Land, Water, and Religion during the Gila River Millennium (A.D. 450–1450)
In 2017, Archaeology Southwest is beginning a new five-year investigation, which builds on the methods and themes of our Salado Impact investigation, and expands the temporal and geographic focus substantially.
Social Identity is often a flashpoint issue today. Large-scale migration often leads to conflict, as social identities that contrast in fundamental ways are brought into contact. In the Southwest, the accumulation of data and development of new theoretical perspectives suggest that the Gila River watershed is an ideal location to study changing social identity over the millennium of village-focused life in the southern Southwest from 450 to 1450. By considering the spread of religious ideologies and the nature of social movements and building a greatly expanded Heritage Southwest database, we should achieve major new insights into the rise and demise of large-scale ideologies that had widespread impacts in the past. This work also has relevance today.
Over the course of a millennium, the central portion of the Gila River Basin saw the emergence of sedentary village life based primarily on an agricultural economy, followed by the rise and demise of three major regional-scale ideologies—the Hohokam Ballcourt World, the Hohokam Platform Mound World, and the Salado World. To the east, the slightly less extensive Mimbres World and Tularosa World also rose and fell. And to the west, a poorly understood Patayan World is discernible. (We use the term “world” to signify multi-cultural and multi-linguistic participation in a common religion or cosmology during intervals of great social inclusiveness. These inclusive social identities disappeared when associated ideologies collapsed, resulting in intervals where local processes and trajectories prevailed.)
The central question to be pursued through multiple cases is: how did a regional ideology emerge, how did it spread, and why did it ultimately decline? We seek to develop a general model, or models, of the role of regional ideology in these ancient social systems along the Gila River.