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A regional cultural grouping of peoples living along the Arizona–Utah borderlands of the USA, emerging within the Basketmaker Phase defined in the prehistory of the southwestern part of North America. Dating to c.ad 400–1300, the Anasazi Tradition is the largest cultural grouping of the period and covers the northwestern quarter of New Mexico, much of southwestern and western Colorado, the northern half of Arizona, and most of Utah: an area known as the ‘Four Corners’. Much of this area has inadequate rainfall for the size of populations involved and some basic irrigation measures were used, although not extensively. Alongside agriculture, hunting and the collecting of wild foodstuffs were also practised. Ceremonial centres near the settlements remained important. Exchange links with Mississippian cultures are evident from, among other things, similarities in the form of some ceramic containers. The distinctive characteristics of the Anasazi Tradition developed during the Basketmaker III Phase (ad 450–750). Beans were added to the diet and communities became more committed to agriculture. Domesticated turkeys were introduced to supplement deer and rabbit meat obtained through hunting and trapping. A sophisticated ceramic technology developed with the resultant bowls and jars often internally decorated with black painted geometric patterns. There was also a transition from scattered village life to nucleated settlements. At first these comprised pit‐houses with domed roofs and a central hearth.

After ad 750, in the Pueblo I and II phases, the size of the settlements increased considerably. These large settlements or ‘pueblos’ comprised multi‐storey and multi‐roomed houses, some with over 100 rooms and constructed from masonry. By about ad 1300 many of the classic sites of this culture had been abandoned, perhaps because of climatic factors, erosion, intergroup conflicts, or demographic changes. One theory holds that Anasazi communities migrated away from their former homeland.

Subjects: Archaeology.

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