Lecture 17: Those Who Come Before Us

American Southwest

  • Mesa Verde in Southwestern Colorado\rightarrow Massive ruins of stone buildings inside caves, filled with tools, pottery, beads, shells and cave paintings.
  • Tonto in Arizona\rightarrow People of Tonto were travellers and traders, since they had shells with them that had to have come from far away sites as there were no oceans near them.
  • Aztec Ruins in Northwestern Mexico\rightarrow Had seven major roads built in the city to link house segments of different colonies together. Shows precise engineering and organization. Communication between these colonies involved runners.



  • Lived in a hot desert environment, so made pit houses which would keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They had an irrigation system by digging canals. They gathered wild food from the desert. They lived spread out from one another.


Ancestral Pueblo (Anaszi)

Chaco Canyon (a huge city/ village with many houses/ rooms)

  • The centre the center of the Anaszi community.
  • The Great Kiva was a cultural room where ceremonies took place. There was a massive temperature regulating structure which was built to keep the temperature steady from night to day.
  • The people went further to get resources to build the houses, and since they had no wheelbarrows it required manual labor. This show coordination and organization, where there must have been a leader to overlook the projects.
  • Population sizes were increasing, so cooking was done in large quantities. Tree ring dating shows these people left their home due to a drought.



Chaco Canyon


  • Lived high in the mountains.
  • They were active traders because pottery and ornaments were found at this site from far away places.
  • Made beautiful pottery.
  • They practiced canal irrigation.
  • They built big houses from sandstone (which provided protection), for storage and ceremonial purposes, not as a place for living.


Dating Methods


  • The order and relative position of strata (rock) and their relationship to the geological time scale. Part of relative dating.


  • The study of climate change and past events by comparing the successive annual growth rings of trees or old timber. Very precise and gives an absolute date.


  • A new technique using carbon to get a date on how old an object (organic material such as wood) is. Not as precise as tree ring dating.

Archaeological Methods

  • Excavation
  • Digging out a site.
  • Lab analysis
  • Oral history


  • The Paleo-Indians were big game hunters.
  • Later dung the archaic era, hunter gatherers hunted small game since the large games had all gone extinct by the end of the ice age.
  • Started to domesticate corn and other plants, since they could now store seeds. This allowed the populations to be more settled. These are our ancestral farmers.
  • Conflict arose between many groups as they competed for limited resources. Disease and malnutrition were also on the rise because of the increasing population sizes.

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