Utah Basketmaker culture

The people of the Basketmaker culture complex were short in stature and slender in build, with rather delicate features and long narrow heads. The end of the Basketmaker periods saw the intrusion of a new physical type, a group with short, broad heads, artificially flattened behind. These newcomers, the Pueblo people, in time impressed their physical type upon the later cultures of southern Utah. They filtered into the Basketmaker territory in ever-increasing numbers until the older, long-headed strain ceased to exist. About the time of this amalgamation the bow and arrow and grooved axe came into use. Cotton (for woven clothing) and several new varieties of corn were introduced. The turkey was domesticated; turkey skin, cut into strips, was woven into robes. Pottery technique improved in style and execution. In addition to plain and black-on-white vessels, jars were made in a manner that gave a banded appearance to the neck of the finished product. The semi-subterranean dwelling had shallow pits with freestanding walls of pole and adobe construction. There is little evidence of this period in Utah. It is known as Pueblo I or Developmental Pueblo. It is best represented in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, and probably dated from about 800 to 900 A.D., or a little later in southern Utah.

Intensive cultivation of corn, beans, and squash provided food in such vast amounts that the Pueblo people were able to build substantial permanent villages. They developed flat-roofed masonry houses containing several contiguous rooms, some of which were used for living quarters, while others provided storage space. They were usually laid out in the form of a rectangle partially enclosed. A central court containing a semi-subterranean room that preserved certain features of the old Basketmaker houses was the prototype of the modern Pueblo ceremonial chamber or kiva (assembly chamber built under or in the Pueblo houses and used for religious purposes). Pottery was made with black designs on a true white or red background. Cooking vessels were made with corrugated surfaces; structural coils of clay were pinched at intervals and not afterwards smoothed over. Crops were cultivated with simple agricultural tools, among which the digging stick was still the most important. This period, dating from about 900 to 1000 A.D., known as Pueblo II, is strongly represented in southern Utah. A general absence of Pueblo I indicates that the characteristic traits of this period were established in northern Arizona and later spread to southern Utah.

Somewhere around 1000 to 1100 A.D. there was a tendency on the part of dwellers in the small masonry houses of the San Juan valley to gather in large terraced pueblos of three or four stories. The dawn of the period known as Pueblo III or Great Pueblo produced large cliff dwellings similar to Mesa Verde's Cliff Palace in Colorado, great valley pueblos such as Pueblo Bonito in New Mexico, and large open-air villages in southeastern Utah. This concentration generated great cultural advances and specializations. Pottery was improved, each center producing a particular type. Fields were tilled, often at a distance from dwellings.

These Indian towns reached a cultural level unsurpassed at any other period in their history, and then, for some unaccountable reason (perhaps the increased pressure of nomadic peoples), were gradually abandoned. First the northern centers and later those of the South were deserted until by the end of Pueblo III, about 1300 A.D., the villages in the San Juan Valley and Utah in general were abandoned. The culture continued in other parts of "the Southwest and passed through two subsequent periods: Pueblo IV or Regressive Pueblo, extending from 1300 to 1700 A.D.; and Pueblo V or Historic Pueblo, extending from 1700 A.D. to the present. The modern descendants of these people can be seen today at the Hopi towns in Arizona and Zuñi, Acomá, and the Rio Grande pueblos of New Mexico. It is possible to date these periods with some degree of exactness through study of the annual rings in timbers found within the ruins.

During the development of the Basketmaker-Pueblo sequence in southern Utah and adjoining States the larger part of Utah was inhabited by groups that lived in the northern hinterland of the progressive and comparatively highly cultured southern areas; from these they received their greatest stimulus. Since Basketmaker times cultural infiltrations have been diffused through central and northern Utah from the south. Certain ideas were more popular than others and moved more rapidly, producing strange combinations of comparatively recent traits practiced side by side with others that had been long discontinued in the focal area. This amalgamation of chronologically distinct southern traits, together with new adaptations and local inventions, produced a culture in Utah that can only be understood in terms of the Basketmaker-Pueblo sequence to the south.

The area in eastern Utah between the mouth of the San Juan River and the Uintah Basin acquired a culture that was basically Basketmaker but had such Pueblo ideas as the bow and arrow; at first, the people built shallow-pit lodges with pole and adobe roofs and a little later erected stone houses with free-standing walls. Cliff structures are common in this area, consisting mostly of small buildings on high ledges. Some are dwellings, while others are so small that they have given rise to the idea that they were inhabited by pygmies. Actually they were used as granaries. Truncated pyramidal pole and adobe structures have been found perched on high and narrow pinnacles many hundreds of feet above the valley floors. Similar dwellings are found near agricultural lands in the canyon bottoms, and slab-lined storage cists occur frequently.

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