Community Formation and Interaction in the Borderlands of the American Southwest/Northwest Mexico, A.D. 1200-1450

Departmental News

Posted:  Dec 21, 2020 - 12:00pm

Archaeology PhD student Thatcher Rogers has just been awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Award from the National Science Foundation for his project “Community Formation and Interaction in the Borderlands of the American Southwest/Northwest Mexico, A.D. 1200-1450.”  This award will support Thatcher’s research on archaeological collections from the International Four Corners region (SW New Mexico, SE Arizona, NE Sonora, NW Chihuahua).


Thatcher Rogers and Dr. Emily Lena Jones of the University of New Mexico will examine how societies living on the edges of more complexly organized groups engaged with the material culture of these groups and, by extension, with the groups themselves. Around the globe, the expansion of complex societies into adjacent areas has resulted in substantial, long-term impacts through processes such as colonization and globalization. Previous research has explored these processes through a focus on how cultural cores engage with adjacent areas. Yet, choices by inhabitants within these peripheral areas on how to interact with one or more cultural cores may provide key insights into identity formation in borderland regions. By understanding how past borderland groups engaged materially with cultural cores, this project contributes to ongoing discussions of the relationship between social identity and cultural heritage in borderland regions. This project will improve narratives for the ancient American Southwest/Northwest Mexico region by connecting processes along and south of the United States-Mexico International Border to concurrent and better studied regions of the Southwest. It will also improve the display of archaeological materials at several institutions along the Border and will contribute to the education of contemporary inhabitants and culturally affiliated Indigenous communities in the area.

Rogers, under the supervision of Dr. Jones, will investigate the processes of cross-cultural interaction in a peripheral intermediate society by focusing on how settlements in the periphery engaged with several cultural cores. The archaeological data for this project comes from ten excavated village sites and additional surveyed sites in the International Four Corners area along the United States-Mexico International Border. These villages are associated with the Animas phase, an A.D. 1200-1450 cultural phrase associated with the expansion of the Casas Grandes culture of Chihuahua. Using physical and geochemical analysis of ceramic artifacts, radiocarbon dating, and settlement-based architectural and mortuary analyses, Rogers and Dr. Jones will evaluate four different models of edge regions and assess changes over time in the study area. They will also employ Bayesian statistical modeling to improve the radiocarbon dates and establish a robust chronology for individual sites in the area to understand how local communities responded to the establishment of a sociopolitically complex polity. This project will provide data of interest to archaeologists, museums, and local communities along the United States-Mexico Border, yet will also provide innovative comparative methods and improve existing theoretical approaches to understanding edge regions.