Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mogollon Conference - Day 2: Mimbres Lives and Landscapes

Michele Hegmon of Arizona State University asked us to consider the Classic Mimbres society as "Another Way of Being," and to do so through the archaeological data.  She began by contrasting the layouts of Mibres pueblos vs. contemporary structures at Mesa Verde.

Mesa Verde unit pueblos are very uniform in their overall form, and in room size and shape:  Room block, kiva, midden.  This is suggestive of lower autonomy, greater hierarchy (because someone is dictating the apparent standards).

Classic Mimbres: Less planning to pueblo layout, variation in arrangement and room size, and each household seems to be self-sufficient (every household shows evidence of processing areas  and food preparation).  In this type of community, social stability and progress depends on peer pressure to conform (example Classic Mimbres villages: Avilas Canyon, Flying Fish).

Hegmon also addressed conformity vs. standing apart.  It has been fairly easy to establish a chronology of pottery styles for the Mimbres precisely because of a consistent conformity of style within each period, and then someone stretched the rules and moved to a new design.  Mimbres pottery designs are a visual component of a shared culture, where conformity is the norm and is maintained through peer pressure, not hierarchical rule.

Hegmon also notes that there is little or no evidence of hierarchy in Mimbres burials.

She closes by wondering: "Why should modern culture care about the Classic Mimbres?"  To understand that there are other ways of being... not better or worse ways,  just other ways.

Karen Gust Schollmeyer from Simon Frasier University and Arizona State University presented her findings regarding deer hunting by the Mimbres.

She developed an excellent model for the deer population in the Mimbres area.  She simulated hunting effects on the deer, and found that if hunting removed 18% or less of the deer each year, the deer population can remain steady.  Middle Mimbres populations reached a demand level (222g, or 2 "deer burgers" per week per person) that exceeded 18%.  If she runs the simulation with 26% hunting, the deer population crashes.  Even if the hunting drops to 13% after 5 years, the deer never fully recover, instead continuing on a slower decline.

Do archaeological data support this?  Dietary stress indicators are present in the record (in the form of evidence for breaking the deer bones to get marrow) that correlate with the same period when Mimbres populations were highest.

An interesting side note: isotope analysis of deer bones from that period show that some of the deer were eating higher amounts of C4 plants (maize is a C4 plant) than deer from earlier times.  Were they eating maize grown by the Mimbres?

For more information about her ongoing research, take a look at her current projects page.

Margaret Nelson from Arizona State University (hmm... there's a trend here) gave a talk she titled  Mibres Archaeology: Then and Now.  Diversity was the theme.
  • Diversity of ceramics styles varies inversely with population size for Mimbres.
  • When is diversity good or bad?
  • She found in the southwest that with the exception of Zuni, ceramic style diversity varies inversely with relative population density.  (Paper out for publication on this)
  • Also: Low ceramic style diversity is associated with (actually, is seen immediately prior to) major cultural transformations.
  • What are the contexts that promote homogeneity, and what are the consequences?
In closing: The KIND of diversity we promote is as important as the simple valuing of diversity.

Nelson and Hegmon are editors of a new book from the SAR Press: Mimbres Lives and Landscapes.  You can read the opening chapter here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mogollon Conference: Day 1 - Ritual Spaces

After leaving Phoenix at 6:00 am and discovering somewhere along the way that New Mexico is currently in a different (i.e. later) time zone, I somehow still made it to the conference in Las Cruces just in time for the first presentation following the lunch break.

Chuck Adams from the UofA kicked off a series of presentations on the use of space for rituals in the pueblos.  Adams is the director of the Homol'ovi project in northern Arizona, and addressed the evolving use of communal space at Homol'ovi over time.

He points out that these "emergent" communities (as labeled by Kate Spielmann) in the Southwest in the 13th century were using Great Kivas and Plazas for the same reason: To integrate the community.  Smaller settlements could use a Great Kiva to bring together the entire population at once, while larger communities needed to employ plazas for public sacred activities.

Just a side note: I was unaware that two of the Homol'ovi communities (Homol'ovi I and II) had more than 1100 rooms each.

Darrell Creel from UT-Austin looked further at the relationship between Great Kivas and Plazas, and concludes the plazas were more than shared domestic spaces.  At the Swarts ruin, the Great Kiva open onto the plaza.  Not such a big deal, but here was the kicker:  Of over a thousand total burials at Swarts, the vast majority were inhumations, with only a few cremations... and the cremations were exclusively buried in the plaza, while nearly all inhumations were in or around room blocks. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I am attending the 2010 Mogollon Archaeology Conference at New Mexico State University this weekend, starting with the Friday afternoon sessions.

16th Biennial Mogollon Archaeology Conference

I'm planning to blog here and at the OAC about the sessions, and you might even see a few tweets.