Shaping Cultural Identity on the Western Frontier of the Puebloan World

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Conference Proceeding

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78th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology



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Archaic period inhabitants of southeastern Nevada were generalized foragers whose material culture largely mirrored that of their Great Basin contemporaries. This situation changed following the adoption of agriculture in that area. Specifically, in addition to cultivated crops, the period between A.D. 200 and 500 witnessed the adoption of puebloan style ceramics and architecture, leading many researchers to hypothesize an influx of Basketmaker immigrants. However, a regional comparison of nonmetric dental traits with Virgin Branch Puebloan skeletal samples does not support this view. Instead, it suggests that these farmers descended from a different ancestral population than other puebloan groups; one that maintained a greater phenotypic affinity to Great Basin populations. Despite these ancestral differences, from between about A.D. 500 and 1200 the farmers of southeastern Nevada were unequivocally part of the puebloan world, as reflected in their architectural forms, ceramic motifs, and other aspects of material culture. At the same time, they maintained important cultural differences, including those associated with religious practices. In this paper, we examine how and why the prehistoric inhabitants of this frontier area adopted selected aspects of puebloan culture, and the implications that this selection process had on their cultural identities.


Archaeological Anthropology | Chemistry