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Mogollon Culture of Southwestern US

The Mogollon Culture flourished in the valleys, mountains, and plateaus of central Arizona, south and central New Mexico, the western portion of Texas, and into the borders of the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua. This occurred during the 1st century AD according to the Biblical Timeline Poster with World History. The distinctive culture was named after the Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico, which in turn was named after the former governor of New Mexico, Don Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon, who governed in 1712 to 1715.

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It was one of the major cultures in the southwestern part of the US, after the ancestral Pueblo and Hohokam cultures. There are several branches of the Mogollon culture which include the Mimbres, Reserve, Jornada, Point of Pines, Forestdale, and the San Simon. They developed from the ancient Cochise and were divided into Early Pithouse, Late Pithouse, and Mogollon Pueblo periods by the leading Mogollon archaeologist Emil Haury.

These ancient people initially were hunter-gatherers, but they switched to farming and the sedentary lifestyle after the arrival of maize (corn), squash, and beans. The Mogollon culture was known for its extensive irrigation system in the area with the use of ditches that they dug and directed to water their fields.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

During the Early Pithouse Period, the people built circular or sometimes shapeless pithouses in the highlands which were clustered in small groups in a village. Their ceramics were formed through the coil-and-scrape (or pinch) method and were initially used without paint. These ceramics became more colorful in the Late Pithouse Period; red paint on brown background came first, followed by white-on-red, and then black-on-white pigments. They also shifted their pithouses from the upland area to terraces well beyond the river floodplains. The pithouses now took on a rectangular shape and villages became larger with houses clustered around a larger ceremonial pit called kiva.

The pithouses and the fields were moved down to the valleys of the region during the Mogollon Pueblo Period, and the dwellings resembled the ones constructed by the ancestral Pueblo people. Some time later, the people preferred to carve out cliff dwelling as shown by the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The ceramics during this period were painted with a distinct black-on-white pigment which later evolved into many colors.

Diehl, Michael William., Steven A. LeBlanc, Roger Anyon, John W. Arthur, and Paul E. Minnis. Early Pithouse Villages of the Mimbres Valley and Beyond: The McAnally and Thompson Sites in Their Cultural and Ecological Contexts. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 2001
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