Archaeology and Prehistory of Northwest Mexico:
A "Rough Essay"

David Phillips

Northeast Chihuahua

Years ago, Donald Lehmer (1948) identified Northeast Chihuahua ( Figure 2) as part of the Jornada Mogollon area. Nonetheless, the Villa Ahumada area was usually seen as an integral part of the Casas Grandes area. Recent excavations at the Loma de Moctezuma mound, at the town of Villa Ahumada, have revised our sense of the supposed eastern periphery of the Casas Grandes world (Cruz A. and Maxwell 1999; Cruz A. et al. 2004; Maxwell 2006; Maxwell and Cruz A. 2003). Casas Grandes sherds were less common than Jornada Mogollon types, and Maxwell (2006) sides with Lehmer in calling Villa Ahumada a Jornada Mogollon settlement.

If the Villa Ahumada area sites are Jornada Mogollon sites, not Casas Grandes sites, our assumptions about the Jornada Mogollon must change. For years we have assumed that a mobile, seasonal lifeway was the norm, and that the Jornada pueblos of westernmost Texas (such as Firecracker Pueblo) indicated that Jornada village life was seasonal or short-lived or both. The Villa Ahumada sites instead indicate that the Jornada Mogollon culture included a range of adaptations from the highly sedentary (at the southwest end of the Jornada range) to the highly nomadic (at the east end of the range). A similar local variability in settlement patterns is aready assumed for the Junta de los Rios area of Southeast Chihuahua.

We must also continue to ponder the relationship between the Medio period of the Casas Grandes culture and the El Paso phase of the Jornada Mogollon (C. Schaafsma 1979), between A.D. 1200 and 1450. The large amounts of El Paso Polychrome in northern Casas Grandes sites, and of Casas Grandes pottery traded the other way, suggest that exchanges between the two areas were routine. There are also clear overlaps in religious iconography, as is seen, for example, in the rock art at Hueco Tanks, Texas. Nonetheless, the discovery of large amounts of turquoise at Villa Ahumada suggests that the main southward flow of turquoise from New Mexico toward frontier Mesoamerica bypassed Paquimé. If the El Paso phase Jornada Mogollon were subordinates of Medio period Casas Grandes, this bypassing of the main Casas sites would not have happened.

In the El Paso area, the Jornada Mogollon became or gave way to the Mansos [Beckett and Corbett 1992]. Archaeologists are only now learning how to identify Manso sites [Wheaton and Reed 2009].

Link: Firecracker Pueblo and the Jornada Mogollon (Texas Beyond History web site).

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Last revised September 6, 2009.
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