Response to “Resolving the Migrant Paradox”

A new article was published recently entitled “Resolving the migrant paradox: Two pathways to coalescence in the late precontact U.S. Southwest”, it seems to have a policical agenda which may be to blame for the problems I found therein. While I do not stand on either side of this polictical argument (nor do I sit on the fence), I do feel that a couple of the statements about Salado are quite speculative, so this is my response. The full article can be seen by following the link below.

“The quality of design execution and the combination of paint recipes, slips, and firing regimes seen on Roosevelt Red Ware required a high skill level that has been attributed to Kayenta potters (Crown, 1994, Mills et al., 2016).”

This is not accurate, the “quality of design execution” for most Salado Polychrome is terrible, Salado painting is sloppy and expedient, more on par with the Mogollon pottery tradition than Kayenta. Paints; organic paint, sure but that is true of 90% of the Ancestral Puebloan world. Firing regime; I don’t think so, creating oxidized organic paint pottery requires a completely different firing regime from reduced organic paint pottery which the Kayenta were making before migrating. All in all Salado Polychromes have at least as much or more in common with Cibola and Mogollon pottery than it has with Kayenta pottery, he is trying too hard to make this point and stretching the truth to do it.

“Petrographic and neutron activation analyses indicate that nearly every valley where Roosevelt Red Ware is dominant had at least one producing settlement (Crown, 1994, Danson and Wallace, 1956, Huntley et al., 2016, Lyons, 2003, Lyons, 2012, Neuzil, 2008, Zedeño, 1994). Despite decentralized production and broad distribution, Roosevelt Red Ware exhibits a high degree of homogeneity, both technologically and stylistically, and is similar to Tusayan White Ware produced in the Kayenta homeland with the addition of an exterior red slip (Crown, 1994, Lyons, 2003).”

There is some truth hiding in this statement, he first says that “nearly every valley where Roosevelt Red Ware is dominant had at least one producing settlement” which it correct but he then goes on to paint it with the broad brush of “decentralized production”. These are large valleys with large populations, when only one or two sites are supplying 90% of the Salado Polychrome for a valley with a size and population density such as that found in the Tonto Basin or the Safford Valley that is not what I would call “decentralized production” but quite the opposite “centralized production”. Finally another broad brush statement “is similar to Tusayan White Ware produced in the Kayenta homeland” the truth is that technologically it is quite different but stylistically it is similar to Tusayan White Ware, the body clay or paste is different, the temper is different and the firing regime is different the only similarity is organic paint and the design motifs. Once again it seems like he is trying too hard to make that connection.

“Increasing with time during the fourteenth century, Roosevelt Red Ware bowls are ubiquitous at many settlements throughout much of southeastern Arizona. In settlements where they are common, virtually every household owned at least one bowl regardless of wealth or cultural origin. Many of the standardized iconic designs on these vessels have been interpreted as horned/feathered serpents, water and other fertility images possibly borrowed from concepts and symbols of more complex Mesoamerican societies (Clark et al., 2013, Crown, 1994, McGuire, 2012). These symbols would have had ideological significance to both migrant and local groups, facilitating integration and ultimately coalescence. This evidence suggests that Roosevelt Red Ware was an important material expression of an inclusive and participatory ideology that originated within the Kayenta migrant community (Lyons and Clark, 2012).”

This is quite the leap, just because something is ubiquitous in a multi-ethnic society does not mean that item represents inclusion. There could be numerous explanations besides “inclusiveness”, for example sometimes oppresive systems force members to show solidarity in highly visible ways. The author is attempting to paint a rosy picture of what was essentially a very violent time (as he points out himself in a couple more paragraphs), Stephen Lekson in his recent book talks about how the “Pueblo Mystique” colors archaeologist’s perception of the past and I think that is what is going on here. Anyone familiar with history knows that racism and class oppression are the rule rather than the exception when different groups of people collide. I think it’s fair to assume that the Hohokam, Mogollon and Anasazi did not sit around the campfire singing kumbaya in Salado times. Rather the more common human reaction to different people coming together is racism and stratification such as was observed among some Southwestern groups at the time of contact. This type of reaction could explain the violence that seems to have pervaded the Salado world and quite possibly led to the wholesale abandonment of this region in the fifteenth century which the author seems to allude to in the end after trying way too hard to make the point of inclusiveness during Salado times.

About The Author

2 thoughts on “Response to “Resolving the Migrant Paradox””

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top