The Southwest area generally extended over Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado and Utah. The Uto-Aztecan branch of the Aztec-Tanoan linguistic stock was the main language group of the area. Here a seminomadic people called the Basket Makers, who hunted with a spear thrower, or atlatl, acquired (c.1000 B.C.) the art of cultivating beans and squash, probably from their southern neighbors. They also learned to make unfired pottery. They wove baskets, sandals, and bags. By c.700 B.C. they had initiated intensive agriculture, made true pottery, and hunted with bow and arrow. They lived in pit dwellings, which were partly underground and were lined with slabs of stone—the so-called slab houses. A new people came into the area some two centuries later; these were the ancestors of the Pueblo Indians. They lived in large, terraced community houses set on ledges of cliffs or canyons for protection (see cliff dwellers) and developed a ceremonial chamber (the kiva) out of what had been the living room of the pit dwellings. This period of development ended c.1300, after a severe drought and the beginnings of the invasions from the north by the Athabascan-speaking Navajo and Apache. The known historic Pueblo cultures of such sedentary farming peoples as the Hopi and the Zuñi then came into being. They cultivated corn, beans, squash, cotton, and tobacco, killed rabbits with a wooden throwing stick, and traded cotton textiles and corn for buffalo meat from nomadic tribes. The men wove cotton textiles and cultivated the fields, while women made fine polychrome pottery. The mythology and religious ceremonies were complex.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.