Mogollons Establish Agricultural Settlements Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Mogollon were one of the earliest and most successful of the Pueblo peoples. Although traceable to well before the common era, Mogollon culture changed slowly until around the seventh or eighth century.

Summary of Event

The Mogollon people were named for the Mogollon Mountains, the southern parts of Arizona and New Mexico where remnants of their culture were first discovered. Prior to 1930, what is now recognized as Mogollon culture was considered a regional variation of Anasazi or Pueblo culture. In the 1930’, Harold Gladwin and Emil Haury recognized the Mogollon as a separate people from the Anasazi and Hohokam, who together constituted the three primary cultural divisions of what are commonly referred to as the Pueblos Pueblo cultures . Mogollon civilization flourished between approximately 300 b.c.e. and 1300 c.e. [kw]Mogollons Establish Agricultural Settlements (7th-13th centuries) [kw]Agricultural Settlements, Mogollons Establish (7th-13th centuries) Mogollons Agriculture;Mogollons North America;7th-13th cent.: Mogollons Establish Agricultural Settlements[0230] Central America;7th-13th cent.: Mogollons Establish Agricultural Settlements[0230] Agriculture;7th-13th cent.: Mogollons Establish Agricultural Settlements[0230] Cultural and intellectual history;7th-13th cent.: Mogollons Establish Agricultural Settlements[0230]

Mogollon culture evolved from a seminomadic hunting, gathering, and agrarian way of life into one that was village-centered. In addition to cultivated foods, the Mogollon consumed a variety of wild plants, such as piñon nuts, walnuts, juniper beans, and cactus, as well as small animals and deer. There was, of course, some regional variation in the food that was available to them, variations between the hotter, drier desert regions and the cooler, wetter mountainous regions.

For centuries, the Mogollon hunter-gatherers had supplemented their diet with cultivated food. By the sixth century, cultivated produce, particularly maize, formed a large portion of their daily diet. However, around this time, for some unknown reason, the amount of cultivated food consumed appears to have decreased by as much as 80 percent, while the amount of wild plants and animals consumed increased proportionally. During the eighth century, this trend was reversed, as cultivated foods such as maize, beans, and squash once again constituted a larger part of the diet. Tobacco was also cultivated and used both socially and ceremonially. Along with this resurgence in agriculture came significant changes in the size, construction, and location of Mogollon villages. Early settlements were generally located in high, easily defensible sites but later were found in lower, more arable locations.

The Mogollons developed pit houses, roundish, excavated pits that were 2 to 5 feet (1 to 2 meters) deep and covered with an elevated roof of poles, brush, and mud. Early single-room pit houses began to evolve into multiroom, above-ground dwellings in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. Whereas earlier settlements were small and usually consisted of fewer than a dozen structures, by the thirteenth century, the size and number of structures had increased to form villages. However, most villages contained no more than thirty or so houses, although some villages, especially in the southern region, did have two-story multifamily structures. Located at the heart of each settlement was a plaza that served as a place for both domestic and ceremonial activities. In addition to family dwellings there were storage and ceremonial structures. The latter are known as kivas, some of which were small, circular, and subterranean, whereas others, known as great kivas, were larger, rectangular structures. Around the eleventh century, single-story, multifamily dwellings, which contained from fifty to two hundred rooms, were constructed in some Mimbreno villages. The Mimbreno Mimbreno , renowned for their pottery, were a subgroup of the Mogollon who lived along the Mimbres River and several smaller distributaries in southwestern New Mexico.

The Mogollon were among the first people in the Southwest to make pottery Pottery;Mogollon , possibly influenced by their Mesoamerican neighbors to the south. The earliest pottery consisted of plain and polished red- or brown-colored vessels made by the coil-and-scrape method. This entails forming the clay into long strips and building the vessel by placing one coil on top of the other to create the desired shape, then smoothing the surface with a scraper. This type of pottery making continued through the entire existence of the Mogollon people. Around the fifth century, a red-on-brown design was added, and several centuries later, a type called Three Circle red-on-white appeared. During the tenth and eleventh centuries, a type of indented, corrugated brown pottery became popular. Paints used on this pottery were generally produced from minerals rather than by boiling plants (a method of the neighboring Anasazi), although the Mimbreno did use the extract of dried plants. What is generally considered the most beautiful and prized pottery is the pottery developed along the Mimbres River, a type believed to have been influenced by the Anasazi.

This pottery, which became popular between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, was black-on-white with stylized depictions of humans, birds, fish, insects, and mythical creatures along with geometric designs. The human depictions were often narrative in nature, showing aspects of daily life. Some pottery depicted human sacrifice, or even a horned or feathered serpent, important in Mesoamerican and southwestern cosmology. Mimbreno bowls from the eleventh and twelfth centuries sometimes depicted prayer sticks with feathers attached, similar to those used by modern Pueblo peoples. Certain designs appear to be more common in certain areas, leading to speculation that these may identify or represent particular lineages or communities. Pottery was often “killed” (deliberately broken) by punching a single hole at its bottom and placing it in the grave of its former owner. At the height of the Classic Mimbreno period (1000-1150), the population of Mimbres Valley settlements was estimated at five thousand. The Mimbreno population peaked and then declined in the twelfth century, along with the production of their distinctive pottery.

Trade Trade;Mogollon civilization between neighboring peoples appears to have been common throughout the area, and unprecedented population growth took place from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries. However, the greater numbers and higher density put a strain on the area’s limited natural resources. Not only was there competition for wild foods, but the increased depletion of trees for building and fuel would have had an impact on the plant and animal life that was part of the ecosystem supplementing the often precarious harvest.

Ironically, the growth in population ultimately appears to have been a factor in the decline of the Mogollon civilization, a decline that occurred around the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. During this time, some people abandoned the more densely inhabited areas. By the end of this period, many villages had been abandoned, including those along the Mogollon Rim and the Little Colorado River and its southern distributaries. Some people moved north into Anasazi territory and others moved back to the more elevated sites and constructed perimeter walls, possibly for defensive reasons. By the thirteenth century, Mogollon culture was increasingly exhibiting characteristics of the Anasazi culture. It appears the Mogollons eventually merged with their Anasazi neighbors to the north.


The Southwest is the region with the oldest continuous record of human habitation in what is now the United States. Pueblo peoples such as the Mogollon have been, and continue to be, important inhabitants who have adapted to, rather than attempted to change, the nature of the region.

The changes in Mogollon culture that began in the seventh century, including an increase in population, affected not only the people at the time but also to some degree the present-day Pueblos. Over time the Mogollon adapted to this population increase by developing settlements from subsurface to surface and single-family to multifamily structures. Their agricultural practices improved, as did their pottery making.

Aspects of Mimbreno culture can be seen in modern Pueblo villages of the Taos, Acoma, and Hopi of northern New Mexico and Arizona. Mimbreno pottery is prized by both collectors and museums, and their designs can be found today on such items as posters and T-shirts. Accumulated knowledge and experience has been passed on to succeeding generations, and it is believed that the modern Zuñi may be descendants of the Mogollon. The Mogollon and Mimbreno are sometimes included with the Gila Apache, along with the Gileno and Tonto.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cordell, Linda S. Ancient Pueblo Peoples. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 1994. A brief cultural history and description of the various civilizations referred to as Pueblo.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Haury, Emil W. The Mogollon Culture of Southwestern New Mexico. Medallion Paper 20. Globe, Ariz.: Gila Pueblo, 1936. A description of Mogollon culture according to archaeological evidence.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lekson, Stephen. “Prodigies of Prehistory: The Southwest’s Remarkable Mimbres People.” Archaeology 43 (November/December, 1990): 46-48. Brief description of Mimbreno culture and influence.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Plog, Stephen. Ancient Peoples of the American Southwest. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997. Broad coverage of the peoples of the region from prehistoric to modern times. Focuses on the Hohokam, Anasazi, and Mogollon. Supplemented by 150 illustrations, including maps, drawings, and photographs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Shafer, Harry. “Life Among the Mimbres: Excavating the NAN Ruin.” Archaeology 43 (November/December, 1990): 48-51. Description of excavation of ruins from the Classic period. Includes photographs and three diagrams of floor plans revealing settlement growth during a seventy-five-year period.

Categories: History