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Reading 1: Village Life
The earliest people to settle in the area of Gran Quivira likely came from--or were influenced by--the Mogollon (muggy-own) culture that occupied much of the land to the west and south. As the Mogollon prospered, they extended out from their original lands. They obtained much of their food from small-game hunting and gathering roots, seeds, berries, and insects. Evidence from archaeological studies tells us that the people had a sophisticated and varied diet. Bones from antelope, deer, and rabbit indicate the villagers hunted successfully. Numerous bison bones show that either they occasionally hunted big game on the Great Plains or they traded for it with the Plains Indians. The ruins also show that the villagers ate a variety of small-eared corn and that they used salt, which was gathered from the salt lakes to the north.
Archeologists believe the first Mogollon-style houses found in the Gran Quivira area date from about A.D. 600. The people made simple pithouses by digging a shallow hollow in the ground and covering it with a domed framework of branches and mud. A hearth near the center of the pithouse kept residents warm. Because the houses were very small, cooking and most other activities usually took place outside. As time passed, the Mogollon people improved the pithouses by using a framework of posts and timbers to support the roof. Many houses had a cutout doorway that led through a small room to the main room. The entry had no door to close and lock because the people had no metal tools or knowledge of metal fasteners. In the later, more strongly-built pithouses, residents entered by climbing a ladder to the roof and then crawling down a second ladder that emerged through a hatchway in the roof. If homeowners feared an intruder, they simply pulled the ladders through the hatchway into the house, leaving the trespasser without means of entering.
Substantial Mogollon villages flourished in the Salinas basin by the 10th century. However, influences from the north became evident by about 1150. The Anasazi culture spread from the Four Corners area (where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet), influencing and perhaps intermarrying with the population at Gran Quivira. The pottery made by the people at Gran Quivira began to change from the simple brownware of the Mogollon to the intricately painted type used by the Anasazi. A new type of housing called jacales (hah-CALLS) also began to appear. Jacales featured walls of wooden posts and adobe or wattle-and-daub (woven twigs plastered with clay). The placement of upright stone slabs separated the space into as many as 10 rooms. Villages consisted of up to 50 such houses.
By 1300 jacales had evolved into large, multistory stone complexes, some with hundreds of small rooms, surrounding plazas. Residents used the rooms for sleeping, for storing food and clothing, and for protection from bad weather. They performed daily activities on the roofs and in the plazas. Women cooked and made pottery, children played or helped with chores, and men fashioned tools and weapons. Underground ceremonial structures, called kivas, dotted the village plazas. Everyone became a member of one of the pueblo's kiva societies, and each society took charge of particular religious ceremonies important to the well being of the tribe. Members performed these sacred ceremonies and rituals in kivas. They also used kivas to carry out initiation rights and to instruct the young. Typically, kivas had flat timber roofs supported by posts set in the floor and wall. An opening in the roof provided access by ladder and served as a smoke hole for the fire pit in the floor. Some archaeologists believe the design of the kiva evolved from the early pithouses.
More changes to the pueblo occurred during the 16th century, including the construction of new rectangular room blocks on top of the old structures and the introduction of a new pottery style known as Tabira Black-on-White. A change in burial practices occurred when the people of Gran Quivira began to practice cremation in addition to traditional burial. Despite these changes, many old cultural practices continued.
During its heyday from about A.D. 1000 to the 1600s, Gran Quivira and the nearby villages of Abó and Quarai became major regional centers for trade with people from Mexico, the Plains, and the Pacific Coast. The Puebloans exported salt, pottery, corn, cotton, and piñon nuts. In return, they received bison meat and hides from the Great Plains, freshwater shells and flint from the panhandle of Texas, macaw feathers from southern Mexico, and alabaster shells from the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Coast. This bustling trade center reached its peak by the early 17th century.
Questions for Reading 1
1. Who were the first settlers of Gran Quivira?
2. How did they build their houses at first? What do those houses indicate about the technology of the time?
3. What changes took place when the Anasazi culture came to the region?
4. What is a kiva and how was it used?
5. Why do you think trading with other Indian groups was important to the Puebloans?
Reading 1 was compiled from Dan Murphy, Salinas Pueblo Missions (Tucson, Ariz: Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, 1993); and the text of an exhibit at the Gran Quivira Museum, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, prepared on September 25, 1985.