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Exploring the Ancient Southwest



The Basketmakers



By O AD, when our modern calendar changes time, the Southwest had seen agriculture established during the preceding Archaic period. Hunting techniques for the smaller game now living in the Southwest had been mastered. Gathering wild plants for food continued as a longtime tradition. Production of plant fibers cordage had also been developed for a variety of hunting and housekeeping uses. But something new was to come that changed the nature of human life in the Ancient Southwest.

In the 0-700AD period, five very important innovations took place in the Ancient Southwest :

Basket making skills are developed to improve storage



Permanent houses, kivas, communities, canals, and villages are built

Beans arrive and are cultivated to complete the food group



Fired pottery begins



New tools - Mano and metate introduced and bows and arrows gain favor



These new skills and understandings mark a distinct difference from the Archaic period. People began settling in planned communities, sharing in the decisions of their community's way of life. Their ingenuity in growing food improved, and in some areas their complex irrigation systems still are a marvel to modern day engineers. As houses took on new forms, family units gained a stronger sense of self, all the while learning to live as a tribal community. The advent of basketry early on and then pottery, and then introduction of the metate grinding stone, radically changed the lives of the food preparers, presumably the women. Now it was possible to better prepare foods their family had grown into more wholesome foods, and help the children live longer. And it was possibly to better store the surplus foods to help keep a continuous food source during the winter months around the hearth. For the first time food could be boiled - essential in unlocking the protein in this new food crop. And the spears from times of larger game gave way to bows and arrows, designed for individual hunters of smaller game.

These five new features forever changed the native way of life one and a half to two thousand years ago, and will remain the aspects of Southwest life to the present day.