Pecos Classification

Pecos Classification

The Pecos Classification is a division of all known Ancient Pueblo Peoples culture into chronological phases, based on changes in architecture, art, pottery, and cultural remains. The original classification dates back to a 1927 archæological conference held in Pecos, New Mexico organized by American archaeologist Alfred V. Kidder.

Original classification

The original Pecos Classification contained eight stages of Southwestern prehistory but did not specify dates.

# Basketmaker I, or Early Basketmaker
# Basketmaker II, or Basketmaker
# Basketmaker III, or Post-Basketmaker
# Pueblo I, or Proto-Pueblo
# Pueblo II
# Pueblo III, or Great Pueblo
# Pueblo IV, or Proto-Historic
# Pueblo V, or Historic

Current classification

Although the original has been significantly debated and sometimes modified over the years, the split into Basketmaker and Pueblo eras still serves as a basis for discussing the culture of the Ancient Puebloans of the Four Corners area.

Archaic Era

8th millennium BC to 12th century BC

The pre-Anasazi culture that moved into the modern-day Southwest United States after the big game hunters departed are called "Archaic". Little evidence for extensive habitation before 8000 BC exists. From evidence near Navajo Mountain, they were nomadic people, hunter-gatherers traveling in small bands. They gathered wild foods when in season, and hunted with stone-tipped spears, atlatls, and darts. Game included rabbits, deer, antelope, and bighorn sheep.

"(The original classification postulated a Basketmaker I Era which was subsequently discredited due to lack of physical evidence, and rolled into the Archaic Era)"

Called Oshara Tradition.Trend toward Sedentary lifestyle, with small scale cultivation beginning 1,000 BC

Early Basketmaker II Era

1200 BC to AD 50

Early Anasazi camped in the open or lived in caves seasonally. During this period, they began to cultivate gardens of maize (flint corn in particular) and squash, but no beans. They used "manos" and "metates" to grind corn, made baskets, but had no pottery.

Late Basketmaker II Era

AD 50 to AD 500

Primitive storage bins, cists, and shallow pithouses were constructed. At this stage, evidence suggests that the beginning of a religious and decision-making structure had already developed. Shamanistic cults existed and petroglyphs and other rock art seem to indicate a ceremonial structure as well. Groups appear to be increasingly linked into larger-scale decision-making bodies.

Basketmaker III Era

AD 500 to AD 750

Deep pithouses were developed, along with some above-ground rooms. The bow and arrow replaces the atlatl and spear. Plain bisque and some painted black-on-white pottery is made. Cultivation begins of beans, available due to trade from central America, and edible due to cooking in pottery vessels. Wild amaranth and pinyon pine were also staples. People of this era may have domesticated turkeys.

Prototype Kivas were large,round, and subterranean.

Pueblo I Era

AD 750 to AD 900

Increasing populations, growing village size, social integration, and more complicated and complex agricultural systems typified this era. Year round occupation in pueblos begins; reservoirs and canals are used. Large villages and great kivas appear, though pithouses still remain in use. Above-ground construction is of jacal or crude masonry. Plain gray bisque predominates, though some red bisque and pottery decorated in black and white appears.

Pueblo II Era

AD 900 to 1150

By 1050, Chaco Canyon (in present-day New Mexico) was a major regional center of from 1500-5000 people. It is surrounded by standardized planned towns, or "great houses", built from the wood of over 200,000 trees. Thirty-foot-wide roads, flanked by berms, radiate from Chaco in various directions. Small blocks of above-ground masonry rooms and a kiva make up a typical pueblo. Great kivas grow to 50-70 feet in diameter. Pottery consists of corrugated gray bisque and decorated black-on-white in addition to some decorated red and orange vessels. Shells and turquoise are imported.

During the 1100s, populations began to grow after a decline at the end of the Pueblo II era. More intense agriculture was characteristic, with terracing and irrigation common.

Pueblo III Era

1150 to 1350

Settlements consist of large pueblos, cliff dwellings, towers and turkey pens. Most villages in the Four Corners area are abandoned by 1300. The distinction between Hohokam and pueblo becomes blurred.

Pueblo IV Era

1350 to 1600

Typically, large pueblos are centered around a plaza. Socially, a period of more conflict than cooperation. Kachinas appear. Plain pottery supplants corrugated. Red, orange and yellow pottery is on the rise as black-on-white declines. Cotton is introduced and grown as a commodity.

The Puebloans are joined by other cultures. As early as the 1400s, the Navajo were in the process of migrating into the region from the north as the Spanish first came from the south in the 1540s.

Pueblo V Era

1600 to present

The Spanish dominate and take over sites such as the Acoma Pueblo. Their arrival sends Pueblo subcultures underground.


*Catherine M., and H. Wolcott Toll. "Deciphering the Organization of Production in Chaco Canyon (Organization of Production at Chaco Canyon conference papers)." "American Antiquity" 66.1 (Jan 2001): 5.
*Kidder, Alfred V. (1927). Southwestern Archaeological Conference. "Science" 66: 489-91.
*Kidder, Alfred V. (2000 ed.) "An Introduction to the study of Southwestern Archaeology". Yale University. ISBN 0-300-08297-5

Famous Puebloan sites

*Mesa Verde National Park
*Bandelier National Monument
*Chaco Canyon in Chaco Culture National Historical Park
*Canyon de Chelly National Monument
*Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
*Keet Seel in Navajo National Monument

ee also

*John Wesley Powell
*Richard Wetherill
*Antiquities Act

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