Award Date

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Karen Harry

Second Committee Member

Barbara Roth

Third Committee Member

Jiemin Bao

Fourth Committee Member

Debra Martin

Fifth Committee Member

William Bauer

Number of Pages



This research focuses on the Virgin Branch heartland of the North American Southwest, an archaeological area spanning southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, and northwestern Arizona. The interplay of Virgin Branch community identity, group affiliation, and social interaction over time, between ca. 300 B.C. and A.D. 1225, is considered intra-regionally and in the context of interactions with neighboring Kayenta Branch populations of northeastern Arizona. The principal question for this research is: How is Virgin Branch group identity communicated and reflected through expressions of technological and painted designs styles on pottery amidst intra- and inter-regional events and interactions over time? Support for this principal research question is provided through: (1) chronometric reconstruction of the Virgin Branch heartland and an understanding of how this correlates with the well-established chronometry of the Kayenta Branch heartland; and (2) clarifying the technological styles and rules of design (i.e., design layout, design symmetry, and design elements) associated with painted pottery from both heartlands. The theoretical framework for this study is informed through consideration of how the behavioral categories of exchange, enculturation, and migration, as dependent variables, can be used and expressed through painted design, technological, and functional aspects of painted pottery to investigate the independent variable of identity—namely, Virgin Branch group identity. Methodologically, this research uses a hierarchical system of ceramic analysis through which technological and painted design styles are investigated within a statistical framework of diversity and similarity indices, across temporal and spatial contexts. Using archaeological approaches to painted and technological ceramic design styles as proxies for expressions of Virgin Branch group identity, this study investigates the degree to which pottery style can reflect Virgin Branch group identity, in the context of social interactions both inter-regionally and among Kayenta Branch populations, over time.


ceramics; identity; Kayenta Branch; pottery; style; Virgin Branch


Archaeological Anthropology

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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