Prehistoric Pueblo Settlement Patterns: The Arroyo Hondo New Mexico Site Survey

Reviews of Prehistoric Pueblo Settlement Patterns: The Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico, Site Survey

Adams, E. Charles

         1982 Review of Prehistoric Pueblo Settlement Patterns: The Arroyo Hondo, New  Mexico, Site Survey, D. Bruce Dickson. American Antiquity 1982: 911- 914.

Dickson’s priorities in this volume were to determine Arroyo Hondo’s sustaining area and to understand local natural districts defined by the nature and amount of their water, their life zones, and their landforms. 100 percent of the pueblo’s immediate area (18 mi2) was surveyed and 62 percent of the total 130 mi2 surrounding area, encompassing seven natural districts, was surveyed using a stratified random sample.

There are a number of problems with Dickson’s results. The random sample resulted in some natural districts’ near exclusion, fewer sites were found than is to be expected given the prehistory of the area, the assignment of some sites to certain time ranges is suspect because of unsystematic sampling, and, last, some assigned time ranges are much too short and specific. These problems led the reviewer to doubt the validity of the volume’s conclusions.

Environmental fluctuations closely correlate to the demographic changes in the study area, but other models, such as the collapse of a regional exchange system, would also have been helpful to consider.

The reviewer did like the development and use of a “site weight index” to overcome biases introduced by simply counting each site as equal despite size and duration. He also liked the concept of natural districts, the thorough appendices, and Dickson’s summary of Rio Grande prehistory that combines survey data, climatic data from tree-rings, and cultural and technological data such as better strains of maize into a feasible culture history.

Archaeological Publications: New Archaeological Books and Journals

         1982 Journal of Field Archaeology 9(2): 269-270.

Books received

         1981 World Archaeology 13(2): 269.

Fitzgerald, Gerald X.

1981 Review of The Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico Site Survey, by D. Bruce Dickson, Jr. The Artifact 19: 73-75.

In this volume, Dickson set out to establish a model for the carrying capacity of Arroyo Hondo’s sustaining area. He defined five ecozones or natural districts that range from primary through secondary, tertiary, and marginal, to submarginal. Then a survey strategy with transects established to crosscut the natural districts was undertaken. This methodology is not new, but allowed for the definition of various settlement’s sustaining areas, allowing him to discern the relationship of one settlement to another and understand their resulting circumscribed procurement areas. Discovered sites were also dated and their size evaluated by room counts, resulting in a statistical model for estimating population changes over time in the survey area.

The survey’s resulting model is convincing in suggesting why some settlements in the Santa Fe region failed and others survived, and, for the latter, why populations grew and later declined. The results fit well with climatic data from tree-rings, but disease, rebellion, and/or warfare could also be considered. In sum, Dickson’s model of understanding could likely be adapted to other areas all over the Southwest.

Hill, James N.

1981 Review of Prehistoric Pueblo Settlement Patterns: The Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico Site Survey, by D. Bruce Dickson. American Anthropologist 83: 927-929.

Part of an essential series of monographs on Arroyo Hondo Pueblo and Southwestern archaeology in general, this volume is one of the most stimulating settlement pattern studies ever conducted in the Southwest. Dickson surveyed a stratified random sample of a 5 x 27 mi transect to test the proposition that agriculture only entered the lowlands of the major drainages after the invention of irrigation techniques. After devising a method for measuring population size, correlating changes in population (both at Arroyo Hondo and nearby) with drought periods and settlement location and size, he rank-ordered the carrying capacity of seven sub-areas within the study area and found, contrary to the above proposition, that agriculturalists had indeed colonized the lowlands (ie. along the Rio Grande) first and only abandoned them last. This model is able to predict agricultural intensification in later centuries. Dickson closes by presenting five further interesting and testable propositions regarding settlement patterns for the Rio Grande.

Lyon, Fern

         1980 Southwestern Bookshelf. New Mexico Magazine June 1980: 64.

Douglas Schwartz, president of SAR, wrote that this volume provided creative and valuable insights that allowed the cultural dynamics of Arroyo Hondo Pueblo to be understood as part of a larger picture in terms of environment, culture, and population.

Meighan, Clement

1981 Review of Prehistoric Pueblo Settlement Patterns: The Arroyo Hondo New Mexico Site Survey, by D. Bruce Dickson, Jr. The Masterkey 55: 37-38.

This second volume on the major site of Arroyo Hondo south of Santa Fe provides summary data on 169 sites discovered in the pueblo’s vicinity as well as an analysis of changing settlement patterns through time.

New Books

         1980 Archaeology 33(5): 71.

Reis, J. R.

1981 Review of Prehistoric Pueblo Settlement Patterns: The Arroyo Hondo New Mexico Site Survey, by D. Bruce Dickson, Jr. Books of the Southwest June 1981: 8.

Second in a proposed series of 10 volumes, this monograph examines cultural chronology and population change in the northern Rio Grande Valley and posits that the area’s carrying capacity was met in the 14th century when settlements were only 5 miles apart.