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Man in the San Juan Valley

THE PUEBLOS. (continued) Changes in pottery styles, and especially in decoration, are very marked during this period. Although plain gray ware was still made, pottery with black designs on a white background shows up in great quantities. In the western part of the San Juan area, painted pottery with a pinkish-orange background and red designs makes its first appearance; examples of this type show up as trade pieces in eastern San Juan sites. The differences between culinary and nonculinary wares become more marked. The former are usually corrugated vessels, formed by pinching or indenting the clay coils while they were still plastic and before the pot was fired. Later in the period, this type of corrugation became quite decorative in itself and some of the better cooking ware aesthetically rivals the painted wares.

There was a greater variety of vessel forms and painted designs. For example, designs were no longer confined to the interiors of the bowls, but were also painted on the exteriors and upon a great variety of vessel forms. Many of these designs still seem to be derived from those inherent in basketry, others may have been taken from textile designs, and still others originated especially for use on pottery vessels. Principal design elements seem to have been parallel lines—sometimes straight, sometimes stepped or wavy—zigzags, triangles, checkerboards, and interlocking frets. In the latter part of the period, these elements became broader and heavier and were rendered with greater assurance. A slip or wash of very fine clay was now smeared on the vessel before firing to give it a smooth finish.

Burials were generally in refuse heaps, abandoned storage pits and rooms, or beneath the floors of houses. Infants and small children were frequently buried beneath the floors of houses, as though the parents either desired to keep them around as long as possible, or believed that the soul of the dead child would return with the birth of the next one if the body were close by. Grave offerings consist mainly of pottery, but we may be sure that various perishable objects also accompanied the dead; however, conditions for preservation are so poor in these open sites that most traces of perishable materials have long since disappeared.

In a few areas there are rather puzzling features about some of the burials. For example, along the La Plata drainage there are too few burials to account for the rather large population that must have lived there. Diligent searching has failed to reveal how the La Plata people disposed of most of their dead. In other places skull burials are found—without any bodies—and sometimes bodies are found without any skulls. Perhaps some of these people practiced taking trophy heads of warriors killed in combat or ambush. Now and then burials are found with an arrow embedded in the body, or with scrape marks on the skull which indicate that a person had been scalped, or with the skull smashed in, as though by a stone ax.

While open-armed warfare, as we know it today, was unfamiliar to the Pueblo Indians, life may not have always been calm and peaceful. Raiding or ambush parties, economic strife, the strains of increasing population, arguments over land and water rights, all may have contributed to making life uncertain during this period. And difficulties of a slightly different sort are shown in skeletons from Alkali Ridge in southwestern Utah, which show marked signs of malnutrition and diseases.

This was evidently a period of growth, development, transition and some struggle. As in other periods, it is difficult to place sharp lines of demarcation between the Pueblo Period and the earlier Basketmaker and between it and the later Great Pueblo Period. In all of the San Juan Basin, at any given moment, examples could be found of both old and new trends. Even in adjacent areas, there was no uniformity of cultural development. But by the end of this period, in one area or another, all the basic Pueblo traits were established. All that remained was for certain of these areas to become specialized along different lines, to become cultural "centers," diffusing their ideas to neighboring groups, and in turn absorbing ideas from them. Throughout the San Juan Basin, the people were physically much alike; their language may well have been the same, or closely related, and there were probably free movements of people between towns and even between the more isolated groups and the larger centers of activity.

It is doubtful if any group was completely isolated. Intermarriage must have been common. Whole family and clan groups may have left one village and joined another, sometimes only a short distance away, sometimes far away. It would be almost impossible to trace such minor shifts in population; large-scale mass migrations might leave their imprint on the archeological record, but such evidence does not seem to exist, and it is doubtful if any mass movements of people occurred at this time.

At the close of this period, what were conditions in the lower Animas Valley, especially in the immediate vicinity of what is now the Aztec Ruins? Was there a small, early-type Developmental Pueblo Village at this particular spot? Or possibly a large "unit house" type structure? Lack of knowledge about the Animas Valley precludes a definite answer, and early excavations at Aztec Ruins were largely confined to the main ruins themselves. In most places the digging did not penetrate to what may have been the underlying and earlier remains. In a few places beneath the great ruins, where the excavations went deep enough and where the later building of the great pueblo had not eradicated them, there seem to be indications that there were kivas of an earlier type, and possibly a few scattered aboveground dwellings. An early-type Developmental Pueblo village may have stood at this same spot.

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