This area spans the Arizona-New Mexico border along the southern margin of the Colorado Plateau, one of only three areas in the Southwest continuously and densely occupied from the early centuries AD, through the Spanish Conquest, and up to the present. Our research covers the period AD 800 to 1539. The excellent, long-term environmental and settlement databases and a precise chronological framework enable detailed analyses of long-term changes at generational scales. By AD 800, villages with communal architecture joined dispersed settlements dotting the landscape.

During the 11th-century height of Chacoan influence, Zuni settlement systems reached their greatest spatial extent, exploiting a wide range of local environments. Over the next 300 years, villages increased enormously in size—from tens of rooms to over 1,000, invested in more public architecture, and became more geographically concentrated. Nonetheless, settlements predating AD 1400 typically lasted no more than a generation.

Following 1400, virtually the entire population resided exclusively in a few large, long-lasting towns along the Zuni River. One, Zuni Pueblo, is still occupied. The overall sequence (i.e., changes in settlement and subsistence organization) and apparent scale of social and technological infrastructure up to AD 1400 are generally similar to those in many other areas of the Southwest, including Mimbres. However, in the Zuni area, these processes apparently did not produce severe vulnerabilities; strong social continuity is evident throughout the long sequence. Zuni thus provides an opportunity to explore conditions fostering long-term robustness in a socioecological system.


Zuni pottery.em.




The village of Kluckohn, a nucleated Pueblo IV period pueblo in the El Morro Valley of the Zuni region. Photo is taken from the Pettit site.

The village of Pettit, an aggregated roomblock from the PIII period in the El Morro Valley of the Zuni region. Kluckohn is located to the right of the photo.

Rock art in the Zuni region.


Related Publications by Research Team

Kintigh, Keith (2008) Zuni settlement patterns: A.D. 950-1680. Archaeology Southwest 22(2): 15-16. [download pdf]

Kintigh, Keith W. (2007) Late Prehistoric and protohistoric settlement systems in the Zuni area. Pp. 361-376 in D.A. Gregory and D.R. Wilcox, eds., Zuni Origins: Toward a New Synthesis of Southwestern Archaeology, eds.,. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. [download pdf]

Kintigh, Keith W. (2000) Leadership strategies in protohistoric Zuni towns. Pp. 95-116 in B. J. Mills, ed., Alternative Leadership Strategies in the Greater Southwest. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. [download pdf]

Kintigh, Keith W., Donna M. Glowacki, and Deborah L. Huntley (2004) Long-term Settlement history and the emergence of towns in the Zuni area. American Antiquity 69(3): 432-456. [download pdf]