“Mimbres” refers to a type of spectacularly decorated pottery found in southwest New Mexico but has also been applied to the people who produced it. We focus on the period from AD 900–1450. A long period of small-scale, mostly dispersed land use continued until around AD 1000, punctuated by the intentional destruction of ritual structures in the early 900s. The subsequent Classic period (AD 1000–1130) was characterized by increased social and technological capitalization, including settlement in aggregated pueblos, building of small irrigation systems, and intensive, inward-focused social networks. The end of the Classic, which coincided with a major climatic event ca. AD 1130, included depopulation of all villages and the virtual disappearance of the famous pottery style.

This sweeping mid-1100s transformation was more severe in the densely populated Mimbres Valley, leading to greater depopulation and environmental degradation than in the drier and patchier eastern Mimbres. The transformation was once explained by the disappearance of its producers, but recent insights suggest a regional reorganization marked by a shift from large villages to dispersed hamlets and extensive social networks. Change at the village level allowed people to remain in their homeland, maintaining stability at a regional level. This well-studied Reorganization Phase, following AD 1130, illustrates the processes of release and reorganization, known as the alpha and omega phases in RT.

Following the reorganization phase, people shifted back into aggregated villages; they abandoned a recognizable Mimbres identity and developed extensive ties to outside areas, resulting in some of the most diverse pottery assemblages known in the US Southwest.

See the Mimbres Timeline for more information about transformations in this region (link here).


Mimbres Pottery


ASU Fieldscool Excavations at Roadmap Village in the Eastern Mimbres Region

Deer in the Mimbres region

Artist Reconstruction of Flying Fish Village, a Classic period site (AD 1000–1130)

  Related Publications by Research Team

Hegmon, M. (2002) Recent issues in the archaeology of the Mimbres Region of the North American Southwest. Journal of Archaeological Research 10:307-357. [download pdf]

Hegmon, M., M. C. Nelson, R. Anyon, D. Creel, S. A. LeBlanc, and H. J. Shafer (1999) Scale and Time-space systematics in the post-A.D. 1100 Mimbres region of the North American Southwest. Kiva 65:143-166.

Hegmon, M., M. C. Nelson, and S.M. Ruth (1998) Abandonment and reorganization in the Mimbres region of the American Southwest. American Anthropologist 100:148-162. [download pdf]

Hegmon, M., M.C. Nelson, K.G. Schollmeyer, M. Elliott, and M.W. Diehl (2006) Agriculture, Mobility, and Human Impact in the Mimbres Region of the United States Southwest. In Managing Archaeological Data and Databases: Essays in Honor of Sylvia W. Gaines, edited by J.L. Hantman and R. Most, pp. 105-119. Anthropological Research Paper #57, Arizona State University, Tempe. [download pdf]

Hegmon, M., M.A. Peeples, A.P. Kinzig, S.A. Kulow, C.M. Meegan, M.C. Nelson (2008) Social Transformation and Its Human Costs in the Prehispanic U.S. Southwest. American Anthropologist 110:313-324. [download pdf]

Nelson, M. C. (1999) Mimbres During the Twelfth Century: Abandonment, Continuity, and Reorganization. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Nelson, M. C., and M. Hegmon (2001) Abandonment is not as it seems: An approach to the relationship between site and regional abandonment. American Antiquity 66:213-235. [download pdf]

Nelson, M. C., M. Hegmon, S. Kulow, and K. G. Schollmeyer (2006) Archaeological and ecological perspectives on reorganization: A case study from the Mimbres region of the US Southwest. American Antiquity 71:403-432. [download pdf]