Mata Ortiz Information

Anthropology Notes

Edited by Dick O'Connor

Here is news of the growing number of anthropological studies of the region and particularly of the archaeology of the prehistoric culture of Paquimé and the Casas Grandes Valley whose ceramics attracted the attention of Juan Quezada and inspired the modern development of ceramic art in Mata Ortiz.

¶ Christine S. VanPool has received her doctorate in anthropology from the University of New Mexico for her comprehensive study of Casas Grandes iconography as found chiefly on pottery. This dissertation is available on CD (see "New Publications" just below). Christine S. VanPool, 505-254-1496. <>
¶ Robert Estes recently received his doctorate in anthropology from the University of New Mexico for his study of the organization of production and pottery standardization in Mata Ortiz. This ethnoarchaeological study of pottery production in the village tests the models and methods archaeologists use to reconstruct prehistoric production organization and, by extension, prehistoric economic organization. Plans are under way to publish his dissertation. Robert Estes, 11352 David Carrasco, El Paso, TX 79936; 915-856-6040
¶ Kiara Hughes, doctoral candidate in ethnology at the University of New Mexico, is studying the ways women's participation in the household production of pottery in Mata Ortiz has affected their personal, economic and artistic autonomy. 1733 Griegos Road, Albuquerque NM 87107
¶ A symposium, Future Directions: The Archaeology of Northwest Mexico, was held April 6, 2000 at the Society for American Archaeology annual meetings in Philadelphia. 26 participants presented 14 papers, several relating directly to Paquimé (Casas Grandes). The papers will be published. Contact Assoc. Prof. Robert D. Leonard, Dept of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM 87131
¶ Theodore R. Frisbie, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, presented a paper at the recently held Sixth Annual Occasional Anasazi Symposium, "The Chaco Phenomenon and the Mesoamerican Pochteca: New Evidences and Redefining Old Thoughts." The abstract of this paper reads: "The presence of Mesoamerican long-distance traders ("Pochteca") as the Chaco Phenomenon motivating force has had a long history within the annals of Anasazi archaeology. However, the small group of supporters have had little impact on the great majority of Southwestern archaeologists who claim the evidence is non-conclusive, highly speculative, etc. Recent and on-going research conclusively demonstrate a plethora of highly specific artifacts (previously not considered) and associated behavioral correlates are present to strongly substantiate the notion of Pochtecan presence. When combined with dental features reported by the Turners and other recent data, the case becomes even stronger."

New Publications
¶¶ Christine S. VanPool
2003 The Symbolism of Casas Grandes. University of New Mexico: Department of Anthropology. This comprehensive study is the author's doctoral dissertation. It is under consideration by the University of Utah Press for a book yet to be prepared but tentatively titled, Casas Grandes Symbolism, Shamanism, and Cosmology. Available on CD for $5.00 plus $2.00 shipping from Christine S. VanPool at 505-254-1496.
¶¶ Christine S. VanPool
2003 "The Shaman-Priests of the Casas Grandes Region, Chihuahua, Mexico," American Antiquity 68(4), pp 696-717.
¶ Ernest Christman
2005 "Casas Grandes Effigy Vessels: Charles C. Di Peso's Premise Revisited." American Indian Art Magazine 29:2 (February). The author cites Charles Di Peso's belief that Paquimé was a Mesoamerican pueblo and shows examples of pottery designs depicting Mesoamerican deities.
¶ Newell, Gillian E. and Emiliano Gallaga
2005 Surveying the Archaeology of Northwest Mexico. Salt Lake City: University of
Utah Press. Cloth cover, $55 plus $5.95 shipping from the publisher (800-773-6672) at 1795 E. South Campus Drive, Suite 101, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-9402.
¶ Ravesloot, John C.
2003 "El Sacrificio en Casas Grandes." Arqueología Mexicana 11(63):36-39.
¶ Sprehn, Maria Stephanie
2003 Social Complexity and the Specialist Potters of Casas Grandes in Northern Mexico. Doctoral dissertation, University of New Mexico. Order on the web for $34 from UMI Dissertation Services: Dissertation No. 3093066.

¶ Fisher, Richard D.
2003 " Paquimé: The Anasazi Rosetta Stone; Sophisticated Agricultural Stategies Paquimé /Anasazi/Hohokam," an unpublished paper presented at the Pecos Archaeological Conference, Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, August 14-17. Available from the author (520-882-5341 or the Mata Ortiz Calendar of Events (775-482-2038
¶ Sanders, Joe Ben
2003 Three Rivers petroglyph site: Self-guided tour book—An interpretation of the first thousand feet of glyphs based on Hopi oral traditions. The author identifies the inhabitants of Paquimé as Hopi and explains the destruction of the city in terms of Hopi oral tradition recorded at the Three Rivers petroglyph site. $25 from Center of the Universe Press (505-671-4797), Box 1, Bent, New Mexico 88314.
¶ Center for Desert Archaeology
Archaeology Southwest 17:2 (Spring 2003) is entirely devoted Chihuahua archaeology. Eleven short summaries of selected topics include Paul E. Minnis, "The Casas Grandes Community;" T. Alan Pitezel, "The Hilltop Site of El Pueblito;" John R. Roney and Robert J. Hard, "Late Archaic Villages on the Rio Casas Grandes;" and Gloria J. Fenner, "Charles DiPeso and Casas Grandes." These articles, with numerous color photos, give an excellent overview of the current state of knowledge of Chihuahua archaeology. Order for $3.00 from Sally A. Thomas (520-882-6946, fax 520-882-6948), Office Manager, Center for Desert Archaeology, 300 E. University #230, Tucson, AZ 85705.
¶ Phillips, David A., Jr.
2002 Archeology of northwest Mexico: A bibliography An essential reference for anyone interested in the archaeology of northwest Mexico and especially Chihuahua.
¶ Moulard, Barbara L.
2002 Recreating the word: Painted ceramics of the prehistoric Southwest. A beautifully crafted art book illustrating the collection of prehistoric Pueblo pottery of Santa Fe painter William Schenk, with a thought provoking text containing original insights into Pueblo prehistory. 240 pages, 10"x11" ISBN 0-9719150-0-8. $85 + shipping from Schenck Southwest Publishing (505-438-8350, Fax 424-8655), 268 Los Pinos Road, Santa Fe, NM 87507-4315
¶ Skibo, James M., Eugene B. McCluney and William H. Walker
2002 The Joyce Well Site: On the Frontier of the Casas Grandes World.
Located in the southwest corner of New Mexico approximately 10.5 km north of the international line, Joyce Well is a Pueblo ruin of an estimated 200 rooms. One of a number of Animas Phase villages in the boot heel area, it lies on the northern periphery of the Casas Grandes sphere. Eugene McCluney investigated the site in 1963, but his preliminary report was never published. James Skibo and William Walker carried out excavations in 1999-2000. This book contains both McCluney's preliminary report and the results of the recent studies. Joyce Well possesses many Casas Grandes characteristics, such as shared polychrome style ceramics, scooped metates, adobe pueblos, T-shaped doors, platform hearths, and similar rock art. This book furthers investigation of the Casas Grandes culture at sites removed from Paquimé, where most studies have been concentrated previously, and represents a significant addition to the literature. Order for $35 plus $5.95 shipping from the University of Utah Press (800-773-6672), 1795 E. South Campus Drive, Suite 101, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-9402. (Used copies available from from $23)
Selected Bibliography
Di Peso, Charles
1974 Casas Grandes: A Fallen Trading Center of the Gran Chichimeca. Flagstaff AZ: Northland Press. Edited by Gloria J. Fenner, illustrated by Alice Wesche. 8 volumes. The official report of the excavations of the ruins of Paquimé, Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, 1959-1961. The first three volumes contain text, the last five data and additional commentary. In addition to its reputation as a classic archaeological report, Alice Wesche’s rich and whimsical illustrations make the first three volumes a book collector’s delight. (Out of print, but among the best book searchers in the business is Ruth Kern 800-429-5075.)
Fisher, Richard D., Ed.
2000 History of Copper Canyon and the Tarahumara Indians. A historical anthology containing excerpts from Carl Lumholtz' Unknown Mexico (1890), Grant Shepherd's Silver Magnet (Shepherd grew-up in 1880 Batopilas), and two full-color sections by Richard D. Fisher, photographer and editor. The works by Lumholtz and Shepherd are historical classics on Copper Canyon and the Tarahumara Indians. Soft cover, 107 pp., $19.95 plus $2.00 shipping from Sunracer Publications, PO Box 86492, Tucson AZ 85754. [See also under "On-Line Features."]
Goodwin, Grenville and Neil
2000 The Apache Diaries: A Father-Son Journey. University of Nebraska Press. A fascinating record of a search for the last remaining Apache bands in the Sierra Madre west of and in the general vicinity of Casas Grandes. $35 hardcover, $13.56 softcover, from
Lekson, Stephen H.
1999 The Chaco Meridian: Centers of Political Power in the Ancient Southwest. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: Altamira Press (Rowman & littlefield). Fascinating and engagingly written, this is a "must" for anyone interested in Paquimé and Southwest/Mesoamerican relationships. 240 pages, illustrations. Available for $23.95 paper or $62 hard cover, plus $4 shipping for the first copy and $1 for each additional copy, from the publisher (800-462-6420) at 15200 NBN Way, Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214.
2001 "Meridian Addendum." Unpublished working draft of a paper available on request from the "Mata Ortiz Calendar." Thought provoking, it contains important new insight on the author's Chaco Meridian hypothesis. The author invites comment.
PRO AND CON re: the "Meridian Hypothesis"
Phillips, Jr., David A. (, and Elizabeth Arwen Bagwell (, "How Big was Paquimé?" Poster presentation, 66th Annual Meeting, Society for American Archaeology, New Orleans, April 19, 2001. Text of the article is found at
ABSTRACT: Paquimé (or Casas Grandes) may have been the most important prehistoric center in northwest Mexico. Most archaeologists accept the published description of Paquimé's site core as two massive room blocks flanking a plaza. Other evidence suggests, however, that the site core was a single room block -- and that the site's population was much smaller than the excavation report indicates. As such, Paquimé would be typical of the Mimbres-Casas Grandes region, rather than exceptional. The authors explore these conflicting perspectives by comparing maps of the site, including by creating overlays of the maps."
Phillips, David A., Jr., "The Chaco Meridian: A Skeptical Analysis." Text of the article is found at This also contains Lekson's rebuttal.
ABSTRACT: Stephen Lekson's new book Chaco Meridian, based in part on an award-winning SAA poster presentation, argues that a single prehistoric elite consciously placed the centers of Chaco Canyon, Aztec Ruin, and Paquimé on the same meridian of longitude. A detailed review of spatial, temporal, and other data indicate that Lekson's hypothesis is incorrect.
San Diego Museum of Man
2001 From Paquimé to Mata Ortiz: The Legacy of Ancient Casas Grandes.
San Diego Museum Papers No.40. Proceedings of the Museum's biennial Latin American Symposium held in San Diego CA on March 26, 2000. Included here is a chronological series of black-and-white photos of 135 Juan Quezada pots from the Spencer H. MacCallum Collection, the majority dating between 1976 and 1979, showing the development of his early painting style. The volume contains eight papers: Robert Estes, From Agriculture to Art and Industry: The Changing Economy of Mata Ortiz and Its Material Correlates; Mitch Hendrickson, Lost Pots and Untold Tales: A Stylistic Recontextualization of Chihuahuan Polychrome Jars from North American Museum Collections; Kiara Hughes, Crafting and Keeping Tradition: Women in the Production of Mata Ortiz Pottery; by Stephen Lekson, Chaco, Aztec, and Paquimé: Centers of Political Power in the Ancient Southwest; Spencer MacCallum and Grace Johnson, The Research Pottery Collection of Spencer H. MacCallum Illustrating the Development of Juan Quezada's Art Through a Chronological Series of His Work; Arthur MacWilliams, Beyond the Reach of Casas Grandes: Archaelogy in Central Chihuahua; María Sprehn, Body Art in the Casas Grandes World; and Christine VanPool, Birds, Burials, and Beliefs at Paquimé (containing 17 photos of Paquimé bird-effigy pots). ISBN 0-937808-77-6. Price $16.95 plus $2.50 for shipping first book, 50¢ each additional (California residents add $1.31 sales tax). Order from the San Diego Museum of Man (619-239-2001), 1350 El Prado San Diego CA 92101.
Schaafsma, Curtis F. and Carroll L. Riley, eds.
1999 The Casas Grandes World (University of Utah Press). A collection of papers on the influence of Paquimé over a broad geographic area of the United States and Mexico. ISBN 0-874805-95-3. Hardcover, 287 pages, $60 from University of Utah Press (800-773-6672), 1795 E. south Campus Drive, Suite 101, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-9402.
Sharp, Jay W.
2000 "On the Way to Paquimé," DesertUSA Magazine (August). The best overview of the archaeology of Paquimé we’ve see, and entertainingly written. [See under "On-Line Features."]
VanPool, Christine
2002 "Flight of the Shaman," Archaeology Jan/Feb, pp. 40-43. This (abridged) paper on Casas Grandes iconography analyzes Casas Grandes male effigies that are smoking and relates the smokers to human and human/bird images painted on Casas Grandes pottery. Layout and illustrations are excellent and include some fine photos of effigies smoking tobacco. The cover picture of the magazine is from the article.
Whalen, Michael E. and Paul E. Minnis
2001 Casas Grandes and Its Hinterlands: Prehistoric Regional Organization in Northwest Mexico (Tucson: University of Arizona Press). Described as the first major alternative to Charles DiPeso's hypothesis, this book offers a new model for the rise and fall of Casas Grandes, now recognized to have been the largest and most complex community in the Puebloan world. ISBN 0-8165-2097-6. Hard cover, 300 pages, 9 halftones and 52 line illustrations. $45 plus shipping from the University of Arizona Press (520-621-2211).