Sierra Madre that date to the Medio period, and plant remains have been recovered from research at these sites (Figure 2.13). Two reports are the most comprehensive accounts of excavations in the mountains. Lister (1953, 1958) tested caves in Cave Valley west of Paquimé, and more recently, Guevara Sánchez (1984, 1986, 1988) worked at Cuarenta Casas farther to the southwest. Cutler and Mangelsdorf identified plant remains from Lister’s excavation of cave sites (Lister 1958; Mangelsdorf and Lister 1956). Most were cultigens: maize, cucurbits, and beans. Other recovered plant remains were piñon shell, juniper berry, walnut seed, yucca or agave fruit, “cherry stone” (presumably Prunus), and perhaps wolfberry (Lycium). We presume these are ancient, but given the complex taphonomic processes in caves, some could be modern intrusives. A number of nonfood plant remains were recovered during Guevara Sánchez’s work at Cuarenta Casas, including cordage, wood, and fibers. Likely prehispanic foods identified from Cuarenta Casas are maize, beans, gourd, squash, prickly pear, hawthorn (Crataegus), and groundcherry (Physalis) (Guevara Sánchez 1986). Farther afield, some ethnobotanical materials are reported from Medio period–like sites contemporary with the Medio period in Hidalgo County, in the bootheel of New Mexico. Kidder and colleagues (1949) studied the Pendleton Ruin, an Animas Phase site related in some ways to Paquimé. As was typical for excavations of that era, few plant remains were noted. In fact, there are only two sentences in the report about plant remains that state that maize cobs were common and that cultivated beans in a broken ceramic vessel were also found. Cutler (1965; Cutler and Cutler 2002) identified botanical material from the Joyce Well site, another Animas Phase site. As would be expected from
pre-flotation excavations, only larger plant remains were recovered. The remains from noncultivated plants are mentioned in the earlier report and are not discussed in the later book (Skibo et al. 2008). Whether this is due to a reevaluation of noncultivated plants or is due to the later report being focused on domesticates is not known. The majority of recovered remains were maize cobs and cob fragments. A large number (n = 238) of cotton seeds were collected from three proveniences. Gourd fragments were also recovered from multiple proveniences. Other taxa identified include a cordage fragment from a plant other than cotton, 200 small legume seeds, monocotyledonous corms, common reed stem fragments, and mesquite seed. It is not possible to determine from the report whether the uncharred items, such as the mesquite seed, legume seeds, and corms, are ancient or modern intrusives. Most significant in our opinion is that the large number of cotton seeds may even indicate cultivation of this crop in far southwest New Mexico. This should not be unexpected as cotton remains increase in post–AD 1100 contexts in the nearby Mimbres area of southwestern New Mexico (Minnis 1985b). Cutler and Eickmeier (1962) summarized maize remains from four other sites in Hidalgo County, New Mexico: Clayton Draw, Box Canyon, Double Cave, and Fortress Cave. Using the common approach of classifying cobs by races, the report shows that the assemblages are quite variable. This is not surprising given that traditional farmers, including those in the NW/SW (Ingram and Hunt 2015), normally grow a diversity of crop varieties. McCluney (1962:21, 36) mentions cucurbits remains from Clanton Draw as well as charred walnuts from Box Canyon.
Concluding Thoughts In many ways, the remains of potential food plants from our excavations mirror other assemblages from the post-Archaic sites in the NW/SW (e.g., Fish 2004; Huckell and Toll 2004). Maize seems to have been the primary crop—grown widely in all parts of the Casas Grandes region—along with other food crops such as beans, squash, and perhaps gourd. Beans and cotton are more common from lowland, riverside sites than upland sites. Agave was an important resource as a crop and/or a locally available plant. In fact, ongoing research on the cultivation of agave in the adjacent Sonoran Desert is demonstrating how widespread it was, involving a variety of species (Hodgson et al. 2018; Parker et al. 2007). As we would expect, agave remains are more common from upland sites. Cotton was also an important crop, especially along the river valleys, that provided edible seeds as well as having been used for fiber. Of particular note is the first prehispanic evidence of two seemingly minor crops, little barley in Mexico and chile in the entire NW/SW. Compared with the best comparative ethnobotanical assemblage (PAC), one can conclude that farming in the Upper Río Casas Grandes region had a more diverse crop inventory and was a more intensive activity among all communities. Given the excellent farming potential, the presumed denser human population, and the large-scale community food economy in our study area, intensive farming would be expected.
Supplementing the farmed mainstays, many native plants were also eaten. The nearly 50 taxa, including the category “unknown,” recovered from our flotation samples surely is only a fraction of these. Still, the data clearly document subregional differences between sites in different settings. For example, weed use differs somewhat among sites as will be discussed further in chapter 5. One of the most interesting conclusions is the evidence of community food preparation and its association with political, ritual, and social relationships within the Paquiméoriented communities of northwestern Chihuahua. Despite the questions remaining about the use of the large and formal earthen ovens, the available evidence shows how they were an integral part of Paquimé’s community economy. And it was not only integral, but the scale was massive. In this regard Paquimé itself stands out. Paquimé not only has the greatest concentration of ritual features, massive and impressive architecture, and range of exotica, but the earthen ovens are at an unprecedented scale for the NW/SW. This suggests some coordination of harvesting and processing labor by acephalous community consensus or by some form of leadership. Several other datasets are consistent with the conclusions drawn for the analysis of our macroplant remains and those from the PAC. Webster and Katzenberg (2008) studied carbon and nitrogen isotopes on material from the PAC. They concluded that maize was the primary food source with the addition of C4 plants, such as beans. King and colleagues (2017) analyzed microfossils on dental calculus from Paquimé and Convento site samples. They concluded that maize was the major food source. Interestingly, they recovered grass phytoliths that could be from little barley or other grasses, but they did not note any agave microfossils. The data discussed here are only a start for understanding the domestic and community food economies and their roles in the development of the Casas Grandes tradition. While the general mix of domestically consumed foods, as represented in the flotation data, is similar to other farming groups in the prehispanic NW/SW, there are very interesting exceptions such as the presence of little barley and chile. The evidence of community food use is even more interesting because of its extremely large scale. In fact, it may well be the best evidence for community food production, distribution, and consumption in the prehispanic NW/SW. The potential for more research on these issues in the Casas Grandes area is enticing.
he Casas Grandes area is an important center of crop production today, and there is no question that farming was the economic foundation of Paquimé and its neighbors, both in the domestic and community spheres, as discussed in the previous chapter. Perhaps the best evidence for the importance of agriculture is the fact that the densest Medio period populations concentrate along the river valleys of northwestern Chihuahua, locations with the best farming potential (e.g., Bandelier 1882; Brand 1933; Di Peso 1974; Sayles 1938; Whalen and Minnis 2001a). Broadly speaking, there were two farming settings: (1) major river floodplains along with the immediate lower terraces (which we will call lowland farming), and (2) non-floodplain and smaller floodplain locations away from the major river valleys (which we will call upland farming). The unfortunate irony is that prehispanic lowland farming, which is what would have been the most productive, has not been studied in any detail. In contrast, upland farming has been investigated for many decades, including several projects we conducted. As we discussed in the previous chapter, prehispanic crops include maize, beans, squash, gourd, cotton, little barley, chile, and, most likely, agave. Maize was the major crop being grown wherever it could be. In contrast, cotton and bean cultivation was more intense in floodplain fields, while agave seems to have been more common in upland locations. Although the data are slim, little barley and chile cultivation seems to have been focused on floodplains. We would not be surprised if other crops, such as tepary beans (Phaseolus acutifolius var. latifolius) or devil’s claw (Proboscidea parviflora), were cultivated but have yet to be documented.
Floodplain Farming Any study of ancient floodplain farming in the Casas Grandes region will be complicated by three factors. First, the floodplains around Casas Grandes have been farmed for thousands of years from the Late Archaic to the present. Post-1600s farming was under
Spanish colonial authority, then Mexican national control, and now includes Mormon and Mennonite communities in some locations. Therefore, there has been significant postcontact alteration to floodplains. Second, there have been significant alterations regional hydrology. An industrial-scale water system diverts Río Casas Grandes flow from a large concrete head gate near Buena Fe to a huge canal running approximately 8 km to two reservoir lakes southeast of Nuevo Casas Grandes. Romney (2005) thought it might have been prehispanic, but that is not possible given its scale and concrete infrastructure. Recently, the banks of the Río Casas Grandes upstream (south) of Paquimé have been channelized, which likely destroyed any remaining evidence of ancient head gates and irrigation canals. Third, the modern crop mix in the region is unlike anything prehispanic, so there is little opportunity for ethnographic analogies. Old World crops, such as wheat, oats, alfalfa, sorghum, soybeans, apples, and peaches, dominate the agriculture of the Casas Grandes region today (INEGI 1988). Even those originally Mesoamerican crops that were grown prehispanically, such as chile, cotton, and maize, are now grown in the region at an industrial level. The Río Casas Grandes valley is the largest river valley in northwest Chihuahua and has long been recognized as an excellent location for farming (Figure 3.1). As early as the mid1500s, Baltasar de Obregón (Hammond and Rey 1928) remarked on the exceptional irrigation potential of the Río Casas Grandes. With a little hyperbole, Bandelier also recognized the importance of irrigation along the Río Casas Grandes: “The valley of Casas Grandes is one of the few fertile spots in northwestern Chihuahua outside of the Sierra Madre. . . . The little river affords permanent water for irrigation. . . . Wherever irrigated, the apparent arid ground is productive of rich yields” (1890a:166). Bandelier also described an irrigation ditch two to three miles south (upstream) of Paquimé observed to be at least a half mile in length: “It is nearly 5½ meters (18 feet) wide, and, although it has no artificial lining, the sides are raised, one meter on the west, and 1¾ meters on the east (3 and 5⅞ feet), so that it is a mere shallow trough” (1892:554). He continued by describing the main irrigation ditches, one of which is assuredly from Ojo Varaleño to Paquimé that is still used today and which impressed him with its technological sophistication: “The ditch of Casas Grandes runs almost straight. It crosses gulches that could have been passed by means of wooden or stone channels alone” (Bandelier 1890a:168). He was uncertain about the relationships between irrigation canals but concluded that “it seems clear that the inhabitants of Casas Grandes had made considerable progress in irrigation” (Bandelier 1892:556). Romney suggests that “there is perhaps not to be found more productive soil anywhere in Mexico than the land lying along the banks of the Casas Grandes River” (2005:96). Based on limited reconnaissance, Doolittle, the leading expert on ancient farming in North America, suggests that “the valley-bottom irrigation canals at Casas Grandes are unquestionably in a class by themselves” (1993:143). He was able to describe what he believes were the remnants of a prehispanic canal, but because of landownership issues, we were not able to visit this presumed canal segment. Other scholars share this view on the excellent irrigation potential of the Río Casas Grandes (e.g., Di Peso 1974; Lekson 1999; Minnis and Whalen 2016; Minnis and Whalen, eds. 2015; Whalen and Minnis 2001a).
FIGURE 3.1. Extensive Río Casas Grandes floodplain near Paquimé (courtesy of the Amerind
FIGURE 3.2. Map of the Río Casas Grandes floodplain upstream (south) of
Paquimé. Note how it expands greatly just upstream of Paquimé (courtesy of Google Earth).
We estimated that the 2,000 ha of floodplain 5 km downstream and 5 km upstream of Paquimé could have supported 3,300 people (Whalen and Minnis 2001a). As shown in Figure 3.2, most of the Río Casas Grandes floodplain upstream of Paquimé is narrow and bounded on both sides by clear terraces limiting field locations mostly to the restricted floodplain. The Río Casas Grandes floodplain upstream from Paquimé ranges from only 250 m (820 ft.) wide east of Hacienda San Diego to about 1,700 m (5,577 ft.) at its widest. It expands about 4 km south of Paquimé where the floodplain is approximately 1,300 m (4,265 ft.) wide and widens to approximately 2,150 m (7,054 ft.) directly across from Paquimé. Downstream from Paquimé, the floodplain widens greatly up to around 3,000 m (9,843 ft.). In contrast, the width of the floodplain along the lower Río Palanganas, one of the two major tributaries of the Upper Río Casas Grandes between Hacienda San Diego and Mata Ortiz, averages around 1,100 m (3,609 ft.). The Río Piedras Verdes is more variable but is around 1,000 m (3,280 ft.) at its widest. The lower Arroyo la Tinaja, a tributary of the Río Piedras Verdes, is 700–1,500 m (2,297–4,291 ft.). An additional factor possibly increasing arable land along the Río Casas Grandes is the fact that the eastern edge of the floodplain around Paquimé has a gentle rise, unlike farther upstream. This makes estimating the size of the arable floodplain more difficult. It may have been possible that the farmers from Paquimé and its closest neighbors could have expanded fields east of the floodplain and onto the lower terraces by expanding irrigation networks. We do not believe that the specific location of Paquimé where the Río Casas Grandes widens is simply a coincidence. In short, Paquimé was especially well placed to produce significant crop surpluses that in turn may have helped fund aspiring elites.
Not only is the floodplain soil fertile and abundant, but the water regime is quite favorable. As mentioned in chapter 1, the Río Casas Grandes watershed, which derives its water largely from the Sierra Madre Occidental to the west, is the largest river in northwestern Chihuahua and is comparable in size to well-known rivers, such as the Chaco, Verde, and Salt Rivers north of the international border. Likewise, the climate was favorable for ancient floodplain farming. Precipitation tends to vary inversely with a frost-free period, which is about 225 days around Nuevo Casas Grandes (Schmidt and Gerald 1988) and even 160 days in the Río Gavilan drainage in the Sierra Madre south of the Casas Grandes area (Herold 1965). Maize requires a minimum of 100–120 frost-free days to mature, and modern cotton needs about 170 frost-free days. Hopi cotton can produce in as little as 84 days (Forde 1931; Lewton 1912), so we should be cautious in using required frost-free periods for traditional crop varieties. It appears that the climate regime of northwestern Chihuahua, excluding the highest reaches of the Sierra Madre, would have been as suitable for farming as it is today. Average yearly rain decreases from southwest to northeast across the Casas Grandes region and follows the typical NW/SW pattern of two periods of precipitation: winter storms and summer monsoons. The Sierra Madre can receive up to 600 mm (23.6 in.), whereas the lower desert east of Paquimé, such as at Villa Ahumada, receives an average of 200 mm (7.9 in.) per year. Nuevo Casas Grandes receives 300 mm (11.8 in.) (INEGI 1998; Schmidt 1973). Using climate averages to study ancient farming is always problematic. While the general climate averages may not have changed greatly from prehispanic to modern times, we must understand two factors. First, averages mask microclimate variation. Second, indigenous people often developed techniques to mitigate adverse conditions by taking advantage of microclimatic and topographic differences. The study of floodplain farming should be a high priority for future research. Review of early Spanish documents may be helpful as it is likely that these first European settlers simply utilized existing prehispanic canals. A useful place to begin would be field studies focusing on tributary floodplains that have not been impacted as greatly by historic farming to the degree found in the Río Casas Grandes valley around Paquimé.
Upland Farming As discussed above, even some of the more mountainous locations in the Sierra Madre Occidental had reasonable frost-free periods for farming. And even where the frost-free period was short, ancient peoples could manipulate microclimatic and topographic variation. For example, planting on the drier south-facing mid-slopes can extend the frost-free period by minimizing cold air drainage effect and increase solar radiation. With adequate moisture, it seems that many ancient crops could have been farmed widely throughout the Casas Grandes region and even in many mountain valleys. The famous Cave Valley is situated along the Río Piedras Verdes in the mountains and is farmed successfully today at an elevation of around 2,000 m (6,500 ft.) (Guevara Sánchez
FIGURE 3.3. Granary at Cueva de la Olla next to domestic rooms.
1988). An indirect archaeological indicator of the fertility of mountain valleys is the impressive mud and grass granary at Cueva de la Olla in Cave Valley (Figure 3.3). Guevara Sánchez (1988) estimated that its volume is 15.5 m3 (547 ft.3), which he suggests could provide the local population with maize for 170 days. And there are numerous other mountain sites with such granaries (Lazcano Sahagún 1995, 1999). Based on the ubiquity of prehispanic terraced fields in our study area, upland farming was important for the ancient people of northwestern Chihuahua. Garvin and Kelley (2017:28) contrast the agricultural potential of the Nuevo Casas Grandes area with central Chihuahua, and they conclude that “prehistoric agriculture could not have flourished in the area without supplemental water—and, at least, for the floodplain of the Río Casas Grandes, that meant canal irrigation.” Terraces supply that supplemental water for upland farming as discussed below. Compared with floodplain farming, upland farming has not been impacted as much by historic activities, but some fields have been destroyed by modern construction. The major impact likely has been the expansion of orchards on slopes and on some modern upland fields. For the most part, economic activity in locations with terraces during historic times has been livestock grazing, which has had only minimal impact on ancient upland fields. Upland farming features have been mentioned by area visitors for well over a century. They are obvious because of various stone features that are easily visible. For example, Bandelier (1890b:186) described these features on the sloping plains west of the Hacienda San Diego to the foothills of the Sierra Madre as “little garden plots, indicated by rows of
upright stones extend[ing] on both sides of the Arroyo San Diego, which here runs out into the plains, soon to disappear in the barren soil.” Similarly, Brand (1943) noted the presence of similar features near El Pueblito. The famous environmentalist Aldo Leopold, during hunting trips to Chihuahua, marveled at upland fields along the Río Gavilan southwest of Paquimé in the Sierra Madre when he wrote, “Ascend any draw debouching on any canyon and you find yourself climbing little rock terraces or check dams, the crest of one level with the base of the next. Behind each dam is a little plot of soil that was once a field or garden, subirrigated by showers which fell on the steep adjoining slopes” (1949:159). Di Peso (1974) noted these features in the Casas Grandes region and interpreted them as part of a valley-wide system to control flooding to protect floodplain fields from devastating floods. Schmidt and Gerald (1988) successfully contradict this interpretation, arguing that these low rock walls were constructed to make fields. Based on our research, we agree with Schmidt and Gerald. The technology of upland farming in the Casas Grandes region is not unique. Similar field systems are reported for many areas of the NW/SW (e.g., Anschuetz 2006; Cordell 1975; Donkin 1979; Doolittle 2000; Fish and Fish 1984; Ford 2000; Ford and Swentzell 2015; Toll 1995). However, the one type of upland agricultural feature used in the ancient NW/SW that seems to be missing from northern Chihuahua is gridded gardens. These are low, informal walls surrounding square or rectangular fields. While each square may be small, they can form large aggregates. A particularly noteworthy example is the field system above the Gila River near Safford, Arizona, with 89,000 m (291,994 ft.) of rock alignments covering 82 ha (203 acres) needing an estimated 9,000 person-hours of labor to construct (Doolittle and Neely 2004). Although not as well-known as they should be, some of the best early scientific studies of terrace field systems in the NW/SW were conducted in the Sierra Madre south of Paquimé by a group of geographers at the University of Denver (Herold 1965; Howard and Griffiths 1966; Luebben et al. 1986). Herold (1965) classified upland field features into four types: check dams, linear borders, terraces, and riverside trincheras. Check dams are perpendicular to drainages and quite often form clusters of parallel alignments. Linear borders are similar in that they are low stone walls on gentle slopes, not in drainages. Terraces are stone walls that form higher steplike walls. Riverside trincheras are perpendicular to alignments in permanent streams. The last two types are uncommon in our setting along the plains and foothills of the Sierra Madre. The types of upland agricultural features can grade into one another, and we will call them all trincheras, the term locals use for these features. Trincheras serve several purposes (Figures 3.4 and 3.5). They can form a level planting surface, augment soil amount and depth, control soil erosion, manage water flow, and reduce frost damage (Doolittle 2000; Sandor and Homburg 1997, 2015). Furthermore, they can signal field ownership. In short, these features can make locations farmable that may have otherwise been unfarmable. We conducted two field seasons recording upland farming features. The first was a short 1996 reconnaissance, and the second was a larger-scale program in 2005 (Minnis
FIGURE 3.4. A series of trincheras on the piedmont west of Paquimé.
FIGURE 3.5. Maps of small trincheras systems.
FIGURE 3.6. Partially excavated rock mulch feature.
et al. 2006), when we systematically surveyed six areas and recorded 183 field systems. In addition, our project conducted preliminary soil (Homburg et al. 2010, 2011; Sandor and Homburg 2015) and pollen studies (Fish 1997) in upland farming locations. In addition, Pitezel (2003, 2011) mapped a large field system downslope and west of El Pueblito. Most features recorded were trincheras, but other upland agricultural features are present. Rock pile / rock mulch features are found elsewhere in the NW/SW (Lightfoot 1993). These are piles of rocks of varying dimensions in which crops were planted. The piles act as a mulch, reducing evaporation, and can reduce rodent predation on roots (Figure 3.6). Rock mulch fields are found in the foothills in our study area. None of these are very common. Only 19 of the 183 recorded fields, about 10%, included rock mulch features. Mulching features range from one to 68 per location, with an average of 12.3 per field. The vast majority of cases, however, have fewer than 20 mulch features per field. Two locations (96-6 and 96-11) near the El Alamito site (Site 178) (which is on the piedmont west of Mata Ortiz) account for 62% of the 233 rock mulch piles, with 77 and 68 each. Excluding these two locations, the average number of rock mulch features per field is 5.2. It is clear that rock mulch is not a common or intensive agricultural activity. While these features were likely used to grow agave, they also could have been used to cultivate other plants. Rock mulching fields, for example, could also have grown maize in the Ancestral Puebloan region (Maxwell 1995). We also recorded only two upland ditches and two small dams across minor drainages. One of the ditches flowed to the special Site 242. No doubt smaller ditches associated with some trincheras systems are present but not visible without excavation.
Upland Terraces Our original 1996 agricultural survey suggested that extraordinarily large field systems were associated with special administrative/ritual sites and not population concentrations, whereas the clear majority of fields were quite small. We designed the larger 2005 season to examine this pattern and increase our sample size. Specifically, we surveyed six areas (Table 3.1; Figure 3.7). Two—Mata Ortiz and El Pueblito—focused on areas around special sites. Three— Paquimé, Tinaja, and El Alamito—were around large sites. The other, Tinaja West, was surveyed for other reasons, but the data are included here. We recorded a total of 183 field systems with 2,071 individual alignments having a total length of 29,619 m (97,175 ft.). There is variation in terrace density among survey units. The Paquimé survey unit had the lowest average of 668 m/km2, perhaps because of the abundance of nearby floodplain fields. In contrast, the Mata Ortiz survey unit’s average was the highest at 7,179 m/km2. D OM E ST IC F I E L D S
While most ancient fields in the NW/SW are small, others can be large. Regardless of their sizes, the near-universal assumption is that they were built and maintained through decentralized, usually familial level social groups. The exception would be Di Peso’s interpretation of trincheras as a part of a large-scale system to control flooding to the main river valleys. Such a system, he argued, would require centralized planning and construction. While we believe that Di Peso is wrong about the primary purpose of the trincheras, he is right that there is evidence of some centralized trincheras use that we will discuss shortly. However, the vast majority of upland fields are small and lack any evidence of centralized control. That is the case for most fields we mapped in the Casas Grandes region. Upland fields are quite common but are not uniformly distributed. Sites closer to Paquimé are more likely to have trincheras. Of the 141 Medio period sites within 30 km of Paquimé that we recorded during survey, a quarter (n = 36) were associated with trincheras. We recorded 268 Medio period sites farther than 30 km from Paquimé. Of these, only 5%
TABLE 3.1. Summary of Terraces from the Agricultural Survey Locations. Survey Location Mata Ortiz El Pueblito Paquimé Tinaja El Alamito Tinaja West Total
Number of Locations
Total Number of Alignments
Cumulative Length (m)
Special Site Special Site Large Site Large Site Large Site Other
1.30 4.00 6.00 3.00 2.80 0.75 17.85
15 14 41 53 42 18 183
503 400 403 286 387 92 2,071
9,333 5,091 4,009 3,704 6,480 1,002 29,619
7,179.2 1,272.8 668.2 1,234.7 2,314.3 1,336.0 1,659.3
FIGURE 3.7. Locations of upland agricultural survey areas.
(n = 8) had trincheras. It is possible that the greater number of upland fields closer to Paquimé was the result of more intense economic, social, and political relationships that required more intensive or extensive agriculture. As we have noted elsewhere, the distribution of ball courts, formal ovens, and macaw raising all suggest greater interaction within 30 km of Paquimé (Whalen and Minnis 2001a). The distribution of trincheras can also join this list. We recorded 183 fields in the six survey areas, the vast majority of which are very small. The average for all fields is 11.7 trincheras per location, but most had fewer than 10 trincheras. Few trincheras were more than one rock-course high, but multi-course trincheras have been reported elsewhere in Chihuahua (Herold 1965). Most of our field systems are found on gentle slopes of 2°–8° with some on steeper slopes of up to 30°. While individual fields are small, they can be quite dense, especially where there seems to have been greater Medio period population. For example, one of the largest sites in the region is Site 204 in the Arroyo la Tinaja drainage. We surveyed 3 km2 (1.9 sq. mi.) around this site. We recorded 53 individual trincheras clusters with a total of 300 alignments, demonstrating the small size of each location. Furthermore, these fields were found in a variety of topographic settings, including mesa tops, steep slopes, drainages, and the borders between mesas and slopes. C OM M U N I T Y F I E L D S
Fields controlled by leaders and worked by community members, called chief fields or cacique fields, are well documented in the ethnographic record for numerous Puebloan communities (Parsons 1996) and still occur at Hopi (Paul Minnis, personal observation 2018). Parsons also mentions O’odham (Papago) chief fields where “the people used to work the land” (1996:2:998). Oddly, archaeologists have not recorded any chief fields for their ancestral Hohokam tradition, which is known for its sophisticated irrigation. However, Castetter and Bell (1942:126) note that “there were no community fields” among the O’odham even though village headmen were major decision-makers regarding farming and irrigation. There are also descriptions of chief fields in northern Mexico, although the ethnographic record is not as robust as that north of the border. For example, Pérez de Ribas mentioned the presence of cacique fields in Sinaloa: “A privilege of a Cacique was to have a somewhat larger field and the help of others in its cultivation” (1968:10). Oddly, chief fields have not been described previously for the prehispanic NW/SW, although they surely were present. The size distribution of the 183 fields we recorded is clearly bimodal. Most (n = 177) are small, most likely built, maintained, and controlled by small family groups. These averaged 7.6 individual trincheras per location with an average of 100 m (328 ft.) of trincheras per location. In contrast, the other six were exceptionally large; the smallest of these large fields is more than twice the size of the largest small field (Table 3.2; Figures 3.8 and 3.9). The large fields averaged 95.8 individual trincheras per location with an average of 1,305.5 m (4,281 ft.) of trincheras per location. The large fields average, therefore, is 12.6 times the size of the small fields, and 13 times the total average length of trincheras per location. What is salient about these large fields is not just their large size but also their
TABLE 3.2. The Largest Upland Fields.* Survey Unit
Mata Ortiz Mata Ortiz Mata Ortiz El Pueblito El Pueblito El Alamito
Special site Special site Special site Special site Special site Large site
Cumulative Length (m)
9-10 05-120 05-116 El Pueblito 05-53 96-3
3,833 2,607 1,759 1,480 1,272 1,283
*The next largest field location is 554 m, less than half the size of the smallest large field.
FIGURE 3.8. A chief field south of El Pueblito.
location. Five of the six are located near special sites, specifically El Pueblito and Site 242. They are not only near special sites but also not near population concentrations. The one exception is a large field system (96-3) that is next to Site 178, one of the two largest sites we recorded and located on the piedmont west of Mata Ortiz. These figures actually underestimate the contrast between domestic and community fields. For example, we mapped Field Number 96-10, which is along a drainage just south of Site 242. This field system covers approximately 10 ha (24.7 acres) and was larger, as some trincheras were destroyed by modern upland fields. There is another large trincheras system in the drainage directly north of Site 242. We did not have time to record it but estimate that
FIGURE 3.9. Map of a chief field south of El Pueblito.
it covers another 10 ha. It is therefore likely that there were at least 20 ha (49.4 acres) of fields next to Site 242. We doubt that Casas Grandes area chief fields were the only ones in the ancient NW/ SW. We suspect that they have been studied but have not been interpreted as chief fields. Perhaps the most likely candidates are the well-known, large, and formal fields in Chaco Canyon, those near Peñasco Blanco and Chetro Ketl (Mathien 2005; Minnis 2015; Vivian 1990). Similarly, we can’t imagine that Hohokam leaders did not have special fields farmed by commoners.
Other Farming Studies: Soil Analyses Homburg and Sandor conducted analyses of a small set of soils from upland fields (Homburg et al. 2010, 2011; Sandor and Homburg 1997, 2015). Specifically, they compared field soils from an area with low Medio period population density (Arroyo Tapicitas), one with a higher population density (Arroyo la Tinaja), and chief fields (near El Pueblito) to examine soil quality and to look for any soil degradation likely attributed to agricultural use. Eighty soil samples were collected from four fields along with adjacent non-field control samples. The samples were studied for seven possible indicators of degradation: horizon thickness, soil structure, bulk density, pH, organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. These studies yielded a number of observations. First, there were no indications that agriculture caused soil quality to decline. Second, the greatest soil differences between fields likely were due to geological differences in the parent material. Third, the chief fields had lower fertility than the other fields, but their placement in better-watered landscape positions for receiving runoff likely accounts for their larger size. Fourth, terraces increased horizon A (topsoil) thickness some, which improved soil water and nutrient storage and rooting depth. Fifth, in general the soils had reasonable qualities for agriculture, with deeper soils for rooting, topsoil pH in optimal rage, sufficient available phosphorus in topsoil, and low levels of salt and sodium. One downside of these soils is that they have a high rock fragment content in the subsurface, which is common in piedmont/alluvial soils in the NW/SW.
Other Farming Studies: Pollen Analysis Suzanne Fish (1997) analyzed nearly 80 pollen samples from 10 upland fields to determine the feasibility of using palynology of fields to evaluate their use. Samples were taken at a depth of 5–10 cm behind the trincheras, control samples were taken nearby outside the boundaries of the field at the same depth as the trincheras locations, and modern surface samples were also collected. Three maize pollen grains were noted from the trincheras samples, two being from the large field closest to El Pueblito. Maize pollen grains were not found in the control or modern samples, so it is reasonable to assume that the maize pollen is prehispanic. Pollen from cultigens is not especially common from ancient fields in the NW/SW, but maize is the most frequently found. Fish argues that maize may have been planted in only some of the trincheras fields, likely those that were better watered. No pollen from other cultigens were found, but their absence should not be considered evidence that other domesticates were not planted in upland fields. Pollen from numerous presumably native plants were also recovered from prehispanic, control, and modern surface samples. The percentages of these taxa are variable as one would expect. The pollen of potentially edible plants include wild buckwheat (Eriogonum), Indian wheat (Plantago), sedge (Cyperaceae), purslane, goosefoot, amaranth, and plants in a number of families such as nightshade (Solanaceae), mint (Labiatae/Lamiaceae), mustard (Cruciferae/Brassicaceae), evening primrose (Onagraceae), lily (Liliaceae), and
parsley (Umbelliferae/Apiaceae). The pollen data also provided no evidence that the prehistoric vegetation differed significantly from that of today and, specifically, no indication for greater arboreal cover and density.
Other Farming Studies: Upland Farmer Interviews As a part of our short 1996 agricultural survey, we interviewed five farmers who had upland fields in the sloping plains west of Mata Ortiz (Márquez-Alameda 1999). Table 3.3 is a short summary of the interviews. Some modern practices have no analogy with prehispanic farming. All the farmers used animals to prepare their fields, and two occasionally used mechanized equipment. Also, none irrigated their upland fields, and none used trincheras. In other cases, the information has some relevance to ancient farming. First, all five farmers used multiple field locations of which upland farming is simply one location. Second, some of the modern crops were those grown by ancient farmers, although the varieties of these cultigens were not the same. Specifically, the modern farmers grew maize, beans, and squash in upland settings. Third, all the farmers viewed upland fields as unpredictable, because of their dependence on annual variable rainfall. Our casual observations over years of research in the region were that the fields near Site 242 were rarely farmed due to drought conditions. This information is consistent with the conclusion that upland farming locations had higher risk of crop failure than floodplain farming.
Concluding Thoughts Our limited study of prehispanic agricultural features documents Paquimé’s uniquely advantageous location for high-yield floodplain farming. We also recorded nearly 200 upland fields. Most are marked by trincheras, low rock alignments. A small number of rock mulch features were recorded, as were a few small ditches and possible prehispanic dams. Of special note were the identification of chief/cacique fields, the first noted for the prehispanic NW/SW. We have no doubt that agriculture was a central and integral part of the economic core of the Casas Grandes tradition, yet much research needs to be done before we have an adequate understanding of the nature of farming in the region. We see three major research priorities. First is a clearer understanding of the structure and function of farming. The obvious deficiency is our knowledge of floodplain farming. How much floodplain could have been farmed? Did irrigation necessitate substantial labor, and did that labor involve some centralized coordination? The second set of issues should focus on how farming related to social/economic/political/ritual relationships. While most upland fields were tended at the family level, were decisions about distribution of the fruits of farming made solely by the local farmers? We doubt it. Given the size of the Unit 9 earthen oven at
TABLE 3.3. Summary of Interviews with Modern Upland Farmers. Farming
Crops Grown maize, beans, squash, watermelon, sorghum maize, beans, squash, watermelon, sorghum maize, beans, squash, watermelon, sorghum maize, beans, squash, watermelon, sorghum maize, beans, squash, watermelon, sorghum, cucumber
Paquimé, where did the 3,500 kg (7,000 lbs.) of agave, sotol, or whatever else may have been cooked per episode come from and who organized the effort? The third issue is whether there were any changes through time in the productive economy of Casas Grandes communities. We only have an imprecise understanding of Medio period chronology. The Medio period began around AD 1200 and reached its zenith around AD 1300. It appears to have lasted up to 200–250 years, after which the archaeological Casas Grandes tradition ends. We would therefore expect more intensive farming post–AD 1300. What impact did the higher-risk upland farming have on community relationships? Minnis (1985b) has suggested the end of the Mimbres period around AD 1130 in far southern New Mexico north of the Casas Grandes area was related to a return of a more normal and drier precipitation regime after a century of unusually favorable weather that made farming less reliable for upland communities. Due to population increase during the Classic Mimbres period, a greater number of Mimbreños became reliant on upland fields at the same time they intensified their religious and social connections and obligations with other Mimbres villages. Due to the strong social bonds among Classic Mimbres communities, troubles affecting upland groups affected everyone and led to cultural instability throughout the area. It is possible that a similar situation occurred during the Medio period. However, if the Casas Grandes region was particularly well endowed with superb farming, as we have argued, then it would be reasonable to suggest that the Upper Río Casas Grandes region would have been quite resilient to environmental fluctuations. Therefore, Casas Grandes may offer an interesting study in the relationships between farming success, climatic variability, and social processes where subsistence activities were especially well buffered.
t is ironic and unfortunate that one of the most common archaeological remains, wood (including wood charcoal), is often ignored. Most archaeological attention toward wood in the NW/SW has focused on construction beams and wood used for material culture, the former because of its value for dendrochronology, and the latter for its aesthetic interest. The irony is that wood serves a number of critical functions—for fuel, as architectural elements, and for construction of material culture items—and the amount of wood needed and the labor expended to acquire sufficient stores of wood by most societies is a major activity. There is no reason to believe Paquimé and its neighbors were any different. Although not as spectacular as long architectural beams acquired from distant sources, the use of wood for fuel is a particularly labor-consuming activity because of the amount of wood needed in traditional societies. Wood remains an essential fuel as it has for most of humanity. For example, as of 1980, “No less than one and [a] half billion people in the developing countries derived at least 90 percent of their energy from wood and charcoal. Another billion people meet at least 50 percent of their energy needs this way” (National Academy of Sciences 1980:vii). To meet these needs, the labor needed for acquire fuelwood can be a very major activity: “Of all the wood cut in the forests of the world around half is still burnt as domestic fuel” (Beresford-Peirse 1968). Just in the last century, for example, Cook (1949) estimated that a family in Teotlalpan, Mexico, burned an average of 10 kg (22.1 lbs.) of wood per day. Fleuret and Fleuret (1978) calculated that a five-member family in Kwemzitu, Tanzania, used 22 kg (48.5 lbs.) of fuelwood per day. Rai and Chakrabarti (1996) estimated per capita annual wood needs in India ranged from 423 to 1,320 kg (930– 3,000 lbs.). These figures may have been low compared with other regions, because cattle droppings are an important fuel source in parts of India. Over time, the amount of wood used for fuel, not including wood used for other uses, can be immense. Assuming an average prehispanic family in the NW/SW used 10 kg of wood per day, then a village occupied by 10 families for 100 years would have needed 3,650,00 kg (approximately 8,000,000 lbs., or 1,700 cords) of wood. Let’s consider calculations specific for Paquimé. The lowest figure for Paquimé’s population is 2,000 (Whalen
et al. 2010). With an average family size of five, the Medio period would have 400 families. Given an average fuel requirement of 10 kg (22.1 lbs.) per family, the daily community need would be 4,000 kg (8,818 lbs.), or 1,460,000 kg (3,218,752 lbs.) per year. For a hundred years, the fuel need would be 146,000,000 kg (321,000,000 lbs.). These figures translate into 224,000–340,000 cords of wood (USDA 1931). If the population size was 2,000 for the entire 250 years of the Medio period, the fuel need would be 365,000,000 kg (803,000,000 lbs.). These extraordinary figures do not include pre-Medio fuel needs, use of wood for other purposes such as roofing material, or fuelwood consumed by the many other nearby communities. The need for wood can have important implications for human societies, such as labor allocation, and for their environments, such as overexploitation and possible anthropogenic vegetational change.
Wood Characteristics and Wood Use Wood is a complex structure with many types of cell arrangements, chemical components, and ecological characteristics. All woods, therefore, are not equal. Some woods are better fuels than others, whereas other woods are better for architectural construction. Some woods have greater heat value than others (Betts 1913). Other characteristics of wood can be important. The Tzeltal Maya of Tenejapa in southern Mexico prefer fuelwoods that dry rapidly and that burn hot (Metzger and Williams 1966). Closer to our research area, Bennett and Zingg (1935:76) described firewood use among the Tarahumara of southern Chihuahua: “The sierra furnished abundant firewood. The best type comes from the oak trees. A trunk of oak will smolder all day and can easily be coaxed into a blaze with a little pine. It burns hot and clean without smoke, and is comparable to anthracite coal, and consequently is the most commonly used firewood. Pine is used only for kindling; and cedar, while it gives a hot fire, is not practical, as it throws sparks and endangers the sleeper’s clothing and house.” Complicating understanding wood use patterns is preference variation within a community. Metzger and Williams (1966) found that oak was the universally preferred wood in the Mexican village they studied. Importantly, the next preferred wood varied widely among individuals, which may suggest that wood preferences are more variable within a community that we might have anticipated. While some woods are better fuels than others, the amount used by people in temperate regions can affect wood collection and local vegetation. Fleuret (1980:331) describes the effects of overharvesting of woods in a Tanzanian community: “Certain types of trees were formally preferred for fuel, but for most people the exercise of choice had become impossible and anything that will burn will be used.” Efficient transportation can affect the logistics of fuelwood gathering. This point is illustrated by the Hopi. Whiting (1966) indicates that before the use of wagons, pickups, and mules, when the Hopi hand carried fuelwood, they relied on shrubby species such as greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus) near their villages. With more efficient transportation of bulky goods like fuelwood, they made trips farther north into the woodlands of the interior of Black Mesa for piñon and juniper. We speculate
later in this chapter that transportation of distant woods to the Paquimé area may have been more efficient than assumed. “Wood” is not just wood in the narrow botanical sense. Other plant structures can be used as fuel and construction. Of particular note for fuel is farming residue. We have suggested in the previous chapter that the ubiquity of maize cupules (cob fragments) is likely due to their use as kindling or fuel. It is possible that agave residue may have been used as a fuel, especially if agave was a major crop. Parsons and Parsons (1990) indicate that agave remains were a preferred fuel for the Otomi community of Orizabita in central Mexico. However, their use of agave is likely different from the use of agave in the Casas Grandes region. The Otomi grow agave primarily for aguamiel (a beverage) and fiber production, so the agave hearts are not eaten and are used as fuel once dried. We suspect that the primary use of agave during the Medio period was for food and fiber, so little of the agave plant would be left to be used as fuel. The heart/cabeza would be cooked and leaves removed for fiber, leaving only the occasional flower stalk and leaf debris from fiber production to be burned. In short, wood use is conditioned by many factors. The obvious one is the physical characteristics of woods themselves. Availability, including changing availability, and cultural preferences also are important. Paquimé and its neighbors had numerous wood resources. These include those from riparian gallery forests, mesquite thickets, juniper-oak-piñon woodlands, and the large conifer forest—pine, Douglas fir, spruce, and fir—in the higher mountains and at a far greater distance than other woods from most Medio period communities. The wood charcoal remains we recovered should help us understand how these communities used their woody biomass and the effects these activities may have had on the local environment.
Interpretive Framework Our analysis of wood is slightly different from that of propagules. We calculated both ubiquity and abundance. While we use ubiquity, we suggest that abundance is also a reasonable measure because woods do not present as great a variation in preservation as propagules. In fact, the ranking of woods by ubiquity and abundance are generally very similar. While we will use ubiquity scores more commonly in our analyses, we do use abundance when the number of samples is low. In order to evaluate whether ubiquity and abundance are similar or not for our data, we calculated a Spearman’s rank-order correlation coefficient for the ubiquity and abundance at Site 315. The rank-order for both ubiquity and abundance is significantly similar with an rs = 0.91 (Figure 4.1). This suggests the two are measuring the same thing, and we can use either ubiquity or abundance. We do not use identified wood from non-flotation samples, although these data are present for some sites and features where there was a limited number of flotation samples (appendix 3). We focused on flotation samples for two reasons. First, most flotation samples contained sufficient quantities of wood charcoal. Second, most non-flotation wood
FIGURE 4.1. Scattergram comparison of wood abundance and ubiquity
rank-order scores for Site 315.
often came from room fill and other contexts affected by looting where the behavioral contexts are less clear than for flotation samples. Are wood charcoal specimens from room fill the remains of structural elements, such as beams; the remains of trash deposited in abandoned rooms; evidence of other behaviors; or a mixture of behaviors due to looting?
Wood at Paquimé Different woods were useful in various ways at Paquimé and nearby villages. Therefore, understanding the context of wood remains is essential for interpreting wood use. The wood from our excavations is almost all burned and mostly from thermal features and represents wood used for fuel. In contrast, the wood remains collected from the JCGE’s research, which occurred before flotation, represents mostly woods used as roof beams (Figure 4.2). Ninety-nine percent of dendrochronological specimens collected by the JCGE were conifers, particularly pines that originated in the mountains, and were used as beams (Di Peso et al. 1974). This would be expected as there are few other taxa in the area that could produce long, straight, and strong logs sufficient to span the large rooms at Paquimé. As noted by Di Peso, “A number of vigas were over 9 m” (1974:2:523). Scott (1966) provided a tabulation of dendrochronological specimens for JCGE excavations as well as several
FIGURE 4.2. In situ architectural beams at Paquimé (courtesy of the Amerind Foundation).
other projects in Chihuahua and Sonora. Excluding specimens from Units 1 and 9 (which came from earthen ovens), all but two of the 118 specimens were pine; the exceptions were a cottonwood (Populus) specimen from a Unit 8 plaza and “cane” (probably Phragmites) from Unit 8. Cane likely was used in ceiling construction. It is not clear how the cottonwood was used, but its context does not imply its use as an architectural element. For comparison with the Paquimé assemblage, seven sites in the mountainous Cave Valley west of Casas Grandes yielded specimens of 56 pine and 14 of juniper, and all 18 specimens from the Spanish period Convento site just north of Paquimé were pine. The wood remains from the large earthen ovens in Unit 1 and Unit 9 are interesting even though few specimens were analyzed (Scott 1966). Seven pieces were identified from Pit Oven 4 in Unit 1, the excavation area with four large, prehispanic earthen ovens, a mound of debris, and a small set of rooms. Five specimens were cottonwood and two were “hardwood,” an assemblage far different from the architectural wood specimens. Four specimens were identified from the exceptionally large oven next to a platform mound in Unit 9. One was juniper (or less likely, Arizona cypress [Cupressus]), one was a pine, and two were Douglas fir. These two assemblages are unique compared with other Paquimé samples. The only Douglas fir with one exception, the only cottonwood, and the only hardwoods identified from Paquimé were from these ovens. Only one pine was noted from the nine specimens from the two ovens, whereas 99% of the wood from other proveniences were identified as pine. This pattern does suggest that wood used in these ovens was not detritus from beam-preparation woodworking. The presence of Douglas fir from the largest oven is fascinating, as it had to have come from a high elevation in the Sierra Madre Occidental, either collected there or as driftwood. One can speculate that Douglas fir represents a symbolic association with a higher elevation and its higher precipitation, but the evidence for this is exceptionally thin. Given the differences between the woods from the Unit 9 oven and the Unit 1 ovens, the Unit 1 oven wood remains may suggest that they did not have the same association as the Unit 9 oven. We suspect that the Unit 9 oven was directly used during large ritual events. The context of Unit 1 ovens use is less obvious. It could have been specialized production for purely domestic use or for the production of ritual consumables in a less public setting. Besides large beams, very few wood specimens were recovered by the JCGE (Di Peso et al. 1974). They include items of personal adornment and arrow shafts, as well as a few other items. Obviously, this assemblage reflects the use of wood for purposes other than for fuel and construction.
Wood Taxa Identified from Our Excavations Given the importance of wood in everyday lives and the diversity of nearby woodlands, it should not surprise us that the prehispanic inhabitants of the Casas Grandes area used a variety of woods. These include conifers such as larger pines (Pinus), which are present at more distant mountain zones, plus piñon pine (P. cembroides) and juniper (Juniperus),
which are most common on the closer upland slopes. Others mostly from nearby upland woods are oak (Quercus) and agave (Agave); the latter are represented by flower stalk stems and leaves. Riparian woods recovered include sycamore (Platanus), cottonwood/ willow (Populus/Salix), walnut (Juglans), and perhaps elm/hackberry (Ulmaceae/Celtis). Mesquite/acacia (Prosopis/Acacia) can be found in upland and river valley settings. Many specimens could only be identified to more inclusive taxa. Specimens identified as dicots could be from many shrubs. They were divided into ring porous, semi-ring porous, and diffuse porous woods. Monocot specimens could be grasses, the common reed (Phragmites), or plants in the agave family. While botanists would not refer to tissue from monocots as “wood,” a term normally restricted to gymnosperms and dicots, we think it is appropriate to use the term wood more loosely, as monocot “wood” can be used in similar ways to the woods of gymnosperms and dicots. Specimens identified as “gymnosperm” likely are from the pine family; most of these specimens were so badly distorted by burning that it was not possible to determine genus. A total of 8,964 individual specimens, with 70% from flotation samples, were examined from all our tested sites (Table A.27). The number of identifications by site varied greatly from 3,982 for Site 204 to 175 for El Pueblito. Individual ovens had from 25 to 105 identified specimens. The variation in wood assemblage size largely reflects the extent of excavation at each site, as charcoal was common from our excavated sites. Because of the distribution of identified specimens, some comparisons are based on single sites. For example, the lowland versus upland comparison is essentially between the two sites with the largest number of identified specimens, Site 204 (upland) with 44.4% of the identifications and Site 315 (lowland) with 22.8%.
Wood Use and Site Setting The wood assemblages from the two lowland sites along the Río Casas Grandes floodplain, 315 and 565, are predictably very similar with a Spearman’s rank-order correlation coefficient of rs = 0.84 (Table 4.1; Figure 4.3). Given the disparity of flotation sample sites (255 samples for Site 315 and 37 samples for 565), we will use only the 315 wood data for comparison with upland sites. It is interesting to note that only one riparian wood was commonly identified despite the sites being next to a verdant floodplain. In fact, cottonwood/willow is the most commonly identified riparian wood from both 315 and 565. In contrast, other riparian trees such as walnut, hackberry/elm, and sycamore are uncommon in the wood assemblage. This suggests a mature cottonwood/willow gallery forest along the floodplain. The few woods from trees of the riparian understory may be due to natural biotic composition or clearing of small trees for fields for fuel and other uses during the Medio period. To compare upland versus lowland sites, we use sites 204 and 315, those sites with large sample sizes. A total of 21 wood taxa were recovered from the two sites; these include inclusive types such as monocot, diffuse porous, et cetera. The Spearman’s rank-order correlation coefficient between these sites is rs = 0.57, a weakly statistically significant similarity despite the differences in site location (Table 4.2; Figure 4.4). Site 204 is located along
TABLE 4.1. Rank-Order Comparison of Wood Remains in Flotation Samples from Lowland Sites (315 and 565). Site 565 Taxon Cottonwood/Willow Pine Oak Monocot Diffuse Porous Mesquite/Acacia Unknown Ring porous Juniper Dicot Elm Family/Hackberry Walnut Semi-ring Porous Saltbush Common Reed Piñon Sycamore Gymnosperm
1 2 3.5 3.5 5.5 5.5 7 8 11 11 11 11 11 15.5 15.5 15.5 15.5 15.5
1 2 4 5 10 3 6 9 8 13 12 12 7 15.5 12 15.5 14.5 14.5
1 2 3 4 11 7 8.5 6 10 5 — 13.5 8.5 17 16 13.5 13.5 13.5
2 1 3 4 8 10 12 6 15.5 5 — 9 7 17 15.5 13 11 14
Note: Site 315 = 155 samples with wood; Site 565 = 37 samples with wood.
an upland arroyo with a narrow floodplain and closer to woodlands and mountains. In contrast, Site 315, located along the Río Casas Grandes near Paquimé, had access to a wide floodplain and was more distant to woodlands and mountains. Despite the slight similarities of wood use ranking, there are obvious differences. Piñon is far less common from 315, and semi-ring porous is far less common at 204. We think that the similarity represents a general cultural pattern of wood use with only limited differences between Medio period communities. The wood assemblages from the two small upland sites are quite small, with 31 flotation samples with identified wood from Site 231 and 25 from Site 317. They are very similar, with a Spearman’s rank-order correlation coefficient of rs = 0.97. They are also quite similar to Site 204, with a limited use of riparian woods. Only one specimen of cottonwood/willow was identified from 231, and no riparian woods were identified from 317. This would be expected as these sites are next to small drainages with few riparian trees.
Wood Use in the Community Economy As we have seen in the use of foods, plant resource use transcends household decisionmaking. We find some evidence of this in wood use. Unfortunately, few wood specimens were identified from the JCGE’s excavation of the large Unit 9 oven or other specialized
FIGURE 4.3. Scattergram comparison of wood ubiquity rank-order scores
for lowland sites (315 and 565).
TABLE 4.2. Rank-Order Comparison of Wood Remains in Flotation Samples from an Upland Site (204) and a Lowland Site (315). Taxon Pine Oak Cottonwood/Willow Piñon Monocot Dicot Agave Walnut Juniper Sycamore Gymnosperm Mesquite/Acacia
2.0 1.0 5.0 4.0 12.0 3.0 10.5 8.5 8.5 7.0 6.0 10.5
2.0 3.0 1.0 9.5 4.0 5.0 12.0 9.5 7.0 9.5 9.5 6.0
FIGURE 4.4. Scattergram comparison of wood ubiquity rank-order scores
for a lowland site (315) and an upland site (204).
proveniences at Paquimé. However, there are reasons to suspect community-wide coordination of wood use at Paquimé: (1) the large number of pine beams obtained from the mountains, (2) their use in rooms Di Peso thought were primarily ritual and not domestic, and (3) the presumed planning in the construction of multistoried buildings. To look at wood use in the communal economy, we will examine wood recovered from two specialized ritual/administrative sites, Site 242 and El Pueblito (Table 4.3), and wood from the formal earthen ovens we excavated (Table 4.4). We identified 965 wood specimens from our limited excavation at Site 242. Pine was the overwhelming wood found in nearly twice as many proveniences as the next common taxon and represented 80% of the individual pieces identified. Other upland woods such as juniper and oak are present. As one would expect given an upland location away from major drainages, only three pieces of a riparian taxon, cottonwood/willow, were recovered. The wood assemblage from El Pueblito is much smaller because of the very limited amount of excavation. While oak is found in about the same number of samples as pine, far more individual pine specimens (50/78, or 64.1%) were identified compared with oak (19/78, or 24.5%). All other wood types from El Pueblito, except for the common reed and whatever the monocot is, probably would have been found near the site. The El Pueblito wood assemblage (Table A.47) is much more like the other upland special site (Site 242). Eighty percent of the individual wood specimens at Site 242 are pine, and
TABLE 4.3. Wood in Flotation Samples from Special Sites (242 and El Pueblito).
Taxon Site 242 Pine Common Reed Oak Dicot Juniper Unknown Cottonwood/Willow El Pueblito Oak Pine Juniper Common Reed Mesquite/Acacia Gymnosperm Monocot Diffuse Porous
14 8 7 3 2 2 1
93.3 53.3 46.7 20.0 13.3 13.3 6.7
204 18 8 8 3 3 3
80.0 6.3 3.1 3.1 1.2 1.2 1.2
7 6 1 1 1 1 1 1
58.3 50.0 8.3 8.3 8.3 8.3 8.3 8.3
19 50 2 1 1 2 2 1
24.4 64.1 2.7 1.3 1.3 2.7 2.7 1.3
TABLE 4.4. Wood Remains from Earthen Ovens. Site
204, Ball Court
Pine Oak Monocot Unknown Dicot
Total n (%)
204, North Oven*
161 (97.6%) 1 (6.0%) 2 (1.2%) 1 (0.6%) 0 (0.0%)
1 14 1 3 6
4.0% 56.0% 4.0% 12.0% 24.0%
*The north oven is separated from the others because its use history is different.
64.1% of El Pueblito’s specimens are pine. In contrast, pine represented 25.9% of the individual specimens identified from Site 317 flotation samples, 28.6% from Site 213, and 29.5% from Site 204, all upland domestic sites. Again, pine seems to associate more with ritually important sites and features. We identified wood from five earthen ovens we excavated (see Table 4.4). With one exception, the north oven at Site 204, all assemblages are dominated by pine. In fact, only four specimens were not pine, whereas pine accounts for 161 specimens, or 97.6%, of the wood identified from the other four ovens. The morphology and use-life of the ball court oven at Site 204 is like other formal ovens; it was well made, filled with undisturbed fire-cracked rock, and lacked a debris field. In
contrast, the north oven was empty and had a scatter of fire-cracked rock around it, an unusual characteristic for the Casas Grandes area. The wood assemblages from the two Site 204 ovens are also quite different. Pine was found in the largest number of flotation samples (6 of 6) from the ball court oven and accounted for 100 of the 105 (95%) individual specimens identified. In contrast, pine was found in only one of the six north oven flotation samples and only one of 25 (4%) individual specimens identified was pine. The locally available woods, like oak and cottonwood/willow and perhaps dicot, were the most common taxa recovered from the north oven. The anomalous wood assemblage from the north oven reminds us of the unusual woods from the Unit 1 ovens at Paquimé, which were predominantly local woods, and the four Unit 1 ovens are associated with much fire-cracked rock found in the Unit 1 mound. We interpret these results as indicating that the Unit 1 ovens and the Site 204 north oven were used differently from the other formal ovens, likely not as part of direct and public ritual feasting. The one clear pattern when examining wood use in the community economy is the preference for pine. The wood remains from formal ovens and specialized sites are overwhelmingly pine. Today and probably during the Medio period, pine is less abundant near these locations than oak and juniper. There are three possible explanations for the predominance of pine. First, it may well be that some characteristics of pine better suited its uses, although it is not clear what these would be. We think this is the least likely explanation. Oak is an excellent fuelwood, low sparking with a high heat value, and was highly valued in ethnographic literature of indigenous groups in the NW/SW. Second, local woods like piñon pine, juniper, and oak were overexploited, necessitating use of more distant fuels. Third, perhaps pine had special symbolic value. It is found in higher elevations and may have been associated with more moisture. We suspect the high percentage of pine was due to overexploitation of woods to fulfill the enormous daily and special needs of the local inhabitants. Whatever the reasons for the use of distant pine for fuel and construction, we do not know the organization of labor to gather and prepare it for use.
A Wider Regional View The only dataset to contrast with ours is wood identified from the Proyecto Arqueológico Chihuahua (PAC) south of our study area (Adams 2017). Both Viejo period and Medio period contexts were studied. Except for one site (El Zurdo), most wood identifications were from non-flotation specimens. The ubiquity scores for the Viejo period wood assemblage is dominated by oak (41.1%), juniper (37.9%), and pine (32.9%). For Medio period sites, excluding El Zurdo, pine is 67.9%, oak is 38.7%, and juniper is 32.9%. Pine therefore seems to increase in use while oak and juniper use is reduced from the Viejo to Medio periods. El Zurdo is useful here for two reasons. First, it has both Viejo and Medio components in the same site, and second, most wood identifications were from flotation samples. The latter is important as it allows a better comparison with our data. Calculating wood percentages from only flotation samples yielded the following results for Viejo and Medio:
pine (Viejo [V] = 38.9%, Medio [M] = 52.3%), oak (V = 33.3%, M = 27.3%), and juniper (V = 25.0%, M = 18.2%), with other taxa uncommon (V = 2.8%, M = 2.3%). The El Zurdo data are consistent with the other Medio period sites excavated by the PAC in that pine increases in use while oak and juniper decrease, although only slightly. This could be due to several factors. We suspect it represents use of pine, a more distant wood source, after some overexploitation of more local woods, mostly oak and juniper. PAC wood use is in general very similar to domestic wood use from the Upper Río Casas Grandes area in that a variety of wood was used, and pine is one of the most common, with significant amounts of oak and juniper. There may have been a change in the use of riparian woods through time documented in the PAC wood data. The two clearly riparian woody plants, cottonwood/willow and walnut, account for 6% of the woods identified from two of the four Viejo period sites. In contrast, no walnut or cottonwood/willow was recovered from Medio period sites. This pattern is less clear as no riparian woods were recovered from the one single site with samples from both the Viejo and Medio periods. This possible reduction of riparian wood use could be due to a number of factors, such as overexploitation of riparian wood, changes in climate or hydrology, or a sampling issue. We suspect that the first explanation is more likely. The PAC sites do not have a Paquimé-scale community economy. The PAC area lacks ball courts, platform mounds, and large formal earthen ovens as well as other evidence of an impressive community ritual economy. Therefore, it seems best to conclude that all the plant remains from the PAC represent the domestic economy and smaller scale public ritual activity.
Concluding Thoughts There are some expected differences among wood use during the Medio period due to differences in the biotic communities. Sites next to robust riparian woodlands, not surprisingly, used more floodplain plants, particularly cottonwood/willow, and sites farther away from floodplains used fewer non-floodplain woods. However, there is a general similarity across sites in the Casas Grandes area. This should not be surprising as the various uses for fuel and the available wood source were roughly the same with some small, but potentially interesting, differences. Unexpected was the significant role of pines from higher elevations as domestic fuel. As expected, pine was the primary taxon used for massive architectural beams. The use of high-elevation plants, pine, and perhaps Douglas fir in the formal feasting ovens is unambiguous. Whether this is due solely to the burn characteristics and/or symbolic association of these woods with higher elevation / more rainfall is not clear. In the two oven contexts (Unit 1 at Paquimé and Site 204 north oven) that had burned rock debris, the wood remains identified were quite different from the other formal ovens. This is suggestive of a much different use of these ovens, perhaps being used less in ritual feasting and more for preparation for domestic food consumption.
Whatever the reason for the significant pine usage, it may be that the logistics of acquiring pines from the mountains may not have been as difficult as it would first appear. The Hopi example cited at the beginning of this chapter reminds us that efficient transportation allows access to and use of farther wood sources. Although not stated, we suspect all researchers assume that wood used by the people of the Upper Río Casas Grandes region was hand carried from the source to where it was used. Would it have been possible to float some construction logs down the rivers and arroyos such as the Río Piedras Verde, Río Palanganas, and Arroyo la Tinaja? People in lowland communities may have been able to collect driftwood from flooding that may have included pine for fuel, although unlikely in the amounts needed. Another option is worth considering: did Medio period peoples prepare charcoal in the mountains to be carried to more distant villages? Charcoal greatly reduces weight without sacrificing an equivalent amount of heat value. We know of no way to tell from wood charcoal specimens themselves whether they were prepared as charcoal before their final use, but it is worth thinking about.
Anthropogenic Ecology Because of popular conceptions of “primitives” as mystically more “natural” than “civilized” peoples, anthropological literature is often cited as evidence that human society is capable of a finely attuned, balanced harmony with its environment, comparable to that achieved in a successional climax. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to discover examples of native populations living in obvious disequilibrium with their environments. — G E O RG E C O L L I E R , F I E L D S O F T H E T Z OT Z I L : T H E E C O LO G I C A L BA S E S O F T R A D I T I O N I N H I G H L A N D C H I A PA S
There once were men capable of inhabiting a river without disturbing the harmony of life. — A L D O L E O P O L D , S A N D C A N YO N A L M A NAC A N D S K E T C H E S H E R E A N D T H E R E
he view of indigenous anthropogenic ecology largely falls into two opposing views (Minnis 2010; Minnis and Elisens 2000). The Edenic view suggests that native people largely were ecologically neutral, having little or no impact on their environment. The above quote by Aldo Leopold comes from a longer description of trincheras he visited in the Sierra Madre Occidental in Chihuahua and is an example of an Edenic view. The opposing Lapsarian view is that indigenous people often dramatically affected their environments, both intentionally and unintentionally (Krech 1999). George Collier’s quote is an example. One of the problems with these starkly contrasted views is that they often are based on value judgments about human actions; anthropogenic effects are bad, and natural stability is good. This can be seen in both Leopold’s and Collier’s quotes. It is interesting that Leopold used trincheras, a case of direct land modification, as an illustration of ecological harmony, without knowing the history of these features or any ecological changes they may have caused. Collier contrasts stability with disequilibrium. Collier is right that indigenous people often affected their environments, but this is not necessarily an example of harmful disequilibrium. This simple contrast between Edenic and Lapsarian perspectives obscures the complex relationships between peoples and their local environments. For example, Fowler (2000) provides an instructive example from western North America, specifically Death Valley, a location with a low-density indigenous human population who manipulated and modified a depauperate vegetation, in many ways a situation where one might expect the least human environmental impacts. Documented manipulations
include tending mesquite trees, managing springs, and burning vegetation, among others. The question as to whether these actions were “beneficial,” “benign,” or “negative” is not easily answered. A little farther to the west, Anderson (1991) documents an enormous number of human manipulations of California biotic communities. In order to understand anthropogenic ecology, it is necessary to initially jettison the commonly held value judgments associated with human impacts on environments. Whether these modifications are “good” or “bad” is not the first question to ask. Rather, the first step is to understand the complex nature of human/environmental relationships and their short-term and long-term consequences. There are archaeological examples of anthropogenic environment change in the NW/ SW. Adams (2004) discussed a wide range of human impacts on prehispanic environments in the NW/SW. Some include changes to individual plants and species such as expansion of Agave parryi distribution (Minnis and Plog 1976), pruning management of Douglas fir to yield straighter beams at Mesa Verde (Nichols and Smith 1965), and manipulation of squawbush (Rhus trilobata) branches to improve their use in basketry (Bohrer 1983). Other changes affect biotic communities such as burning vegetation (Adams 2004), woodland deforestation (e.g., Betancourt 1990; Kohler and Mathews 1988; Wyckoff 1977), and riparian deforestation (Minnis 1985b). There are many reasons, most of which are consistent with our data, to expect significant anthropogenic ecology in the Upper Río Casas Grandes area. The classic narrative about the Casas Grandes tradition argues for (1) a very dense human population, particularly during the Medio period; (2) widespread land modification for farming through upland terracing and substantial irrigation; and (3) an intensive extractive and craft economy such as large-scale pit baking. While some of these expectations have been overstated at times, such a robust cultural tradition nonetheless likely affected their local environments. We will look at two possible environmental impacts during the Medio period: (1) overexploitation of wood resources and changes in riparian vegetation and (2) increase in soil disturbance. The major problem with investigating these possible changes with our data is that we do not have a series of time sequences, such as pre-Medio, Medio, and post-Medio, in the same location for comparison.
Wood Overexploitation, Deforestation, and Riparian Changes Di Peso speculated that widespread wood harvesting may have denuded woodlands around Paquimé: “To many towns, the increasing sounds of the woodcutter’s axe became its death toll” (1974:2:523). As discussed in chapter 4, the occupants of the sites we excavated used a similar variety of woods. The actual wood use mix depended on several factors. Proximity of wood sources is one factor. For example, sites next to riparian woodlands along the Río Casas Grandes used more streamside wood, especially cottonwood/willow, than those farther from riverine settings (Table 5.1).
TABLE 5.1. Ubiquity of Riparian Woods.* Site Location Río Casas Grandes
Upland, Next to Large Drainage
Upland, No Large Drainage
Cottonwood/Willow Sycamore Walnut Elm/Hackberry
46.5 1.9 2.6 0.0
67.6 2.7 5.4 5.4
26.8 11.2 2.8 0.6
4.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
6.7 0.0 0.0 0.0
*Percentage of flotation samples with wood identifications with that taxon. These four trees are the only ones clearly growing on floodplains.
However, proximity was only one factor. The large amount of pine from higher elevations at all sites attests to a wide wood catchment. Without a reasonable diachronic dataset from the Casas Grandes area, we cannot evaluate whether the large percentage of pine wood was a result of pre-Medio period overexploitation of more local wood such as oak, juniper, and piñon or some other reason. The PAC data from farther south in Chihuahua may document changes in wood use as riparian woods are found in Viejo period contexts but absent from Medio period samples except for El Zurdo. The increase in pine wood and the decrease in juniper and oak at the El Zurdo site from the Viejo to Medio periods is intriguing and provides a glimpse of what we might expect in the Upper Río Casas Grandes region. If there was overexploitation of local woods in the PAC study area, then we are on firmer ground to expect that situation in the Upper Río Casas Grandes area because of its far higher population density. There are only three sets of data from our work useful to examine possible ecological changes in woodland and riparian zones. The first is from a midden sequence at Site 204. Middens are very rare on Medio period sites, and the one we tested had been buried by post-Medio period alluvium. In light of the unique analytic value of this midden to possibly document changes within the Medio period, we identified wood remains from two tests of a series of pits excavated in 5 cm levels. Both screened and flotation samples were collected and processed. Unfortunately, there were only four flotation samples with macroplant remains. Consequently, we will discuss wood identified from a series of 33 screened samples from the two test pits. These samples are divided into the upper half and lower half of each sequence, which we presume represent an earlier or later time period within the Medio period, although the exact time within the Medio period is not known. We will use an abundance measure (number of individual specimens identified) instead of ubiquity because of the small number of samples. A total of 602 individual pieces of wood charcoal were identified. As shown in Table 5.2, oak is by far the most common wood in these samples throughout the midden sequence, which is consistent with the oak’s ubiquity ranking for Site 204 as a whole.
TABLE 5.2. Wood Abundance from Site 204 Midden Sequences. Taxon Upper Half Oak Dicot Pine Monocot Agave Cottonwood/Willow Juniper Piñon Lower Half Oak Dicot Pine Agave Sycamore Mesquite/Acacia Monocot Cottonwood/Willow Elm Family* Juniper
Test Pit 1 (%)
Test Pit 2 (%)
72.3 10.7 8.0 6.3 2.7 0.0 0.0 0.0
63.50 11.70 12.20 1.50 7.60 1.50 1.50 0.05
65.8 14.5 5.3 2.6 2.6 2.6 2.6 1.3 1.3 0.0
67.70 9.80 9.30 9.80 1.50 1.50 1.00 0.05 0.00 0.05
Note: Boldface are riparian taxa. *Includes Hackberry.
Other taxa are generally found in similar frequencies in the upper and lower samples. The one difference that hints of a change in the woody environment is the greater percentages of clearly streamside plants—cottonwood/willow, elm/hackberry, and sycamore— from the lower/earlier stratum. Riparian plants are represented in the upper samples only by 1.5% cottonwood/willow from one of the two sequences. In contrast, cottonwood/ willow, sycamore, and elm/hackberry are found in somewhat higher percentages in both lower sequences. The percentages are low but may point toward reduction of riparian trees on a restricted arable floodplain next to one of the largest sites in the area outside of Paquimé. There is also a very slight increase in pine wood from early to late, but the difference is not great. The second possible measure of changes in floodplain between the Early and Late Medio period is in the wood recovered from two excavation units at Site 204 (Area 1 is Early Medio and Area 4 is Late Medio). Table 5.3 and Figure 5.1 show the rank-order of ubiquity percentages for wood identified in flotation samples from these two areas. Both are statistically similar with a Spearman rank-order correlation coefficient of rs = 0.82. Furthermore, there is no evidence of a reduction of riparian woods from the early to late Medio period. Cottonwood/willow increases in ubiquity, sycamore stays roughly the same, and elm family/hackberry decreases slightly.
TABLE 5.3. Ubiquity Rank-Order of Flotation Sample Woods from Early and Late Medio Contexts at Site 204. Taxon Oak Pine Dicot Piñon Cottonwood/Willow Juniper Monocot Sycamore Gymnosperm Mesquite/Acacia Agave Diffuse Porous
Early Medio (Area 1)
Late Medio (Area 4)
1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0 8.5 8.5 10.0 11.0 12.5 12.5
1.0 2.0 4.0 5.0 3.0 10.0 6.0 7.0 11.5 11.5 8.5 8.5
FIGURE 5.1. Ubiquity rank-order scores for Early and Late Medio period wood at Site 204.
TABLE 5.4. Ubiquity Percentages for Common Reed by Site. Site Types Upland Upland Tributary
Río Casas Grandes
Site and Unit
Percentage by Unit
Percentage for Site
317 231 204 1A 1B 2 3 4 Mound B Mound C 315 A B C D E 565 A B Z 242 El Pueblito
0.0 0.0 3.2
0.0 0.0 4.2 0.0 0.0 8.7 14.3 1.5 2.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.2 8.3 0.0 0.0 53.3 8.3
The third dataset for examining floodplain changes is the distribution of common reed (Phragmites australis) in the flotation samples. Common reed normally grows where there is abundant soil moisture such as on floodplains, along irrigation ditches, and around springs. Table 5.4 shows the ubiquity percentages for the excavated sites. The pattern is the opposite of what one would expect but is very interesting. The special sites, which are far from wetlands, have the highest ubiquity score for common reed: Site 242, 53.3%, and El Pueblito, 8.3%. The other two sites (317 and 231) farthest from wetlands are the two small sites on the piedmont west of Mata Ortiz that lacked common reed remains. The two sites next to the Río Casas Grandes, sites 315 and 565, have a low ubiquity score for common reed, 3.2% and 1.3%. Common reed from Site 204, the upland site next to a major tributary, is 3.2%. There are various possible reasons for this, none of which we can evaluate with these data. It is possible that common reed, which was used in a variety of ways by indigenous peoples, was reduced in areas with the presumed highest population density. It is possible that major irrigation of the Río Casas Grandes floodplain altered the abundance and distribution of habitats favorable for common reeds; fields replaced wetlands. Another option is that uses of the common reed were different for different site types. Perhaps the reed remains from the ritual/administrative sites were used differently from mostly habitation sites. The prevalence of common reed from special sites is the same as for pine. We are simply left now with intriguing patterns and no way of further evaluating them at this time.
The two possible measures of changes in riparian wood remains from Site 204 offer largely opposite results. This could be due to sampling issues and the fact that we do not know if these two measures date to the same intra-Medio interval. There is no obvious reason why one would be a better measure than the other. Similarly, explanations for the distribution of common reed data are not obvious. Two of the three likely reasons for the patterning in the Phragmites data suggest floodplain alterations, whereas the third is based on solely human behaviors.
Soil, Weedy Seeds, and Farming Given the large number of villages in the Upper Río Casas Grandes area and the intensive floodplain and upland farming, we might expect discernable changes in or degradation of soils as well as changes in vegetation patterning. As discussed in chapter 3, our technical analyses of soil showed no evidence of soil degradation in upland terraced fields, either in domestic or chief fields. Another possible indicator of soil disturbance is the ubiquity of seeds from weedy taxa. The seeds of weedy plants are very common in our flotation samples, a pattern frequent from contemporary village sites throughout the NW/SW. For this discussion, we will compare the two sites with the largest flotation assemblages and concentrate on the most common weedy taxa. Table 5.5 enumerates the ubiquity of the four most common and obvious weedy types. We would expect more weedy plant propagules from sites along the Río Casas Grandes, the areas with the highest population density and most intensive agriculture. In fact, the opposite is true. The two sites next to the Río Casas Grandes, 315 and 565, have the lowest ubiquity for weedy plants. The highest scores are for special sites. The high score for Site 242 is understandable when one remembers that this site had some of the largest fields near it. The reason for the high weedy seed ubiquity for El Pueblito is not known. This pattern could be a result of the small sample sizes, some ancient behaviors not obvious in the archaeological record, or some ecological factors. Note that Site 204 has a higher score than Sites 565 and 315. The comparison of weedy seed ubiquities needs further research and larger sample sizes, as there is no obvious patterning. The two small to medium-sized upland domestic sites, 231 and 317, differ significantly in the total number of weedy seeds as well as the rank-order of weeds. The two sites along the Río Casas Grandes, 315 and 565, are more consistent with very similar weedy assemblages. The upland sites have more weed seeds, which was not expected. One explanation is that the upland sites in general have more weedy seeds because these plants thrived on and near terraced fields more than on floodplain fields. We do not find this possibility especially convincing and also counterintuitive, but it is worth considering. Another option is that upland fields may have been fallowed more frequently than lowland fields due to variation in precipitation or other factors. Upland fields likely were riskier, so farmers may have not planted these locations when they perceived the
TABLE 5.5. Ubiquity Scores for the Most Common Weeds. Site Location and Site Type Río Casas Grandes Taxon Chenopod Cheno-am Amaranth Purslane Average
6.3* 12.0 1.9 13.2 8.4
6.3 14.8 2.5 13.6 9.3
15.3 17.2 7.4 21.5 15.4
20.0 4.0 0.0 12.0 9.0
29.0 25.1 45.1 9.7 27.2
17.7 5.9 11.8 58.8 23.6
25.0 0.0 11.8 41.7 19.6
*Percentage of samples containing that type.
greater chance of crop failure. Weeds would have been abundant during fallowed years. Another possibility is that upland sites with their presumed poorer agricultural potential consumed more weedy plants. Whatever the reason, these numbers indicate that weeds were significant biotic components of the local environment. Without pre-Medio or post-Medio samples, we cannot determine if these numbers indicate an increase in soil disturbance. While we do not have macroplant remains from pre- or post-Medio contexts, there is some information that deals with a possible increase in soil disturbance. The results of Kelso’s palynological study as a part of the JCGE were interpreted as evidence of a decrease in disturbance plants and an increase in woody plants with the abandonment of Paquimé, which is discussed more fully in chapter 1. Comparison with PAC data again may be instructive. As discussed in chapter 3, the Viejo and Medio period occupants in the PAC study area were farmers, and there is some evidence of decreased maize use from the Viejo to Medio period (Adams 2017). The best data to look at changes in weedy plants is a comparison of Viejo and Medio period deposits at the El Zurdo site, because these two components are from the same location. Cheno-ams were the only obvious weedy taxa recovered from El Zurdo. Its ubiquity from Viejo flotation samples is 15.5%. The cheno-am ubiquity for Medio period samples is about half (8.1%), a substantial decrease. The situation for the other sites is less clear-cut. The average ubiquity of cheno-am and purslane for the four Viejo period sites is 0.0%. The average Medio period cheno-am ubiquity for the four Medio period sites is 12.9%, and for purslane it is 9.7%. The El Zurdo assemblage, the best data, suggests a decrease in weeds while the other indicates an increase. How these data relate to the suggestion that Medio period farmers in the PAC’s study area had reduced success with maize is interesting but unresolved. Perhaps the most fruitful use here for the PAC’s data is as a comparison with our data. As noted in chapter 2, the maize data indicate that farming in the Upper Río Casas Grandes region was more intensive and/or productive than in the PAC’s study area during the Medio period. Therefore, we might expect more weedy seeds in our flotation samples
compared to the PAC flotation assemblage. In fact, all our sites have more weedy seeds in the flotation samples than the PAC’s, which is consistent with the conclusion that soil disturbance, most likely largely due to farming as well as the result of daily village life in an area with a denser human population, in the Upper Río Casas Grandes area was greater than in the PAC area.
Concluding Thoughts In sum, we suspect that high frequency of pine and weed seeds are the results of anthropogenic changes that occurred before the Medio period; we can see the results but not the process of vegetation change. Pre-Medio and post-Medio data will be needed to examine long-term change through time in vegetation and plant use so we are not left frustrated with a buffet of post hoc interpretations. However, these possible interpretations are the basis for hypotheses to structure future research. Despite the data and interpretive issues, we were surprised still by the lack of clear evidence for substantial environmental effects within the Medio period occupation. This is especially remarkable given that much of our data comes from the region with the densest Casas Grandes human occupation. There are hints that there was some overexploitation of local woods with the subsequent increase in the use of pine, which could be due to several factors. Also, there is evidence for the reduction of riparian woody plants at one site. Likewise, weeds are a common part of the Medio period landscape due to general daily life and farming. We cannot say that Medio period populations disturbed the soil more than earlier or later communities. And in fact, the ubiquities of weedy seeds is the opposite of what we expected in that sites along the Río Casas Grades with its presumed intensive farming had lower ubiquity scores than upland terraced sites. Soil analyses also did not find any evidence of soil deterioration due to intensive terrace farming. There are other potential data that can be used, if sufficient data are collected. For example, as was noted in chapter 2, juniper and piñon propagules are uncommon in our dataset, yet more abundant in the PAC’s assemblage. We suspect that this is a function of different environments. However, it could also be due to overexploitation of local woods, of which piñon and juniper would be two, resulting in a reduction in the availability of piñon and juniper seeds. Any further research on anthropogenic ecology will need to recognize variation in human activities in the Upper Río Casas Grandes area. Archaeological data from sites even in this small area document the cultivation of at least slightly different mixes of crops, farming strategies, and use of native plants. Differences in plant uses also occurred based on domestic versus community economies. The picture of the prehispanic ethnobotany and its effects on the biota of northwestern Chihuahua will be more complex than we may now assume. Although not a direct analogy, Highland Papua New Guinea farmers, like many traditional groups throughout the world, offer a lesson about such intragroup variation in farming. The Fringe Enga have a different crop mix and different farming strategies than
the nearby Enga, who live at lower elevations due the increased risk of crop failure due to frost at higher elevations (Waddell 1975). In sum, there are some possible measures of expected effects of the Medio period human population on vegetation patterning. These effects appear far less than we expected, and in some cases the opposite of what we anticipated. We await better data, especially samples from Viejo period occupations in the Upper Río Casas Grandes area, to see if the macroplant remains from research are, in fact, examples of previous anthropogenic changes in the vegetation of the Upper Río Casas Grandes region.
aquimé and related Casas Grandes communities during the Medio period are fascinating, forming one of the most important archaeological traditions in the ancient NW/SW. Paquimé has been central in the discussion of “Mesoamerican-Southwestern interaction” and is relevant to understanding the development of regional systems with the presence of some centralized control among other characteristics. Given its location south of the intensively studied U.S. Southwest and north of the equally intensively studied Mesoamerica, Chihuahua has been archaeological terra incognita until the mid-twentieth century, largely ignored by all but a pitifully small group of pioneering scholars and explorers. The Joint Casas Grandes Expedition’s (JCGE) excavations at Paquimé and other sites in the region revealed in exquisite detail what scholars and explorers have long thought, that Paquimé was a remarkable community with many riches and hundreds of related neighboring villages and hamlets. Attention then largely focused on the hundreds of parrot remains, the four million shell artifacts, copper artifacts, Ramos Polychrome vessels, massive architecture, ball courts, platform mounds, and wealth of other artifacts uncovered by the JCGE. For a variety of reasons, Paquimé and related cultural traditions have traditionally been interpreted as having been founded by outsiders. Di Peso (1974) interpreted Paquimé as a trade center organized by Mesoamericans. More recently, Lekson (1999) suggests that Chacoan elites from the north were responsible. Ignored in most of the discussion of trade and external relationships has been the role of people/plant interactions of Paquimé and its neighbors, interactions that have influenced humans for thousands of years in the NW/SW. Strangely, discussion of the relationships between Mesoamerica and the U.S. Southwest and of Casas Grandes itself rarely involved consideration of the adoption of the most important things derived from Mesoamerica— crops—despite the importance of these cultigens. Crudely stated: maize, beans, and squash trump shell and copper in importance to the prehispanic history of the NW/SW. There are a number of reasons for this. First, archaeologists traditionally concentrate on material culture, especially architecture, ceramics, and lithics. The study of plant remains has been considered the purview of “specialists” who too often are in their labs and disarticulated
from the field projects, not something archaeologists themselves study directly. The result is that prehispanic ethnobotanical study tends to be an afterthought rather than part of the initial research design. Second, the JCGE was conducted before the collection of plant remains became a standard part of archaeological field research and analyses with the exception of radiocarbon samples, wood beams for dendrochronological dating, and, occasionally, pollen samples. Third, the vast majority of NW/SW archaeologists work north of the border, especially in the Ancestral Puebloan region at the far northern end of the NW/ SW and in the Hohokam area of Arizona. Their interest in the area south of the border is too often limited to how it relates to the movement of Mesoamerican-derived goods and ideas that affected their research areas, not the local history of ancient communities south of the U.S. Southwest. Mesoamerican archaeology has treated the north mostly with benign indifference. Consequently, we have very little information about the prehispanic ethnobotany of the Casas Grandes tradition. This situation is regrettable, because food production/distribution/consumption, farming, and wood gathering are integral parts of any community’s daily life, ritual activities, and history. In fact, as we have argued here, a highly productive farming economy was a central factor underwriting the ability of the leaders of Paquimé to exploit their favored location to successfully fuel their ambitions. Similarly, the amount of fuelwood needed by the occupants of the Upper Río Casas Grandes region would have been immense. And this figure does not include wood for architectural beams and other uses. Did the irrigation systems and immense fuelwood involve some centralized decision-making? In this light, we believe that study of the plant remains is critical to understanding Paquimé, its neighbors, and those with whom Paquimé interacted. As only one of two large ethnobotanical studies in northern Chihuahua, this research and that to the south with the Proyecto Arqueológico Chihuahua (PAC) are nearly the sum total of systematic data available on Viejo and Medio period ethnobotany. The general subsistence regime during the Medio period in the Upper Río Casas Grandes region was based on important crops, especially maize, but also included beans, squash, gourd, cotton, probably agave, and minor crops like chile and little barley. Weedy plants such as purslane, chenopod, and amaranth are well represented in the macroplant assemblages. These are edible, both as greens and seeds. It is hard to evaluate the role of weeds based on the prevalence of their seeds in flotation samples, because their seeds are produced in prodigious quantities that can become incorporated into archaeological deposits unrelated to their use. Many other and less frequent taxa were recovered, and not all of these had obvious economic use. Likewise, many important food plants, such as tuberous food and quelites (greens), were surely valued but are very unlikely to be preserved in ways we would recover. There are a number of probably important food resources that were not well represented in our data. Piñon nuts, juniper berries, and acorns are three examples of presumably abundant and ethnographically documented foods not very common in our macroplant data. Their infrequent presence may be due to differences in preservation or perhaps deforestation of these trees. What our data show is that the macroplant evidence looks much like that from other contemporary farming communities in the NW/SW where
crops were supplemented by local resources. The best current interpretation is that the domestic economy of the Medio period was not especially unique compared to its near and far neighbors. While there seems to have been a common food economy among all the sites we studied, we did note some differences due to site settings. Upland sites with more limited floodplain fields yielded more agave than sites nearer more extensive floodplains. In contrast, sites next to the Río Casas Grandes, the best farming location, seem to have cultivated more cotton and beans than upland sites. These patterns open up new questions for future research. Were differences in macroplant assemblages the foundation for substantial economic specialization with exchange among communities in the Casas Grandes region, and if so, what role did leaders play in this aspect of the regional economy? Our research also opens interesting questions about very rare exotics: little barley, chile, and cacao/yaupon holly. The one little barley seed recovered from Site 315 is the first record of this plant from prehispanic Mexico and one of the few from the NW/SW, except for the Hohokam region. We recovered chile seeds from both Sites 315 and 565. These are the first and currently the only cultivated chile remains from prehispanic sites in the entire NW/SW. As discussed in chapter 2, the previous lack of cultivated chiles in the NW/SW was perplexing and questions about its use and distribution remain. The chemical signatures of cacao and yaupon holly from Site 315 sherds are not unique in the NW/SW, but their high frequency is unusual. Without testing of sherds from other sites, we do not know the distribution of presumed cacao/yaupon holly use in the Río Casas Grandes area. The presence of chile, little barley, and cacao/yaupon holly is remarkable and requires far more research to determine the role of these plants in the domestic and especially the community food economy. Were the chiles part of the domestic economy, the community economy, or both? Why was little barley an uncommon cultigen in the NW/SW yet so widely distributed in North America? While the domestic food economy seems unremarkable, or remarkable in that it is like other farming groups in the prehispanic NW/SW, the community food economy is quite different. Exceptionally large and formal earthen ovens, as we have argued, are evidence of feasting. In one case, the Unit 9 oven at Paquimé, perhaps the largest earthen oven in the NW/SW, could have prepared over 3,000 kg (over 7,000 lbs.) of food in a single cooking episode and potentially feed thousands during feasts. Ceramic evidence of fermentation for the production of a maize or agave beer at Sites 242 and 204 seems to indicate that it was a conspicuous part of the community economy. The best current, although not conclusive, evidence suggests that maize was the most common source of alcoholic drinks. The use of agave in the region is documented. But what are the specifics of its uses? The enormous amounts presumably of agave prepared in the Unit 9 oven at Paquimé hint at substantial coordinated collection and likely cultivation of this plant. Were these activities coordinated by leaders? Similarly, the north oven at Site 204 and the Unit 1 ovens at Paquimé seem to indicate differences in the context of agave preparation either as specialized production or ceremonial feasting. Given the importance of crops, we studied farming and relied on two surveys of agricultural fields in upland settings with low rock terraces (trincheras) and sometimes other
features such as rock mulch piles, small ditches, and small dams all over our study area. These fields are ubiquitous in northwestern Chihuahua and denser in the locations closer to Paquimé. Most of the close to 200 fields we examined were small and assuredly were farmed by small family groups. We cannot tell what community-wide obligations these farmers had, or how much of the harvest from the small fields were used in events and rituals transcending the producing household? We also mapped a small number of extremely large fields that we believe to be the first example of chief/cacique fields in the prehispanic NW/SW, clear evidence of some centralized decision-making in food production. We also studied behaviors that are often ignored by archaeologists. Gathering of wood for construction materials, fuel, and production of small items is a time-consuming, laborintensive activity and can affect the local woody environment. There is a general pattern of wood use in the Upper Río Casas Grandes region. Pine and woods closer to communities, such as oak, juniper, piñon, and some riparian woods, were particularly important. The fact that pine was used for room beams is understandable, because it was one of the few woods producing long straight trunks. However, the widespread use of pine for fuel is less understandable given that it had to have been procured at some distance from the mountains. This may be due to (1) overexploitation of local woods, (2) the Casas Grandians being willing to devote the labor and time needed to acquire this longer distance resource in the absence of a need to harvest a greater diversity of woods, (3) the prehispanic occupants being able to reduce transportation costs through use of charcoaling or floating wood/ beams down the tributaries of the Río Casas Grandes, and/or (4) woods from higher elevations having symbolic value for some uses, such as in the large feasting ovens. Given the enormous amount for wood needed just for fuel (estimated at up to nearly a billion pounds at Paquimé alone during the Medio period), the first explanation seems the most likely. The almost exclusive use of pine for formal ovens, and the fact that common reeds are most frequently found at the special Site 242 and El Pueblito, gives us pause by hinting at different uses of plants at ritual/administrative sites and food processing for feasts and other community events. We were expecting obvious evidence of the human impacts on their local environment, because there are examples of anthropogenic environmental changes in the prehispanic NW/SW in areas with lower population densities. The Upper Río Casas Grandes area had a presumed high human population density that would have required substantial agriculture, including extensive upland terracing. Specifically, we looked at overexploitation of the local woody vegetation, soil disturbance, and changes in streamside vegetation. There are hints of some impacts. There may have been a reduction of local woods, such as riparian species, with an increase in the use of more distant pine as evidenced by the large percentage of pine used. The data for intra-Medio period wood use changes are minimal and ambiguous. The data on seeds from weedy species are also ambiguous. This could be due to small sample sizes and also the fact that weedy seeds are likely to become incorporated into archaeological deposits in both cultural and noncultural ways. The major problem for evaluating ecological changes is the fact that our research explicitly focused on the Medio period. We do not have adequate pre-Medio or post-Medio data, so we cannot look
at change through a longer time lens than the Medio period. It may well be that we are observing the results of pre-Medio period anthropogenic change, but earlier samples will be necessary to document the processes of changes in the biota. The PAC data provides the best evidence of anthropogenic changes between the Viejo and Medio periods but comes from a different ecological setting that limits its value for understanding the Upper Río Casas Grandes region. The limited Viejo period ethnobotanical data are the major limiting factor for understanding many aspects of subsistence, anthropogenic ecology, and the development of the Paquimé-centered network. Increasing research on the Viejo period and Viejo to Medio period transition was recognized as the first of six research priorities for Casas Grandes archaeology during a recent seminar devoted to the Casas Grandes tradition (Minnis and Whalen 2015). One lesson from our work that is common to all archaeological research is the danger of dividing interpretations into discreet artifact categories. And one could argue that this is particularly true for plant remains for no other reason than seeds and wood are produced naturally, and it can sometimes be difficult to separate natural deposition from cultural deposition, unlike ceramics and lithics. The point is that interpretation derived from any dataset, including of propagules, should be compared with other archaeological datasets. One of the clearest examples from our research is that there are few macroplant indicators of the use of plants in the community economy. Rather, the best data for understanding the role of plants in the community economy comes from the study of ovens and ceramics. The important role of feasting has been best documented by the study of large, formal earthen ovens, and the first documentation of chief fields is based on the size and distribution of agricultural features. These are ethnobotanically significant interpretations but are ones not derived from study of the plant remains alone. It is a too often used cliché that research develops more questions than it answers, but it does apply here. The macroplant data along with other archaeological information used here point toward some interesting prehispanic ethnobotanical relationships but are insufficient to evaluate fully our interpretations if for no other reason than the lack of sustained research in the region. We look forward to better and more sophisticated research to examine issues we’ve raised here and to explore ideas we have not thought of. And we are optimistic. Northwestern Chihuahua will never again be an archaeologically neglected area. The Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia has an expanding and active cohort of excellent researchers in Chihuahua, and the Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia branch in Ciudad Chihuahua started an archaeology major to train future generations of Chihuahuan archaeologists. Likewise, we are grateful that most archaeologists in the U.S. Southwest no longer view south of the border simply as a conduit for Mesoamerican ideas and goods. Rather, they understand that this large region has its own rich, complex, and valuable history, and its interactions with other archaeological traditions in the NW/SW were complicated and contingent. We anticipate and look forward to years of exciting and thought-provoking research.
otanical remains were collected in two ways. First, specimens were collected directly during excavation. Occasionally, large specimens were retrieved directly by the excavators. More commonly, plant remains were gathered during screening. All excavated deposits were passed through ¼-inch screening. Screened specimens are almost always maize cob fragments and wood charcoal. Second, we collected flotation samples. If sufficient deposits were present, individual flotation samples were 4 L. Rarely, multiple samples were collected from a single provenience. Not surprisingly, some proveniences did not have 4 L of soil for flotation, so in these cases we collected what we could. Our sampling strategy was influenced by the nature of the deposits and post-occupation history of the sites. In general, sites represented single occupations, and all sites we excavated witnessed severe looting for pottery (Silva 2012; Whalen and Minnis 2009a). It was often very difficult to determine which deposits were mixed due to looting until the excavators reached near the floor. We could then see what portion of the floors had been destroyed by looting and which were intact. While we excavated room fill in standard units and screened all the deposits, we often did not collect all charcoal from screenings from these proveniences since their context was not clear, and some deposits contained very large amounts of charcoal. Once the initial excavation determined that large amounts of wood were present in the deposits, we usually focused on screen-collected wood from proveniences that could be best interpreted. Normally, flotation samples were taken from known contexts, usually from features or on floor and floor-contact deposits with what the excavators thought might be concentrations of botanical remains. Samples were collected in plastic bags and processed as soon as possible. We used a simple water-conserving flotation protocol. Most flotation samples were slowly poured into a bucket with a window screen bottom that was itself in a larger closed container of water. A woven fabric with an opening of 0.3 mm was attached to a strainer, and the floating material was collected in the fabric. The fabric was then placed in a container out of the sun to slowly dry. To save water, several samples were processed in
the same container before replacing the water. Water was allowed to sit for five minutes between samples, and a clean fabric screen was skimmed through the water to prevent cross-contamination. We examined five of these cleaning fabrics and noted no identifiable remains except two uncharred goosefoot (Chenopodium) seeds. We processed flotation samples from Sites 315 and 565 a little differently. Each sample was placed in a smaller water container, and the water was changed after processing each sample. We did not sort heavy fractions as a general practice. With the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia’s (INAH) permission, the botanical remains were studied at the Ethnobotany Laboratory at the University of Oklahoma. There, the flotation samples were sorted with propagules and a sample of wood charcoal from the flotation samples identified. We also identified some wood from screened samples. Our guiding principle was that having data from more proveniences is far more useful than having more data from fewer samples. Sample sorting is laborious and time consuming. Therefore, large flotation samples were passed through a random riffle sorter, and subsamples of around 15 grams were fully sorted. Larger subsamples were occasionally sorted when warranted. For example, we fully sorted some of the samples with chile seeds to increase our limited inventory of chile remains. Propagules were identified with the aid of an extensive comparative collection and various publications (e.g., Martin and Barkley 1961). A sample of up to 20 individual pieces of wood was identified, again with the help of an extensive comparative collection and various references (e.g., Camacho Uribe 1988; Hoadley 1990; Minnis 1987; Saul 1955). Our analytic efforts focused on flotation samples for two reasons. First, the integrity of screened samples from room fill was often unclear given the degree of looting. Second, as seen in some appendix 3 tables, wood from flotation and screened samples can be similar. Therefore, we did not identify wood from screened samples collected from Sites 315 and 565. Our wood analyses, with a few exceptions, use wood identified from flotation samples, but wood identification from non-flotation samples are present in appendix 3. All botanical samples were returned to the INAH, and as of this writing, they are stored by the INAH-Chihuahua along with other artifacts from our excavations. The samples are stored by year of excavation and type (“flotation sample” or “charcoal”). With the limited exception mentioned below, the identified propagules and wood specimens were returned to the sample bag and not stored separately. Considering their uniqueness, the chile seeds, the little barley seed, and the most complete unknowns were placed in a portable plastic file box by themselves to provide better protection, and this container is with our research collections curated by the INAH. The methodologies for the collection of other datasets discussed here such as the study of agricultural features are outlined in the text. For more information about our survey and excavation, consult two previous books (Whalen and Minnis 2001a, 2009a) and book chapters/journal articles cited in the text.
Taxa Recovered from Our Excavations
(Boldface indicates a domesticated taxon) Agavaceae (agave family). Important family in the NW/SW. Agave and Yucca are the most economically important genera in the region. Agave (possible cultigen) (mescal/century plant). Important food, beverage, and fiber source. May have been cultivated. Amaranthus (amaranth/pigweed). Small weedy annual. Seeds and greens are edible. Apiaceae (parsley family). A large family with many genera and species. Asteraceae (sunflower family). Exceptionally large family with many economically useful plants such as sunflower. Atriplex (saltbush). Common shrub. Can be used a fuel source. Brassicaceae (mustard family). Large family with a number of useful plants. cf. Calandrinia (rock purslane). Small plant with limited economic use. May be another taxon. Capsicum annuum (chile, chili). Cultivated chile was an important food plant in Mesoamerica. The Casas Grandes specimens are the first found in the NW/SW. Celtis (hackberry). While now placed in the Cannabinaceae family, Celtis is difficult to distinguish from woods in the Ulmaceae family such as the elm (Ulmus). Cheno-am. This taxon includes specimens that cannot be distinguished between Amaranthus and Chenopodium, often because of distortion by charring. Chenopodium (chenopod/goosefoot). Small weedy annual. Seeds and greens are edible. Some medicinal uses.
cf. Cleome (beeweed). An herbaceous plant. Seeds edible and the plant is a dye source in parts of the NW/SW. May be another taxon. Convolvulaceae (morning glory family). Common family with limited prehispanic economic use. cf. Corispermum (bugseed). Small plant with limited economic use. May be another taxon. Crotalaria (rattlebox). Small plant with limited economic use. Cruciferae (see Brassicaceae). Cucurbita rind (squash). One of the earliest cultivated plants, originally from Mesoamerica. Only rind fragments recovered in our samples. Cyperaceae (sedge family). Large family with many plants that commonly grow in moist settings. Descurainia (tansy mustard). An early maturing annual with edible seeds. Dicot, or dicotyledon. A very inclusive and diverse category. Diffuse porous. Wood (other than cottonwood or willow in northwestern Chihuahua) from shrubs or trees. Echinocactus (fishhook cactus). Small cacti, some with edible fruits. Ephedra (Mormon tea). Common gymnosperm shrub with some medicinal uses. Eriogonum (wild buckwheat). A genus with large number of species, a few of which are edible. Euphorbia (spurge). Weedy plants with few documented uses. Fabaceae (bean family). Exceptionally large family with many useful plants such as beans and mesquite. cf. Gaura (beeblossom). Genus of limited economic use. May be another taxon. Geraniaceae (geranium family). A common family with limited economic use. Gossypium hirsutum (cotton). Cultivated cotton produces fine fibers and edible seeds. Gymnosperm. Important family with many genera, such as Pinus, Abies, Pseudotsuga, and Picea, valuable for fuel, construction, and other uses. cf. Hedeoma-type (false pennyroyal). Small plant with limited economic use. May be another taxon. Helianthus (sunflower). Not a domesticated sunflower. Wild sunflower seeds are edible.
Hordeum (barley). Likely H. pusillum (little barley), a domesticated native barley. The Casas Grandes specimen is the first reported from prehispanic Mexico. Iva (sumpweed). Likely I. xanthifolia. The seeds are edible and are related to a species in eastern North America that was domesticated. Juglans (walnut). Riparian tree with wood and edible nuts. Juniperus (juniper). Very common woody plants. Wood useful and seeds can be eaten. Kallstroemia (summer poppy). Low-growing plant of limited economic use. Labiatae (see Lamiaceae). Lagenaria siceraria (gourd). Used for containers. Lamiaceae (Labiatae). A large family with many edible plants. Liliaceae (lily family). A large family with various edible parts, especially corms. Mentzelia (stickleaf). Some species have edible seeds. Monocot, or monocotyledon. A very inclusive and diverse category. Nonwoody tissue. Tissue from nonwoody parts of plants, such as tubers. Unidentified at this point. Onagraceae (evening primrose family). A family with few food plants. Opuntia (prickly pear). Very common cactus, many with edible pads and fruits. Papaveraceae (poppy family). Family with limited prehispanic uses. Some seeds edible. Phaseolus (cultivated bean). Likely P. vulgaris, the common bean. Phragmites australis (common reed). A grass found in riparian and marshy locations. Culms (stems) used widely for various purposes. Pinus (pine). There are many pines. As these specimens are not piñon (P. cembroides), it is most likely that they came from a variety of pines such as P. ponderosa and similar pines in the mountains or higher foothills. Pinus cembroides (Mexican piñon pine). The wood is an important fuel source, the resin is used as an adhesive and for waterproofing basketry, and the seeds are edible. Plantago (plantain/Indian wheat). Common herbaceous plants with edible seeds. Platanus (sycamore). Large riparian tree with useful wood. Poaceae (grass family). Exceptionally large family. Some species with important edible seeds and the culms of some taxa used in material culture. Polygonum (buckwheat). Some buckwheat seeds are edible.
Populus/Salix (cottonwood/willow). Both genera are in the Salicaceae family and inhabit riparian locations. Cottonwoods can be large trees; willows tend to be smaller or shrubbier. Portulaca (purslane). Small weedy annual with edible seeds and greens. Prosopis (mesquite). Very common and important food and fuel source. Also used in material culture. Prosopis/Acacia (mesquite/acacia). Difficult to distinguish, likely Prosopis, the most common woody plant in the Fabaceae family. Quercus (oak). Common tree with very useful wood and edible “nuts.” Ring porous. Wood where early wood vessels are larger than late wood vessels. Many taxa have this pattern. Semi-ring porous. Wood with a weak ring pattern where early wood vessels are similar in size to late wood vessels. Many taxa have this pattern. Shell. Hard, thin shell fragments that could not be identified. Most have a distinctive palisaded cell structure. Solanaceae (nightshade family). Large family with many economically useful plants. Sporobolus (dropseed). A grass with edible seeds. Trianthema (horse purslane). Prostrate weed with edible seeds. Ulmaceae (elm family). Likely Celtis (hackberry) but could be Ulmus (elm). Celtis has recently been placed in the Cannabinaceae family. Umbelliferae (see Apiaceae). Unknown. Unidentified specimen. Some may be identified and others not because of distortion during charring. Verbena (vervain). Many species with limited economic use. Vitis (grape). Fruits are edible. Zea mays cupules (corn/maize cob fragment). Cob fragments likely found as the result of the use of cobs for fuel and kindling. Zea mays kernels (corn/maize kernel). Edible “seeds” of the most important food source for the ancient people of the NW/SW.
Propagules In this section, in tables with “Ubiquity” data, N is the number of samples containing charred propagules. In tables with “Abundance” data, N is the number of total propagules recovered. Only charred propagules are included in these tables.
TABLE A.1. Summary of Propagules in Flotation Samples from All Excavations. Number of Flotation Samples
Number of Propagules
Percentage of Samples/Propagules
317 231 242 204 Total 204 1A 204 Area 1B 204 Area 2 204 Area 3 204 Area 4 204 Mound B 204 Mound C 204 Midden 315 Total 315 Area A 315 Area B 315 Area C 315 Area D 315 Area E 565 Total 565 Areas A/B 565 Area Z Oven Total Oven 188 Oven 239 Oven 257 Oven 317 Oven 204, North Oven 204, Ball Court El Pueblito
25 31 17 155 29 12 39 24 24 25 3 7 159 57 57 14 22 9 82 41 41 14 1 1 1 1 6 4 12
221 616 179 6,194 515 179 2,404 858 1,255 888 5 90 8,169 2,876 2,932 1,264 900 197 3,217 1,961 1,256 92 10 1 1 1 15 64 104
5.1/1.2 6.3/3.3 3.4/0.9 31.4/33.0
TABLE A.2. Site 317. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Phaseolus Chenopodium Cheno-am Portulaca Kallstroemia Poaceae Unknown Agave tissue
Average Density (per liter)
22 3 2 5 1 3 1 1 7 2
88.0 12.0 8.0 20.0 4.0 12.0 4.0 4.0 28.0 8.0
168 7 2 21 2 5 1 2 10 3
76.0 3.2 0.9 9.5 0.9 2.3 0.5 0.9 4.5 0.5
1.5 0.5 0.3 1.3 0.9 0.2 1.0 0.3 — 0.3
TABLE A.3. Site 231. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Phaseolus Gossypium Chenopodium Cheno-am Amaranthus Portulaca cf. Cleome cf. Crotalaria cf. Hedeoma Helianthus Sporobolus Asteraceae Fabaceae Brassicaceae Poaceae Unknown Agave tissue
Average Density (per liter)
23 8 3 1 9 8 3 14 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 12 6
74.2 25.8 9.7 3.2 29.0 25.8 9.7 45.1 3.2 3.2 3.2 3.2 3.2 3.2 3.2 6.4 9.7 38.7 19.4
195 11 5 1 27 73 3 138 28 3 3 1 1 1 1 3 7 26 89
31.7 1.9 0.8 0.2 4.4 11.9 0.5 22.4 4.6 0.5 0.5 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.5 1.1 4.2 14.4
4.3 0.8 1.3 1.0 2.9 5.6 1.8 7.0 3.0 3.5 0.3 0.4 0.2 0.2 1.3 0.4 0.7 — 11.9
TABLE A.4. Site 242. Ubiquity
Average Density (per liter)
7 2 2 3 1 2 10 2 1 5 1
41.2 11.8 11.8 17.7 5.9 11.8 58.8 11.2 5.9 29.4 5.9
53 6 2 2 1 3 22 4 1 7 1
50.5 5.9 2.0 2.0 1.0 3.0 21.6 3.9 1.0 6.9 1.0
4.3 0.8 0.2 0.4 0.3 0.4 0.6 0.6 0.3 — 0.3
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Phaseolus Chenopodium Cheno-am Amaranthus Portulaca Poaceae Convolvulaceae Unknown Agave tissue/spine
TABLE A.5. Site 204, Area 1A. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Chenopodium Cheno-am Amaranthus Juniperus Portulaca Prosopis Solanaceae Unknown Agave
Average Density (per liter)
21 5 4 2 1 1 2 1 1 9 2
72.4 17.2 13.8 6.9 3.4 3.4 6.9 3.4 3.4 31.0 6.9
359 22 11 6 1 1 24 3 1 84 3
69.7 4.3 2.1 1.2 0.2 0.2 4.7 0.6 0.2 16.3 0.6
12.1 1.2 0.5 0.5 0.1 0.5 2.8 0.5 0.2 — 0.3
TABLE A.6. Site 204, Area 1B. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Chenopodium Cheno-am Amaranthus Portulaca Prosopis Solanaceae Unknown
Average Density (per liter)
9 1 2 2 2 3 1 1 4
75.0 8.3 16.7 16.7 16.7 25.0 8.3 8.3 33.3
145 4 9 7 3 3 1 1 6
81.0 2.2 5.0 3.9 1.7 1.7 0.6 0.6 3.4
7.5 1.0 1.2 1.1 0.9 0.4 0.6 1.3 —
TABLE A.7. Site 204, Area 2. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Phaseolus Cucurbita rind Lagenaria seeds Lagenaria rind Chenopodium Cheno-am Portulaca cf. Crotalaria Opuntia Plantago Fabaceae Solanaceae Unknown Agave Palisaded shell
Average Density (per liter)
22 4 1 1 3 2 6 2 6 1 1 2 2 3 14 9 1
56.4 10.2 2.6 2.6 7.7 5.1 15.4 5.1 15.4 2.6 2.6 5.1 5.1 7.7 35.9 23.1 2.6
1,768 13 2 13 118 39 16 16 58 1 1 7 2 1 40 308 1
73.50 0.50 0.01 0.50 4.90 1.60 0.70 0.70 2.40 0.03 0.03 0.30 0.01 0.03 1.70 12.80 0.03
9.7 1.3 0.4 3.4 17.5 9.8 1.0 1.0 3.3 0.3 0.3 0.7 0.3 2.0 0.3 13.4 0.3
TABLE A.8. Site 204, Area 3. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Phaseolus Cucurbita rind Gossypium Chenopodium Cheno-am Amaranthus Juniperus Portulaca Atriplex cf. Crotalaria cf. Kallstroemia Plantago Sporobolus Poaceae Solanaceae Unknown Agave
21 9 2 1 5 1 10 1 1 8 1 1 1 1 1 1 5 6 2
87.5 38.0 8.3 0.2 20.8 4.2 47.6 4.2 4.2 33.3 4.2 0.2 4.2 4.2 4.2 4.2 20.8 25.0 8.3
694 24 5 1 6 5 47 2 10 17 1 1 3 1 1 8 10 19 3
80.1 2.9 0.6 0.1 0.7 0.6 5.5 0.2 1.2 2.0 0.1 0.1 0.4 0.1 0.1 0.9 0.4 2.2 0.4
Average Density (per liter) 15.4 1.0 0.8 0.3 0.5 1.3 1.2 0.5 0.8 0.8 0.3 0.5 2.0 0.3 0.7 2.0 2.2 — 0.5
TABLE A.9. Site 204, Area 4. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Phaseolus Gossypium Chenopodium Cheno-am Amaranthus P. cembroides Portulaca cf. Crotalaria cf. Hedeoma Helianthus Mentzelia Opuntia Asteraceae Fabaceae Poaceae Solanaceae Unknown Agave Palisaded shell
Average Density (per liter)
20 5 1 1 2 8 1 1 7 1 2 1 1 3 1 2 1 1 7 4 2
87.0 21.3 4.3 4.3 8.7 34.8 4.3 4.3 30.5 4.3 8.7 4.3 4.3 13.1 4.3 8.7 4.3 4.3 30.5 17.4 8.7
1,006 18 2 4 14 38 4 1 16 2 2 2 12 5 14 4 2 6 27 70 6
80.2 1.4 0.2 0.4 1.1 3.0 0.4 0.1 1.3 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.4 1.6 0.4 0.2 0.5 2.5 5.6 0.5
21.0 1.4 0.7 1.3 2.1 3.0 0.4 0.4 0.8 0.7 0.4 0.6 0.4 0.7 4.7 0.6 0.3 1.2 — 0.7 1.0
TABLE A.10. Site 204, Mound B. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Gossypium Chenopodium Cheno-am Amaranthus Portulaca Trianthema Atriplex cf. Crotalaria Opuntia Pinus cembroides Verbena Vitis Fabaceae Solanaceae Unknown Agave Palisaded shell
Average Density (per liter)
21 9 2 8 1 7 7 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 3 1 8 1 1
84.0 36.0 8.0 32.0 4.0 28.0 28.0 4.0 4.0 8.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 12.0 4.0 32.0 4.0 4.0
480 31 3 26 4 10 31 1 1 7 2 55 1 1 6 1 160 1 68
54.1 3.5 0.3 2.9 0.5 1.1 3.5 0.1 0.1 0.8 0.2 6.2 0.1 0.1 0.7 0.1 18.0 0.1 7.7
7.8 1.2 0.7 1.2 8.0 0.7 1.2 0.3 0.3 1.7 0.3 18.7 0.4 0.4 0.5 1.0 — 0.5 19.4
TABLE A.11. Site 204, Mound C. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Chenopodium Portulaca Polygonum
Average Density (per liter)
1 1 1 1 1
33.3 33.3 33.3 33.3 33.3
1 1 1 1 1
20.0 20.0 20.0 20.0 20.0
0.3 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.6
TABLE A.12. Site 204, Midden. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Chenopodium Cheno-am Portulaca Opuntia Fabaceae Unknown
Average Density (per liter)
7 1 3 2 2 1 4
100.0 14.3 42.9 28.6 28.6 14.2 57.1
54 1 7 4 2 1 21
60.0 1.1 7.8 4.4 2.2 1.1 23.3
2.6 0.3 0.9 0.8 0.3 0.4 —
TABLE A.13. Site 315, Area A. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Phaseolus Gossypium Chenopodium Cheno-am Portulaca cf. Gaura Opuntia Quercus Asteraceae Fabaceae Poaceae Solanaceae Unknown Palisaded shell
Average Density (per liter)
44 13 13 10 2 1 1 8 3 1 1 19 3 1 42 1
77.2 22.8 22.8 17.5 3.5 1.8 1.8 14.0 5.3 1.8 1.8 33.3 5.3 1.8 73.7 1.8
2,330 29 29 24 3 1 23 59 11 2 4 157 3 1 199 1
81.00 1.00 1.00 0.80 0.10 0.03 0.80 2.10 0.40 0.10 0.10 5.50 0.10 0.03 6.90 0.03
4.9 0.9 1.1 0.9 0.7 0.5 9.2 2.1 1.8 0.5 1.0 3.1 0.4 0.3 — 0.3
TABLE A.14. Site 315, Area B. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Phaseolus Cucurbita rind Capsicum annuum Gossypium Chenopodium Cheno-am Amaranthus Portulaca cf. Cleome cf. Corispermum cf. Gaura cf. Hedeoma Helianthus Opuntia Plantago Prosopis Quercus Asteraceae Fabaceae Brassicaceae Poaceae Unknown Palisaded shell
Average Density (per liter)
50 27 9 2 4 14 5 5 2 11 2 1 2 1 2 5 2 4 1 4 21 1 8 36 9
87.7 47.4 15.8 3.5 7.0 24.6 8.8 8.8 3.5 19.3 3.5 1.8 3.5 1.8 3.5 8.8 3.5 7.0 1.8 7.0 36.8 1.8 14.0 63.2 15.8
1,732 110 35 2 27 54 23 39 13 58 2 1 13 58 2 11 5 10 2 46 258 1 28 338 62
59.1 3.8 1.2 0.07 0.9 1.8 0.8 1.3 0.4 2.0 0.07 0.03 0.4 2.0 0.07 0.4 0.2 0.3 0.07 1.6 8.8 0.03 1.0 11.5 2.1
8.3 1.1 1.1 0.8 0.8 1.2 2.8 2.8 2.5 1.7 0.3 0.3 2.9 14.5 1.8 0.6 0.7 0.7 0.5 3.3 4.1 0.5 1.0 — 2.1
TABLE A.15. Site 315, Area C. Ubiquity
Average Density (per liter)
12 1 1 1 1 5 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 6 1 4
85.7 7.1 7.1 7.1 7.1 35.7 7.1 7.1 7.1 7.1 7.1 7.1 7.1 7.1 42.9 7.1 28.6
349 2 8 4 4 783 4 51 2 6 4 1 1 1 30 1 13
27.60 0.20 0.60 0.30 0.30 62.00 0.30 4.00 0.20 0.50 0.30 0.08 0.08 0.08 2.40 0.08 1.00
29.8 0.8 2.2 1.1 1.1 62.6 1.1 20.4 0.5 3.0 1.1 0.4 0.3 0.5 — 0.5 0.9
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Capsicum annuum Gossypium Chenopodium Cheno-am Portulaca Trianthema Atriplex cf. Gaura Opuntia Fabaceae Papaveraceae Poaceae Unknown Agave tissue Palisaded shell
TABLE A.16. Site 315, Area D. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Phaseolus Cucurbita rind Gossypium Hordeum Chenopodium Cheno-am Amaranthus Portulaca Prosopis Quercus Trianthema Atriplex cf. Gaura cf. Hedeoma Asteraceae Fabaceae Papaveraceae Unknown
Average Density (per liter)
18 6 6 1 1 1 2 5 1 6 1 1 1 1 2 1 2 3 1 10
81.2 27.3 27.3 4.5 4.5 4.4 9.1 27.2 4.5 27.3 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 9.1 4.5 9.1 13.6 4.5 45.5
555 20 15 1 1. 1 13 18 2 13 1 2 1 1 8 90 134 8 1 15
61.7 2.2 1.7 0.1 0.1 0.1 1.4 2.0 0.2 1.4 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.9 10.0 14.9 0.9 0.1 6.7
3.9 0.6 0.7 0.3 0.3 1.0 3.3 1.1 0.8 1.2 0.3 0.5 0.3 0.3 1.6 32.5 30.1 0.9 16.0 —
TABLE A.17. Site 315, Area E. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Phaseolus Cucurbita rind Gossypium Cheno-am Portulaca Trianthema Opuntia Fabaceae Poaceae Unknown Agave Palisaded shell
Average Density (per liter)
7 1 1 1 1 3 3 2 1 2 2 5 1 2
77.8 11.1 11.1 11.1 11.1 33.3 33.3 22.2 11.1 22.2 22.2 55.6 11.1 22.2
154 2 1 1 1 4 7 3 6 8 2 5 1 197
78.2 1.0 0.5 0.5 0.5 2.0 3.6 1.5 3.1 4.1 1.0 2.5 0.5 1.0
5.5 0.5 0.3 0.5 0.3 0.4 0.9 0.7 1.5 1.1 0.4 — 0.5 0.3
TABLE A.18. Site 565, Areas A/B. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Phaseolus Cucurbita rind Capsicum annuum Gossypium Chenopodium Cheno-am Amaranthus Portulaca Trianthema Atriplex cf. Gaura Fabaceae Poaceae Unknown Palisaded shell
Average Density (per liter)
33 15 7 2 1 2 2 8 1 6 2 2 1 1 2 10 4
80.5 36.6 17.1 4.9 2.4 4.9 4.9 19.5 2.4 14.6 4.9 4.9 2.4 2.4 4.9 24.4 9.8
1,730 89 23 5 13 2 17 17 2 11 2 2 1 18 3 13 13
88.20 4.50 1.20 0.30 0.70 0.10 0.90 0.90 0.10 0.60 0.10 0.10 0.05 0.90 0.20 0.70 0.70
15.0 1.8 0.9 4.6 0.5 0.7 0.6 0.6 0.7 0.9 0.3 0.3 0.5 6.0 0.4 — 1.1
TABLE A.19. Site 565, Area Z. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Zea mays kernel Phaseolus Gossypium Chenopodium Cheno-am Amaranthus Portulaca Echinocactus Euphorbia cf. Gaura Opuntia Asteraceae Fabaceae Geraniaceae Unknown Agave tissue Palisaded shell
Average Density (per liter)
36 9 3 5 3 5 1 5. 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 11 2 2
87.8 22.0 7.3 12.2 7.3 12.2 2.4 12.2 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 4.8 2.4 26.8 4.8 4.8
876 23 5 7 6 6 5 9 1 1 1 1 1 203 1 102 5 3
69.70 1.80 0.40 0.60 0.50 0.50 0.40 0.70 0.08 0.08 0.08 0.08 0.08 16.20 0.08 8.10 0.40 0.20
11.0 1.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.4 1.3 0.6 0.4 0.3 0.5 0.3 0.3 65.5 0.5 — 1.3 0.5
TABLE A.20. El Pueblito. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule Chenopodium Amaranthus Portulaca cf. Calandrinia Iva Opuntia Descurainia Poaceae Unknown Agave tissue/spine
Average Density (per liter)
4 3 2 5 3 2 2 1 1 2 1
33.3 25.0 16.7 41.7 25.0 16.7 16.7 8.3 8.3 16.7 8.3
22 8 8 46 5 3 2 5 1 3 1
21.2 7.7 7.7 44.3 4.8 2.9 1.9 8.3 0.9 2.9 0.9
0.7 0.8 0.7 1.8 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.3 1.0 — 0.3
TABLE A.21. Oven at Site 188. Ubiquity
Average Density (per liter)
1 1 1 4
100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
1 1 4 4
10.0 10.0 40.0 40.0
0.03 0.03 0.10 0.50
Zea mays cupule Portulaca Unknown Agave
TABLE A.22. Oven at Site 239. Ubiquity
Average Density (per liter)
Zea mays cupule
TABLE A.23. Oven at Site 257. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule
Average Density (per liter)
TABLE A.24. Oven 317. Ubiquity
Zea mays cupule
Average Density (per liter)
TABLE A.25. Oven 204, North. Ubiquity
Average Density (per liter)
2 1 1 2 1 1 4
33.3 16.7 16.7 33.3 16.7 16.7 66.7
3 1 1 2 2 1 5
20.0 6.7 6.7 13.3 13.3 6.7 33.3
0.6 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.6 0.4 —
Zea mays cupule Chenopodium Amaranthus Portulaca Polygonum Poaceae Unknown
TABLE A.26. Oven 204, Ball Court Ubiquity
Chenopodium Polygonum Unknown
Average Density (per liter)
4 1 1
100.0 25.0 25.0
62 1 1
96.9 1.6 1.6
5.1 0.3 0.2
Wood The total number of flotation samples is only those with charred material. “Ubiquity” is the number of samples (in parentheses) containing that taxa. “Abundance” is the number of individual specimens (number in parentheses).
TABLE A.27. Wood Summary for All Excavations.
Site 231 317 204 204
242 315 315
El Pueblito Ovens Oven
Total 1A 1B 2 3 4 B C Midden Total A B C D E Total A B Z Total 188 257 317 204, Ball Court 204, North
Number of Total Identifications
Number of Flotation Identifications
418 595 3,982 736 434 838 391 446 377 155 605 965 2,044 860 620 145 293 126 508 176 141 191 175 277 40 38 69 105 25
252 459 2,486 537 313 633 312 264 299 77 51 255 2,044 860 620 145 293 126 508 176 141 19 97 193 36 13 14 105 25
Percentage All Wood
4.7 6.3 44.4
4.0 7.3 39.5
TABLE A.28. Site 317. Flotation Only
Quercus (21) Pinus (21) Dicot (19) P. cembroides (6) Juniperus (6) Monocot (4) Agavaceae (3)
Quercus (213) Pinus (119) Dicot (96) P. cembroides (17) Juniperus (7) Monocot (4) Agavaceae (3)
Pinus (8) Quercus (7) P. cembroides (2) Juniperus (2) Gymnosperm (1) Monocot (1) Unknown (1)
Pinus (61) Quercus (51) P. cembroides (11) Unknown (6) Agavaceae (3) Juniperus (2) Gymnosperm (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 25. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 13. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 594 (459).
TABLE A.29. Site 231. Flotation Only
Quercus (18) Pinus (16) Dicot (14) Agavaceae (4) Monocot (2) Juniperus (2) Populus/Salix (1) Fabaceae (1) Gymnosperm (1) P. cembroides (1)
Quercus (125) Pinus (72) Dicot (32) Agavaceae (7) Juniperus (5) Gymnosperm (5) Monocot (3) P. cembroides (1) Populus/Salix (1) Fabaceae (1)
Pinus (9) Quercus (8) Dicot (7) P. cembroides (4) Fabaceae (3) Agavaceae (3) Juglans (2) Populus/Salix (1) Juniperus (1) Monocot (1) Ring porous (1)
Quercus (68) Pinus (42) Dicot (24) P. cembroides (10) Juglans (6) Ring porous (5) Fabaceae (3) Agavaceae (3) Monocot (2) Populus/Salix (2) Juniperus (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 21. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 11. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 421 (252).
TABLE A.30. Site 242. Flotation Only
Pinus (14) Phragmites (8) Quercus (7) Dicot (3) Juniperus (2) Unknown (1) Populus/Salix (1)
Pinus (204) Phragmites (18) Quercus (16) Dicot (8) Juniperus (3) Populus/Salix (3) Unknown (3)
Pinus (39) Phragmites (15) Quercus (5) Juniperus (2) Juglans (2) Populus/Salix (1) Unknown (1)
Pinus (657) Phragmites (38) Quercus (9) Juniperus (2) Juglans (2) Populus/Salix (1) Unknown (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 15. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 39. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 965 (255).
TABLE A.31. Site 204, Area 1A. Flotation Only
Quercus (26) Pinus (20) Dicot (11) P. cembroides (9) Populus/Salix (5) Juglans (4) Juniperus (3) Monocot (3) Platanus (2) Gymnosperm (2) Unknown (1)
Quercus (255) Pinus (149) P. cembroides (62) Dicot (32) Juniperus (12) Juglans (8) Populus/Salix (7) Platanus (5) Monocot (3) Gymnosperm (3) Unknown (1)
Pinus (9) Quercus (2) P. cembroides (2) Juniperus (2) Populus/Salix (1) Phragmites (1) Unknown (1)
Pinus (151) Juniperus (21) Quercus (17) P. cembroides (6) Unknown (2) Populus/Salix (1) Phragmites (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 31. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 10. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 736 (537).
TABLE A.32. Site 204, Area 1B. Flotation Only
Quercus (19) Pinus (18) Dicot (11) P. cembroides (5) Populus/Salix (5) Platanus (4) Juniperus (4) Monocot (3) Prosopis/Acacia (2) Ulmaceae (1) Ephedra (1) Gymnosperm (1)
Quercus (144) Pinus (87) Dicot (28) Populus/Salix (19) P. cembroides (10) Platanus (10) Juniperus (7) Monocot (3) Prosopis/Acacia (2) Ulmaceae (1) Ephedra (1) Gymnosperm (1)
Pinus (5) Quercus (5) Phragmites (2) Dicot (2) Juniperus (1) P. cembroides (1) Populus/Salix (1) Monocot (1)
Pinus (50) Quercus (49) P. cembroides (8) Juniperus (6) Dicot (3) Populus/Salix (2) Phragmites (2) Monocot (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 23. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 8. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 434 (313).
TABLE A.33. Site 204, Area 2. Flotation Only
Pinus (31) Quercus (30) Dicot (23) Populus/Salix (11) Platanus (8) Monocot (8) Juniperus (7) P. cembroides (7) Agavaceae (3) Atriplex (3) Unknown (3) Phragmites (2) Gymnosperm (2) Prosopis/Acacia (1) Diffuse porous (1)
Pinus (239) Quercus (194) Dicot (68) Populus/Salix (31) Platanus (25) Monocot (18) Juniperus (18) Agavaceae (12) P. cembroides (11) Phragmites (5) Atriplex (3) Unknown (3) Gymnosperm (3) Diffuse porous (2) Prosopis/Acacia (1)
Pinus (11) Quercus (8) Phragmites (3) Agavaceae (2) Dicot (2) Juniperus (1) Populus/Salix (1) P. cembroides (1)
Pinus (160) Quercus (35) Phragmites (3) Agavaceae (2) Dicot (2) Juniperus (1) Populus/Salix (1) P. cembroides (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 48. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 15. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 838 (633).
TABLE A.34. Site 204, Area 3. Flotation Only
Quercus (17) Pinus (12) Dicot (8) Populus/Salix (7) Monocot (4) P. cembroides (4) Platanus (2) Juglans (1) Ephedra (1) Juniperus (1) Fabaceae (1) Unknown (1)
Quercus (126) Pinus (73) Populus/Salix (45) Dicot (25) Monocot (22) Platanus (7) P. cembroides (7) Juglans (3) Ephedra (1) Juniperus (1) Fabaceae (1) Unknown (1)
Pinus (3) P. cembroides (3) Quercus (2) Platanus (1) Populus/Salix (1) Dicot (1)
Pinus (51) Quercus (12) P. cembroides (9) Populus/Salix (4) Dicot (2) Platanus (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 21. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 4. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 391 (312).
TABLE A.35. Site 204, Area 4. Flotation Only
Quercus (15) Pinus (12) Populus/Salix (10) Dicot (7) P. cembroides (6) Monocot (4) Platanus (3) Agavaceae (2) Diffuse porous (2) Juniperus (1) Prosopis/Acacia (1) Fabaceae (1) Semi-ring porous (1) Unknown (1)
Quercus (98) Pinus (49) Populus/Salix (28) Fabaceae (19) Dicot (17) P. cembroides (12) Agavaceae (9) Monocot (9) Diffuse porous (9) Platanus (7) Unknown (3) Prosopis/Acacia (2) Juniperus (1) Semi-ring porous (1)
Quercus (11) Pinus (10) Populus/Salix (5) Dicot (4) Phragmites (2) P. cembroides (2) Agavaceae (1) Fabaceae (1) Monocot (1)
Quercus (90) Pinus (39) Populus/Salix (21) Fabaceae (19) Dicot (7) Phragmites (2) Monocot (2) Agavaceae (1) P. cembroides (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 22. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 14. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 446 (264).
TABLE A.36. Site 204, Mound B. Flotation Only
Quercus (19) Pinus (15) Dicot (12) Populus/Salix (7) Monocot (4) Prosopis/Acacia (3) P. cembroides (2) Juniperus (2) Phragmites (2) Platanus (1)
Quercus (153) Pinus (77) Dicot (32) Populus/Salix (12) P. cembroides (7) Monocot (6) Phragmites (4) Prosopis/Acacia (4) Platanus (3) Juniperus (1)
Pinus (5) P. cembroides (1) Phragmites (1)
Pinus (76) P. cembroides (1) Phragmites (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 23. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 5. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 377 (299).
TABLE A.37. Site 204, Mound C. Flotation Only
Pinus (7) Quercus (3) P. cembroides (1) Phragmites (1) Monocot (1) Dicot (1)
Pinus (52) Quercus (13) Dicot (6) Phragmites (3) P. cembroides (2) Monocot (1)
Pinus (4) P. cembroides (2) Quercus (1)
Pinus (74) P. cembroides (3) Quercus (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 7. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 4. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 158 (77).
TABLE A.38. Site 204, Midden. Flotation Only
Quercus (4) Pinus (4) Agavaceae (1) Dicot (2) Populus/Salix (2) P. cembroides (1)
Quercus (29) Pinus (7) Agavaceae (6) Dicot (5) Populus/Salix (3) P. cembroides (1)
Quercus (31) Dicot (24) Pinus (21) Agavaceae (19) Monocot (12) Prosopis/Acacia (7) Populus/Salix (4) Platanus (2) Juniperus (2) P. cembroides (1) Ulmaceae (1)
Quercus (361) Dicot (58) Pinus (55) Agavaceae (43) Monocot (17) Populus/Salix (9) Prosopis/Acacia (4) Platanus (3) Juniperus (2) P. cembroides (1) Ulmaceae (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 4. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 32. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 605 (51).
TABLE A.39. Site 315, Area A. Flotation Only Ubiquity
Populus/Salix (40) Pinus (37) Quercus (28) Dicot (25) Monocot (20) Ring porous (7) Prosopis/Acacia (6) Semi-ring porous (6) Diffuse porous (4) Phragmites (1) Juniperus (1) Gymnosperm (1) Unknown (1)
Pinus (259) Populus/Salix (227) Quercus (149) Monocot (99) Dicot (69) Ring porous (24) Semi-ring porous (12) Prosopis/Acacia (10) Diffuse porous (7) Phragmites (2) Juniperus (2) Unknown (2) Gymnosperm (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 69. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 0. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 865 (865).
TABLE A.40. Site 315, Area B. Flotation Only Ubiquity
Populus/Salix (38) Monocot (33) Pinus (20) Quercus (20) Dicot (14) Ring porous (5) Prosopis/Acacia (4) Juniperus (3) Unknown (3) P. cembroides (2) Juglans (2) Platanus (1) Phragmites (1) Semi-ring porous (1)
Populus/Salix (223) Monocot (136) Pinus (128) Dicot (62) Quercus (42) Prosopis/Acacia (9) Ring porous (9) Diffuse porous (5) Unknown (5) P. cembroides (4) Juglans (2) Platanus (2) Phragmites (1) Semi-ring porous (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 48. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 0. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 620 (620).
TABLE A.41. Site 315, Area C. Flotation Only Ubiquity
Populus /Salix (7) Pinus (5) Monocot (5) Quercus (4) Prosopis/Acacia (4) Semi-ring porous (2) Dicot (1) Gymnosperm (1) Ring porous (1) Unknown (1)
Pinus (45) Populus/Salix (38) Monocot (19) Quercus (15) Diffuse porous (15) Semi-ring porous (8) Ring porous (2) Dicot (1) Gymnosperm (1) Unknown (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 11. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 0. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 145 (145).
TABLE A.42. Site 315, Area D. Flotation Only Ubiquity
Quercus (12) Populus/Salix (11) Ring porous (8) Pinus (7) Monocot (5) Unknown (4) Prosopis/Acacia (3) Platanus (2) Juniperus (2) Dicot (2) Juglans (1) Atriplex (1) P. cembroides (1) Diffuse porous (1) Gymnosperm (1)
Quercus (69) Pinus (67) Populus/Salix (63) Platanus (20) Juniperus (17) Ring porous (16) Unknown (11) Monocot (9) Juglans (6) Dicot (6) Prosopis/Acacia (4) Diffuse porous (2) P. cembroides (1) Atriplex (1) Gymnosperm (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 20. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 0. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 293 (293).
TABLE A.43. Site 315, Area E. Flotation Only Ubiquity
Pinus (6) Populus/Salix (6) Quercus (2) Dicot (2) Monocot (1) Unknown (1)
Pinus (86) Quercus (20) Populus/Salix (16) Dicot (2) Monocot (1) Unknown (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 7. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 0. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 126 (126).
TABLE A.44. Site 565, Area A. Flotation Only Ubiquity
Pinus (7) Populus/Salix (6) Quercus (3) Diffuse porous (3) Juniperus (2) Monocot (2) Unknown (2) Phragmites (1) Prosopis/Acacia (1) Ulmaceae (1) Ring porous (1)
Pinus (94) Populus/Salix (33) Juniperus (13) Unknown (9) Quercus (8) Prosopis/Acacia (5) Diffuse porous (4) Ring porous (4) Ulmaceae (3) Monocot (2) Phragmites (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 12. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 0. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 163 (163).
TABLE A.45. Site 565, Area B. Flotation Only Ubiquity
Populus/Salix (8) Quercus (4) Prosopis/Acacia (3) Monocot (3) Juglans (2) Pinus (2) Diffuse porous (2) Pinus cembroides (1) Platanus (1) Ring porous (1) Semi-ring porous (1) Unknown (1) Gymnosperm (1)
Populus/ Salix (69) Prosopis/Acacia (17) Quercus (15) Semi-ring porous (15) Monocot (8) Juglans (4) Diffuse porous (3) Pinus (2) Platanus (2) Ring porous (2) Pinus cembroides (1) Unknown (1) Gymnosperm (2)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 8. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 0. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 139 (139).
TABLE A.46. Site 565, Area Z. Flotation Only Ubiquity
Populus/Salix (11) Quercus (6) Pinus (4) Prosopis/Acacia (4) Unknown (4) Monocot (4) Ring porous (3) Diffuse porous (3) Dicot (2) Ulmaceae (1) Atriplex (1) Semi-ring porous (1)
Populus/Salix (75) Monocot (31) Prosopis/Acacia (26) Quercus (23) Unknown (16) Ring porous (6) Diffuse porous (4) Pinus (4) Dicot (3) Ulmaceae (1) Atriplex (1) Semi-ring porous (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 17. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 0. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 191 (191)
TABLE A.47. El Pueblito. Flotation Only
Quercus (7) Pinus (6) Juniperus (1) Phragmites (1) Prosopis/Acacia (1) Gymnosperm (1) Monocot (1) Diffuse porous (1)
Pinus (50) Quercus (19) Juniperus (2) Monocot (2) Gymnosperm (2) Diffuse porous (1) Phragmites (1) Prosopis/Acacia (1)
Pinus (7) Phragmites (2) Quercus (1) Gymnosperm (1) Agavaceae (1)
Pinus (94) Quercus (1) Gymnosperm (1) Agavaceae (1) (Phragmites specimens not counted)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 12. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 10. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 175 (78).
TABLE A.48. Oven at Site 188. Flotation Only
Pinus (1) Quercus (4)
Pinus (35) Quercus (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 1. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 4. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 40 (36).
TABLE A.49. Oven at Site 257. Flotation Only
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 1. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 2. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 38 (13).
TABLE A.50. Oven 317 Flotation Only
Pinus (1) Monocot (1)
Pinus (13) Monocot (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 1. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 4. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 69 (14).
TABLE A.51. Oven 204, Ball Court. Flotation Only Ubiquity
Pinus (6) Monocot (1) Unknown (1)
Pinus (100) Monocot (3) Unknown (2)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 6. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 0. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 105 (105).
TABLE A.52. Oven 204, North. Flotation Only Ubiquity
Quercus (5) Dicot (2) Populus/Salix (2) Pinus (1) Monocot (1)
Quercus (14) Dicot (6) Populus/Salix (3) Pinus (1) Monocot (1)
Notes: Number of flotation samples with wood: 6. Number of non-flotation samples with wood: 0. Total number of identified wood specimens (flotation only): 25 (25).
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agave, 47, 61, 97, 98; from Early vs. Late Medio sites, 40; from lowland sites, 36, 38; from Paquimé, 49, 52; ovens for, 46, 48, 52, 55–56, 106; probably not used for fuel, 82; used for fermented drinks, 50, 56, 106 alcoholic drinks, 50, 56, 106 amaranth, 8, 36, 38, 40, 49, 111, 118: pollen in trincheras, 77; possible domesticated at Cerro Juanaqueña, 8; ubiquity by site location and type, 101. See also chemo-am Amaranthus. See amaranth; cheno-am anthropogenic ecology. See environmental change, anthropogenic Atriplex. See saltbush ball courts, 48, 49, 50, 55, 57 Bandelier, Adolph F., 64, 68–69 barley, little, 36, 38, 42, 106 beans, 36, 38, 40, 49, 58, 60, 63; tepary, 59 beeblossom. See Gaura-type beeweed, 36, 38, 112 Bennett, Wendell, 81 Box Canyon site, 61 Brand, Donald D., 29 Brassicaceae. See mustard family
buckwheat, 38, 112, 113 bugseed, 36, 38, 112 cacao, 41, 106 Calandrinia-type. See rock purslane canals, 30, 64 cane, 85 Capsicum annuum. See chile Cave Valley, 60 Celtis. See elm family/hackberry Cerro Juanaqeña, 7, 8 cerros de trincheras, 7–8 Chaco Canyon, 8, 76 cheno-am, 36, 38, 40, 59, 111; summary by site, 117–27; ubiquity by site location and type, 101 chenopod, 36, 38, 40, 49, 111: pollen in trincheras, 77; summary by site, 117–27, 129; ubiquity by site location and type, 101. See also cheno-am Chenopodium. See cheno-am; chenopod chief (cacique) fields, 74–76, 77, 107 Chihuahua: as archaeological terra incognita, 3–4, 104; lack of continuity between prehispanic and postcolonial inhabitants in, 9; map of northwestern, 4; summary of prehistory of, 7–9. See also Upper Río Casas Grandes area
chile, 36, 38, 41, 43–46, 106 cholla, 52 Clanton Draw, 61 Cleome. See beeweed Collier, George, 94 common reed, 85, 87, 90, 99, 107 Contreras Sánchez, Eduardo, 5 Convento site, 6 Corispermum. See bugseed cotton, 35, 38, 39, 44; farming of, 67; from Joyce Well, 61; from lowland sites, 36, 37; twine, 58 cottonwood/willow, 85, 91, 114; comparison of upland and lowland sites for, 88, 96; comparison of Viejo and Medio sites for, 92, 97, 98; from lowland sites, 86, 87, 95; from special sites, 89, 90 Crotalaria. See rattlebox Cruciferae/Brassicaceae, 77 Cuarenta Casas, 60 Cucurbita. See squash Cueva de la Olla, 68 Cyperaceae, 77 Dasylirion. See sotol devil’s claw, 63 Di Peso, Charles C., 5, 6, 8, 9, 69, 72, 95 Doolittle, William E., 64 Douglas fir, 85 dropseed, 35, 38, 114
Echinocactus, 36, 112 El Alamito (Site 178), 71, 75 Elm family/hackberry, 86, 87, 96, 97 El Pueblito, 12, 17; photo of, 21; propagules from, 49, 101, 127; trincheras near, 72, 75; wood use at, 89, 90, 99 El Zurdo, 58–59, 91–92, 101 environmental change, anthropogenic, 94–95; evidence in Viejo-Medio transition for, 92, 97, 98; not as obvious as expected in Medio period, 107–108; possibility of overexploitation of local wood, 91, 92, 95–100; weed seeds and, 100–102 Eriogonum, 77 ethnobotany: as afterthought in archaeology, 105; thoughts on prehispanic, 21–22. See also flotation analysis Euphorbia. See spurge evening primrose family, 77 Fabaceae, 38 false pennyroyal. See Hedeoma-type farming, floodplain: complications of studying, 63–64; potential near Paquimé of, 65– 67; questions about, 78–79 farming, upland, 67; chief fields, 74–76; domestic fields, 72; farmer interviews about, 78, 79; features, 68–71; field systems, 72; rock pile/mulch features, 71; survey areas, 72– 74; viewed as unpredictable by modern farmers, 78 feasting, 10, 51, 55–56, 106 fermentation, possible ceramic evidence of, 50, 56, 106 Fish, Suzanne K., 29, 77 fishhook cactus, 36, 112 flotation analysis, 10, 17; issue of accidental inclusions in, 35, 105; methodology of, 32–33, 82–83, 109–10; propagule
summary, 116; recovered propagule taxa, 33–35; recovered taxa, 111–14; ubiquity and abundance of propagules, 117– 29; ubiquity and abundance of wood, 131–42; wood summary, 130 food economy, community, 9–10, 108; possible archaeological indicators of, 50–57; possible production of fermented beverages in, 50, 56, 106. See also chief (cacique) fields; ovens food economy, domestic: comparison of Early and Late Medio from Site 204, 39–40; comparison of upland and lowland, 37–39, 106; contrasted with community economy, 9–10; foods not highly spiced, 45–46; in lowland sites, 35–37 Gaura-type, 36, 38, 112, 123–27 Geranium family, 36 goosefoot. See chenopod gourd, 38–39, 49, 60, 61, 113 granaries, 68 grape, 35, 38 grass family, 36, 38, 49, 113 Guarijio, 55 Guevara Sánchez, Arturo, 60, 68 hackberry, 49. See also elm/ hackberry Hedeoma-type, 36, 38, 40, 112, 117, 121, 124, 125 Helianthus. See sunflower Herold, Laurence C., 69 Hohokam, 42, 45, 47, 57, 76 Homburg, Jeffrey A., 77 Hopi, 81 Hordeum pusillum. See barley, little horse purslane, 36, 38, 49, 114 Howard, Jerry B., 57 Ilex vomitoria. See yaupon holly Indian wheat. See plantain Iva. See sumpweed
Joint Casas Grandes Expedition (JGGE), 5–7, 104; failure to systematically collect plant remains, 10, 49; list of plants collected by, 49. See also Paquimé Joyce Well site, 60–61 Juglans microcarpa. See walnut juniper berries/seeds, 38, 58, 60, 102, 105, 118, 120 juniper wood, 85, 87, 88, 89, 90, 97, 98, 131, 132–40; Viejo and Medio compared, 91, 92, 96 Kallstroemia. See summer poppy Kelley, Jane Holden, 68 Labiatae/Lamiaceae, 77 Lagenaria siceraria. See gourd Late Archaic, 7–8. See also Cerro Juanaqueña Leopold. Aldo, 69, 94 Liliaceae, 77 lily, 77 Lister, Robert H., 60 maize, 114; in Animas phase sites, 60–61; cobs as fuel, 32, 82; common in large formal ovens, 53; comparison of Early and Late Medio, 40; comparison of lowland and upland sites, 38–40; differential recovery of parts of, 32; from Paquimé, 49; green possibly cooked in large ovens, 52; in Late Archaic, 8; in lowland sites, 36; as major food source, 41, 62, 105; from PAC sites, 58–59; pollen in trincheras, 77; used for fermented drinks, 50, 56, 106 Márquez-Alameda, Arturo, 78 Medio period, 8; chronology of, 79; comparison of food economy in Early and Late, 39–40; dense occupation of evergreen woodlands in, 27–28; end of, 9; increase of pine use during, 92, 96; no evidence of strong
relationship with Hohokam during, 57; PAC flotation samples from, 59; plant remains from cliff/cave dwellings in, 60; possible environmental impacts in, 91–92, 95–103, 108; subsistence regime of, 105. See also individual site names/ numbers mesquite/acacia wood, 87, 88–89, 90, 97, 98 mesquite seeds, 36, 38, 40, 49, 61, 114 Mentzelia. See stickleaf Mesoamerica: most important relationship represented by maize, beans, and squash, not shell or copper, 104 metates, 50, 51 Mimbres, 61, 79 mint, 77 mustard family, 36, 38, 45, 77, 111 nightshade family, 36, 38, 40, 77 oak acorns, 36, 38, 39, 105, 114; oak wood, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 96, 97, 98: in earth ovens, 90, 141, 142; flotation samples with, 131–42; valued as firewood, 91 Obregón, Baltasar de, 3, 10, 23 Onagraceae. See evening primrose family. O’odham, 74 Opuntia. See prickly pear Otomi, 82 ovens: agave/stool remains in, 52; characteristics of sites with, 56–57; comparison of Site 204 with Unit 1 at Paquimé, 92; comparison of Unit 1 and Unit 9 ovens at Paquimé, 51–52, 53; explanation for lack of evidence of cooked material in, 54–55; Hohokam, 57; plant taxa from, 53; probably related to community feasting, 10, 51, 55, 56, 106; quantity of agave cooked in, 55–56; Unit 1 ovens
at Paquimé, 46, 56, 91; Unit 9 oven at Paquimé, 53, 55, 57, 106; wood from, 55, 85, 90, 141–42 Panicum fasciculatum, 49 Papaveraceae. See poppy family Paquimé: as complex polity, 11; end of, 9; established by Chaco refugees, 8, 104; Mexican identity and, 22; microfossils on teeth from, 56; photos before and after excavation, 6, 7; plant remains from, 49; population of, 80–81; scale of influence of, 53; as trading center, 6, 8, 104; trincheras near, 72; well-made metates from, 50, 51; wood from, 83–85. See also food economy, community; ovens; Upper Río Casas Grandes parsley, 77 Pendleton Ruin, 60 Pérez de Ribas, Andrés, 74 Phaseolus. See bean Phragmites. See common reed pigweed. See amaranth pine, 97, 98; in flotation samples, 131–42; increased use may be related to overexploitation of local woods, 92, 96; logistics of acquiring, 93; from lowland sites, 87, 88, 89; in ovens, 55, 85, 90–91, 92, 141–42; from Paquimé, 26, 83–85, 89; pollen, 29; preference for in community economy, 91; from specialized sites, 89, 90; from upland sites, 88, 89; use for fuel hard to understand, 107. See also piñon piñon pine, 38, 49, 58, 85, 97, 98 Pinus cembroides. See piñon pine Plantago. See plantain plantain, 36, 38, 77 Platanus. See sycamore Poaceae. See grass family pollen analysis, 29, 77–78 Polygonum. See buckwheat
poppy family, 36, 38, 113 Populus. See cottonwood/willow Portulaca. See purslane prickly pear, 36, 38, 40, 49, 56, 60, 113 Proboscidea parviflora. See devil’s claw Prosopis. See mesquite/acacia wood; mesquite seeds Proyecto Arqueológico Chihuahua (PAC), 58–59, 62, 91–92, 96, 101–102, 108 purslane, 36, 38, 40, 49, 59, 77, 101, 114 Quercus. See oak rattlebox, 35, 38, 112 Río Piedras Verdes, 26 rock purslane, 49, 111 Romney, Thomas Cottam, 64 saltbush, 36, 38, 49 Sandor, Jonathan A., 77 sedge, 77 Site 178, 71, 75 Site 188 (oven), 90, 116, 128, 130, 141 Site 204, 12, 74; common reed from, 99; comparison of propagules from Early and Late Medio from, 39–40; comparison of wood from Early and Late Medio at, 96–98, 100; food economy of compared with lowland site, 37–39; map and aerial view of, 15; ovens at, 48, 90–91, 141–42; propagules from, 118–23; sherds with pitting from, 50, 56; weedy taxa from, 101; wood from, 88, 89, 90, 96, 130, 133–36 Site 231, 12, 14, 33, 39, 87, 96, 101, 116, 117; wood from, 130, 131 Site 239 (oven), 116, 128 Site 242, 12; common reed from, 99, 107; ditch to, 71; large terraced fields at, 50, 75–76; map and aerial view of, 16; propagules from, 49, 116, 118;
Site 242 (continued) ritual features at, 50; sherds with pitting from, 50, 100; had special administrative or ritual role, 33, 56–57; weedy seeds at, 100, 101; wood from, 89–90, 96, 130, 132 Site 257 (oven), 90, 116, 128, 130, 141 Site 315, 12; cacao or yaupon holly from, 41, 106; chile from, 43– 45, 106; common reed from, 99; little barley from, 42, 106; propagules at, 116, 123–26; propagule ubiquity at compared with Site 565, 36–37; propagule ubiquity at compared with Site 204, 37– 39; weeds from, 100, 101; wood from, 83, 86, 87, 88, 89, 96, 130, 136–38 Site 317, 12; lack of riparian wood at, 96, 99; map and aerial view of, 13; oven at, 90, 101, 116, 117, 128, 130, 141; propagules from, 116, 117, 128; weeds from, 101; wood from, 90, 130, 131 Site 565, 12; chile from, 43, 44–45; common reed from, 99; map and photo of, 20; propagules from, 126–27; propagule ubiquity compared with Site 315, 36; weeds from, 101; wood from, 86, 87, 88, 89 Snaketown, 57 soil analysis, 77 Solanaceae. See nightshade family sotol, 52, 54
Sporobolus. See dropseed spurge, 35, 36, 112 squash, 36, 38, 49, 59, 60, 112 stickleaf, 38, 113 summer poppy, 38, 113 sumpweed, 38, 49, 113 sunflower, 36, 38, 112 sycamore, 87, 88, 96, 97, 98, 113 Tarahumara, 81 tepary beans, 59, 63 Theobroma cacao. See cacao Tidestromia, 29 Trianthema. See horse purslane trincheras, 69–72, 74 Ulmaceae/Celtis. See elm/ hackberry Umbelliferae/Apiaceae, 78 Upper Río Casas Grandes area: climate, 24–25; environmental history, 29–30; farming potential of, 64; floodplain of near Paquimé, 65, 66, 67; may have been resilient to environmental fluctuations, 79; photo of, 65; river valleys, 23–24; vegetation and biotic communities, 23, 24–29 Verbena. See vervain vervain, 38, 114 Viejo period, 8; flotation samples from, 58–59; microfossils from teeth of, 56; weeds from, 101; wood from, 91–92, 96 Vitis. See grape
walnut, 60, 61, 86, 92, 113; from lowland sites, 87, 88, 96; from Paquimé, 49; from upland sites, 88, 96 weeds: difficult to evaluate economic role of, 105; ubiquity and farming intensity of, 59; ubiquity difference between upland and floodplain sites of, 100–102. See also names of individual weeds Western Apache, 55, 56 Whiting, Alfred E., 81 wild buckwheat, 77 wood: comparison between upland and lowland sites, 86–87, 88, 89; counts by site, 131–42; interpretive framework for, 82–83; from lowland sites, 86, 87; monocot used as term for, 86; in ovens, 55, 85, 90, 141–42; overexploitation of local, 91, 92, 95–100, 102; from Paquimé, 83–85; preferences, 81; summary counts of, 130; ubiquity of riparian, 96; use and site setting, 86; used for domestic fuel, 80–81; used in community economy, 89–91; ways of moving, 93. See also names of individual woods yaupon holly, 41, 106 Zea mays. See maize Zingg, Robert, 81
About the Authors
Paul E. Minnis (PhD, University of Michigan) is a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. He conducts research on the prehispanic ethnobotany and archaeology of the northwest Mexico and the U.S. Southwest. He has published on Paquimé and its regional setting since 1984 and co-directed research projects on Casas Grandes/Paquimé in northwest Chihuahua beginning in 1989. He is the author or editor of 14 books and numerous articles. He was president of the Society of Ethnobiology, treasurer and press editor for the Society for American Archaeology, and co-founder of the Southwest Symposium. Michael E. Whalen (PhD, University of Michigan) is a professor emeritus in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tulsa. His research interests include complex societies, processes of sociocultural evolution, prehistoric social structure, and ceramic analysis. Before coming to the Casas Grandes area in 1989, he worked in southern Mesoamerica and in the U.S. Southwest. He has published a series of books, monographs, chapters, and journal articles on Oaxaca, western Texas, and northwestern Chihuahua. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society.