Mimbres during the Twelfth Century
Abandonment, Continuity, and Reorganization
During the mid twelfth century, villages that had been occupied by the Mimbres people in what is now southwestern New Mexico were depopulated and new settlements were formed. While most scholars view abandonment in terms of failed settlements, Margaret Nelson shows that, for the Mimbres, abandonment of individual communities did not necessarily imply abandonment of regions. By examining the economic and social reasons for change among the Mimbres, Nelson reconstructs a process of shifting residence as people spent more time in field camps and gradually transformed them into small hamlets while continuing to farm their old fields. Challenging current interpretations of abandonment of the Mimbres area through archaeological excavation and survey, she suggests that agricultural practices evolved toward the farming of multiple fields among which families moved, with small social groups traveling frequently between small pueblos rather than being aggregated in large villages. Mimbres during the Twelfth Century is the first book-length contribution on this topic for the Classic Mimbres period and also addresses current debates on the role of Casas Grandes in these changes. By rethinking abandonment, Nelson shows how movement by prehistoric cultivators maintained continuity of occupation within a region and invites us to reconsider the dynamic relationship between people and their land.
"Why did they all leave? Why did their system crash? Where did they go? Such questions about ancient farming peoples of the American Southwest have long directed the research and affected the thinking of many archaeologists while concomitantly feeding public interest in the 'romance' or archaeology. In this fine book, Margaret Nelson . . . questions those questions and, by implication, shows how they can misdirect and distort our view of the past and skew conclusions drawn about it." Journal of Anthropological Research"Nelson's work has clearly demonstrated that we need to rethink our assumptions about regional abandonment." Antiquity"A fresh perspective, grounded in an exhaustive cross-cultural review . . . richly grounded in architectural, settlement pattern, and subsistence data." New Mexico Historical Review"For anyone who has stood beside the dusty ruins of the first people's villages, wondering where they went, and why, Mimbres during the Twelfth Century is an intriguing read." Southern New Mexico Historical Review