Episode 16: Basket Maker Culture

Ancient Civilizations of North America

Dr Edwin Barnhart (2018)

Film Review

In the Southwest, the Archaic period (10,000 – 3,000 BP) began after the last Ice Age ended (around 10,000 BP). Complex hunter gatherer groups emerged who migrated seasonally and lived in temporary housing during winter. Around 5000 BC, the climate changed again, becoming very dry, forcing peoples living in southern Mexico to migrate north, forming the Picosa culture.

Picosa peoples settled in three areas: around Joshua Tree National Park In Southern California, Lake Cochise in the southeast corner of Arizona and San Pedro River on the southern border of Arizona and New Mexico. Each of the three settlements had slightly different projectile points but otherwise enjoyed very similar cultures. The Oshura peoples, at the northern tip of this region, were the early ancestors of the Pueblo.

Corn agriculture seems to have begun gradually between 1500 BC and 50 AD, with a few people staying behind to guard corn crops while other clan members hunted in highland areas during summer. Those put in charge of corn crops lived in shallow temporary pit houses with storage pits, pole walls and grass roofs and began weaving Yucca fiber baskets to carry and store the corn.

Unlike squash, which arrived from Mexico 1000 years later, corn didn’t need full time tending. With the arrival of squash cultivation, the Picosha and Oshura would form full time sedentary communities of more elaborate pit houses.

Around 200 AD, the Picosha began making crude brown pottery to facilitate bean soaking and cooking. They also made themselves woven yucca sandals and rabbit or deer skin clothing for winter.

Around 500-750 AD, the first evidence of Ancestral Pueblo culture emerges in the form of permanent villages surrounded by fields of corn, squash and beans and the production of intricate painted pottery.

In the Pleasant View region, communities built stockades around their villages (presumably to keep dogs and turkeys from escaping). In Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon each community had an early kiva pit house they for ceremonial purposes.

Film can be viewed free with a library card on Kanopy.



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