Some Early Arizona projectile point styles

Many different peoples have contributed to making Arizona such a unique and fascinating cultural place. In the first of a two-session series, archaeologist Allen Dart will summarize and interpret the archaeology of Arizona’s earliest cultures—the Paleoindian, Archaic, Early Agricultural, and Early Ceramic—at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 4).

The Paleoindian culture dates back to the Pleistocene epoch (the last Ice Age) from at least as early as 11,000 to about 8,000 BCE. During this time people subsisted largely by hunting really big game including mammoth and Bison antiquus (a species much larger than the modern North American bison), and possibly giant sloth and now-extinct horse.

By about 8,000 BCE as climate became warmer and drier, and many of the larger animals had gone extinct, highly mobile people of the Archaic tradition hunted smaller mammals still seen in the Southwest today, but relied more on foraging for wild plant foods that they could process with stone tools.

As knowledge of plants increased, Southwesterners still hunted and gathered foods, but by 2,100 BCE some had taken up farming of maize, squashes, and beans. The introduction of agriculture revolutionized the formerly nomadic ways of life, requiring the Early Agricultural peoples to establish small settlements near their fields.

The addition of pottery, which kicked off the Early Ceramic period around 50 CE, allowed more food storage and in-place development in different parts of the Southwest, setting the stage for the post-500 CE rise of Arizona’s Ancestral Pueblo, Mogollon, Hohokam, and Patayan cultures (which are the focus of Dart’s Oct. 11 presentation).

Allen Dart

Dart has worked full-time and volunteered as a professional archaeologist in New Mexico and Arizona since 1975, for government, private companies, and nonprofit organizations.

He is employed full-time as an archaeologist for the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. He also is the volunteer Executive Director of Old Pueblo Archaeology Center, a Tucson not-for-profit organization that he founded in 1993 to provide educational and scientific programs in archaeology and culture.

Posted by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer

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An Archaeologist Looks at the Earliest Arizonans: October 2017
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