According to those who study human cultures and origins, the first wayfarers traveled across the Colorado plateau over four thousand years ago.
These travelers would most likely had been a part of the
, the second of three major postdiluvian migrations which crossed the land bridge over the Bearing Sea.
Post-Contact Cultures (1550 CE - date)
(Before 2000 BCE)
Those of the second migration when arriving at the land bridge, encountered several settlements lining the shores of the land bridge and along the eastern coast line, so these itinerant arrivals to the area choose to travel further to the east in search of their own new homeland.
As hunter-gatherers they created hunting tools such as darts, fending sticks and the atlatl. The would have camped in caves when available.
Over time, these wayfarers began to utilize water habitats near rivers, swamps and marshes where they found abundant fish and game.
(2000 BCE to 200 CE)
This time period on the Colorado plateau is referred to as the Early Basketmaker Era due to the abundant fragments found.
Gradually, from 2000 BCE until sometime around 200 CE, those referred to as the wayfarer culture transitioned from hunter-gatherers to a more settled lifestyle, one characterized by dependence on agriculture, social stratification, population clusters and major architecture. From these, post-wayfarer cultures are to develop in the desert regions located in the southwest areas of this continent.
Other contemporary cultures may include the Cochise, Chihuahua, Oshara, and San Dieguito Complex.
The year 750 CE is generally regarded as the end of the Basketmaker Era and the beginning of the post-wayfarer period. (zoom in on map to see detail)
Major post-wayfarer cultures include the Anasazi (recently renamed the Ancestral Puebloan), Hohokam, and Mogollon, who spread out in the present day Colorado plateau region and southward to the Rio Bravo, Rio Concho and Rio Yaqui basins. These cultures dominate this region before European contact.
There are other post-wayfarer cultures that are contemporary to the three major cultures. Those that exist during this period, their identity and the number of different cultures vary greatly among anthropologist but usually include the following: Freemont; La Junta; Patayan; Salado; Salinas; Sinagua and possibly more. Some studies connect these minor cultures to one or more of the major cultures, still, these people often lived apart culturally, socially and in location.
The remnant of the post-wayfarer cultures that survived the era of droughts during the late 1200′s and early 1300′s were few in number and area coverage. Most abandoned their canyon homelands and moved to lower altitudes near larger rivers while a few remained in the higher altitude stone dwellings.
Probably the most well know pueblo and definitely the oldest dwelling of these people are those in Acoma Pueblo, also known as Acoma Sky City, built circa 1100 CE and has been continuously inhabited for over 800 years. Acoma tribal traditions estimate that they have lived in the village for more than two thousand years. Acoma means place that always was.
The names used in this gallery are those given to the ancients by moderns and are based on the current research and thinking. In fact, non of the ancients had any input as to what they would be call by these modern.
This means that any and all of these cultural divisions as well as naming conventions are often arbitrary and have come about from the observation by those moderns who study ancient people.
Too, all names assigned and cultural divisions are subject to change.
A point in case is the historical use of the word Anasazi to describe this stone stacker culture. However, this word comes from the Navajo word meaning: ancestors of enemies. Today, those who claim to be descendants of the so called Anasazi have expressed their wish that the undesirable term Anasazi not be used. Thus, the moderns have changed the cultural label to Ancestral Puebloans.
Since the name Anasazi has been used for decades, possible even centuries, and is already a familiar tern, this gallery will continue to use the name Anasazi for those ancient inhabits of the ruins on the Colorado plateau.