The stories of the Ancestral Puebloans are still told by their descendants in their native tongues. But it wouldn't be understandable to the ancestors because of the passage of time. Languages are living, evolving things. People and their clans migrate. Intermarriage happens. Among the Rio Grande Pueblos, the pueblo a couple miles downstream might speak a very different language, based on where their forefathers might have migrated from so many hundred years ago.
Today, we trace the evolution of the Puebloans through their migrations: pottery styles, decorations, clan symbols, translations from oral histories and archaeological findings. I find the migration stories really interesting, especially how they are usually supported by following the migration of designs on wall murals, pottery and textiles.
So the question on my end is: How far back do I go? In this section of Eyesofthepot, I've so far opted to go back about 9,000 years, to the roots of the Picosa culture. Should I later decide to get more into the Clovis culture, that would take me back to about 14,000 years ago. But the further back I go, the less there is to work with.
Then again, there were two large migration movements into the Four Corners area about 2,000 years ago. One came from the east and north, the other from the south and west. These seem to have been important migration events.
The folks who came from the east and north were Shoshonean stock and they first settled in the forests and mountains east of Mesa Verde between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago.
The folks who came from the south and west started coming north about 2,000 years ago from MesoAmerica and the Hohokam lands in what is now southern Arizona. Most of them settled into the area south and east of the Colorado River, what we might now refer to as "Kayenta-Tusayan." Many of the ruins found in the Grand Gulch and Cedar Mesa areas in Utah are from them.
Some of those folks from the south went to the area east of the San Francisco Peaks for several hundred years, then left around 1060 CE when Sunset Crater erupted. Many of them went south to pueblos just above and below the Mogollon Rim for the next hundred years or so. Then they returned and rebuilt pueblos at Wupatki and Wukoki to take advantage of the renewed soil, until the Great Drought ended that in the late 1200's.
The Utes are a branch of the Paiutes, a Shoshonean tribe scattered across the InterMountain West. The Comanches are another Shoshonean tribe of the southern Plains. As the Ancestral Puebloans abandoned areas in the forests and mountains of southern Colorado, the Utes and Comanches flowed in from the west and from the east. Then somewhere around 1400 CE (give or take 50 years), the Athabascan Apaches and Navajos showed up, coming from the north.
The Athabascans had migrated down the eastern flanks of the Rocky Mountains to eastern Colorado where they met up with the Comanches. There, the less-warlike of the Athabascans turned and headed west over the mountains and settled in to the nearly empty Four Corners area. Eventually they were named "Navajo" by the Spanish, in honor of their ability to steal sheep. The Athabascans who stayed east of the mountains were slowly pushed south around the southern end of the Puebloan settlements to where they could finally go west and get away from the Comanches on the east.
That got easier after the first Spanish expeditions came through as the spread of European diseases wiped out whole communities and depopulated the countryside of southern New Mexico between 1540 and 1780. The further south the Apache tribes moved, the fewer native people they found to oppose them. By the early 1700's they had occupied a large part of eastern and southern New Mexico and southern and eastern Arizona. By the early 1800's, the Apaches and Navajos had almost completely encircled the Puebloans.
The "Picosa Culture" is an encapsulation of three separate instances of similar lifestyles, housing and burial practices spread across the Southwestern states and northern Mexico. These three instances: Pinto Basin (Pi), Cochise Tradition (co), and San Pedro (sa), make up the word "Picosa."
Pinto Basin seems to be incorporated within the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. If that's the correct Pinto Basin, that would indicate the model includes projectile points found at a Pinto Culture site in the central Mojave Desert dated to be between 4,000 and 8,000 years old. The older the actual time frame, the wetter the local climate. Artifacts found indicate that these were most likely from a Paiute offshoot of Shoshonean ancestry, possibly precursors of today's Chemehuevi people.
The Cochise Tradition is tied to the area of now-dry Lake Cochise, in the Willcox Playa of southern Arizona. The Tradition lasted from about 7,000 years ago to about 2,200 years ago. Archaeologists have broken the Tradition further into three phases, based on discernable changes in projectile point and food processing technology: the Sulphur Spring (7,000 to 5,500 years ago), the Chiricahua (5,500 to 3,500 years ago) and the San Pedro (3,500 to 2,200 years ago).
The San Pedro area is in the San Pedro River basin of southern Arizona. Indications are that the first settlers in the area were infused with migrants headed north from central and/or southern Mexico. This is the area where ceramics first appeared in western North America.
The following sequence of events, first proposed by archaeologist Cynthia Irwin-Williams, defines no fewer than six phases of occupation of Ancient Puebloan sites in the Four Corners area, each identified by projectile point forms and other less well defined artifacts. These, more northern incarnations of the Picosa culture are encapsulated in the Oshara Tradition.