Student Reader


The Mogollon were the first southwesterners to cultivate corn, make pottery and build pithouses in which to live; the Mogollon had diffused into other cultures by 1350 AD.

These important developments spread throughout the Southwest and reached a culmination after the eleventh century among a people called the Anasazi. The geographic inconsistency of the Mogollon area led to Mogollon society not being cohesive, but rather scattered, regional, unique groups sharing certain basic cultural traits. The early Mogollon lived in small settlements along the high, wooded, well-watered mountainous arc that descends in a curve from the upper tributaries of the Little Colorado River through the southern Arizona - New Mexico border country, and on further south beyond Casas Grandes in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The Mogollon region was to the north and east of the desert river valleys of another prehistoric group, the Hohokam; and to the south of the Anasazi. These cultures affected the Mogollon, as did the Pueblo people. After 1000 AD the Mogollons had eschewed their traditional pithouses in favor of above-ground masonry structures such as those at Gila Cliffs.

Mesoamerica's impact on the Southwest was mediated by the Mogollon. Trading with Casas Grandes was significant, but most important was the maize and pottery which filtered into the Southwest from Mesoamerica. Pottery's deficiencies in durability and portability were significant for nomads, but for sedentary people this was offset by its suitability for carrying water, cooking and storing seeds. From 1000 - 1250 AD, a subset of Mongollon peoples known as Mimbres thrived in southwestern New Mexico. They are particularly regarded for their exquisite pottery. Early Mogollon villages were small and usually on high ground. Over time, likely for convenience, Mogollon villages moved closer to cultivated fields in the valleys. Mogollon pithouses were small round or oblong structures built over shallow excavations with low slab-lined walls and dirt floors pitted with storage cysts. Upright posts supported roof timbers that were often set in a conical formation and overlaid with sticks, grass and a layer of dirt. Villages averaged fifteen or twenty houses and usually included one larger pithouse possibly used for religious ceremonies or other public functions.

Cochise → Mogollon300 BCCochise culture grew sedentary, giving rise to Mogollon culture by 300 BC. Over a period of centuries, the Cochise had given up nomadism in favor of horticulture and sedentary village life. After this cultural transition completed, archaeologists refer to these same people as Mogollon. The main catalyst for change for the hunter-gatherer Cochise was the introduction of corn from Mexico, where it had been cultivated since 7000 BC or earlier. Improved horticultural techniques and adaptation of strains led the Southwesterners to settle down to farming and village life by 300 BC. They built permanent habitations in the form of pithouses and were making crude pottery.

Mogollon sites

Notable sites include Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Three Rivers Petroglyph Site and possibly Casas Grandes.