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Corrugated cooking pot
Corrugated cooking pot.
Diameter at mouth, 11-1/2"; Maximum diameter, 16-1/3"; Height, 16".

Man in the San Juan Valley

THE PUEBLOS. The second broad period in the history of the San Juan area is that in which the Indians built communal dwellings called pueblos. These were stone and adobe structures, sometimes multistoried, facing a central plaza which contained one or more kivas. Very similar structures and village plans can be seen in a number of the existing pueblos of the Rio Grande today, notably Taos, Santo Domingo, and San Ildefonso.

Over the previous centuries the inhabitants of the San Juan Basin, and especially the Animas Valley, had gradually developed a different way of life from that of the early Basketmakers. Certainly, they still grew corn, beans, and squash; still hunted and snared game; still grew old, died, and were buried. But in addition to having some of the better material things in life such as pottery and the bow and arrow, they now placed a greater emphasis upon agriculture; hunting and seed gathering were secondary sources of food. In the spring, the corn seeds were carefully planted, watched over, watered, and cared for. As the plants matured, the men and young boys spent more time in the fields. During the day it was necessary to drive off the squirrels and birds; at night the green tender plants must be protected from the deer, rabbits, and nocturnal rodents. Water in this semiarid land had to be carefully managed, whether flood irrigation or planned canal irrigation was used. If all these factors were not judiciously controlled, there would be no crop. The forces of nature seemed increasingly important; too much sun could be as disastrous as too much water. Ceremonies were devised to propitiate the spirits and the gods, who, to the Indians resided in all aspects of nature. More time was devoted to seasonal religious activities, and great care was taken to educate the young in the proper performance of the ceremonies so they, too, might continue to prosper and live in harmony with nature.

Cotton was probably introduced at about the beginning of the Pueblo period, along with loom weaving. This allowed the making of true cloth, suitable for blankets, poncho-like shirts, sashes, wrap-around skirts, and other necessary items. One other important change at this time affected physical appearance. The soft cradle of the Basketmakers was replaced by the hard cradleboard of the Pueblos. Since the infant usually was bound securely upon his back in the cradle and was unable to roll around, the pressure of the hard board, instead of the softer cradle, caused the back of its head to become flattened, thus giving the whole head a much broader and rounder appearance. This skull flattening in no way affected the mentality of the child, but it must have been obvious to the parents what was causing it. Through continued use of the cradleboard, skull flattening must quickly have become a mark of distinction and charm and, in a few generations, it must have become the traditional head shape of the Pueblo Indians.

Dogs and turkeys were still the only domesticated animals, the turkeys probably kept as much for their feathers (and thus periodically plucked) as for their food value. Burials of both dogs and turkeys occur, indicating they were evidently regarded as more than mere food. Bones from the refuse piles indicate the people hunted—or acquired by trade—bear, elk, bison, wolf, mountain sheep, deer, and rabbits.

There was no sharp break between this period and the preceding Basketmaker. The Indians themselves did not know when they left one period and embarked upon the next. Actually, such "periods" are the classification devices of the archeologists, who need names to apply to the times at which different cultural and evolutionary changes occur. In retrospect, the archeologist can see certain important changes which began to take place about A.D. 750. Liking to classify and categorize the remains they study, archeologists first divided this broad Pueblo period into five substages labeled Pueblo I, II, III, IV, and V. Later, the first two substages were grouped together as the Developmental Pueblo Period, the third was called the Great Pueblo Period, the fourth became known as the Regressive Pueblo Period, and the last as the Historic Pueblo Period. These terms are more meaningful and will be used hereafter. The last two do not concern us, for at the end of the Great Pueblo Period, seemingly at the time of the well-known drought (A.D. 1276-99), most of the pueblo-dwelling peoples left the San Juan area, never to return.

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