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DESPOBLADO OR ATHAPASKAN HEARTLAND:
A METHODOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE ON
ATHAPASKAN LANDSCAPE USE IN THE SAFFORD AREA
Chapter in Crossroads of the Southwest,
Volume edited by David Purcell for Cambridge Scholars Press, New York. 2008
Historical sources cite event-specific large ancestral Apache settlements of thousands of people located in the interior
mountains and now two such sites are known from the Safford area. Distinctively Athapaskan rock art, features, flaked stone,
and pottery provide evidence of these early Athapaskans. Chronometric dates, including radiocarbon samples derived from
annual species, place them in these ranges at and before Marcos de Niza and Coronado trekked through the region, in areas
these explorers considered a despoblado or unsettled. The importance of the Safford area and Mogollon uplands within a
province of early Athapaskan occupancy is discussed and the archaeological and historical relevance of their specific mobile
adaptation is considered. Undue reliance on the content of historical documents has contributed to the widely held notion
that this area was devoid of population until the 1600s, which highlights some important methodological implications.
Documentary and archaeological sources provide different information regarding the past and one must not be subordinated
to or subrogated for the other. Moreover, past focus of migration theory on sedentary groups has contributed to our inability to
see and understand the early Athapaskan presence. Mobile groups migrate differently than sedentary ones and they use the
landscape differently, partially accounting for their invisibility. Athapaskan-speaking groups were present in the late
prehistoric period and so have relevance to a variety of topics, including Puebloan migrations.
DATING APACHE SITES
THE IMPLICATIONS OF MOBILITY, REOCCUPATION, AND
LOW VISIBILITY PHENOMENA FOR CHRONOMETRIC DATING
Deni J. Seymour (C) 2004-2008. Under Review.
Finding and interpreting chronometric dates from protohistoric and early historic sites occupied by mobile groups requires a different approach
than that for more sedentary societies. This issue of the low archaeological visibility of highly mobile groups in areas where there were also more
sedentary folk that sometimes used the same places has applicability beyond the southern Southwest. Recognition of gradations in mobility and
acknowledgment of the regular incidence of reoccupation are the first and important steps toward achieving reliable and accurate chronologies.
Also required is application of a more nuanced approach to wood-use behavior and site formation processes. By addressing the data presented
by the unobtrusive and meager record on its own terms, rather than maintaining standards developed for and applied to more sedentary systems,
it is possible to differentiate and date with increased confidence the Athabascan and non-Athabascan mobile occupations in the southern
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CONTEXTUAL INCONGRUITIES, STATISTICAL OUTLIERS, AND ANOMALIES:
TARGETING INCONSPICUOUS OCCUPATIONAL EVENTS
Deni J. Seymour (C) 2010. American Antiquity (January Issue)
New methodologies are needed to address multiple componentcy and short reuse episodes that are characteristic of mobile group
residential and logistical strategies. Chronometric results are often misinterpreted when evaluated within a framework suited to
long-term sedentary occupations. The standard practices of ‘age-averaging,’ eliminating apparent ‘anomalous’ results, and relying on
high profile ‘diagnostics’ and the most visible features—along with the expectation for ‘contextual congruence’—mask
multicomponentcy and episodic reuse. High incidences of site reuse have been detected by considering alternate site development
models and looking specifically for evidence of distinct shorter term occupations.
Protohistoric and Early Historic Temporal Resolution
Deni Seymour, 2003
Conservation Division, Directorate of Environment, Fort Bliss. Lone Mountain Report 560-003.
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Isolating a Pre-Differentiation Athapaskan Assemblage in the Southern Southwest:
The Cerro Rojo Complex.
Deni J. Seymour, 2012,
Chapter 5 in
"From the Land of Ever Winter to the American Southwest:
Athapaskan Migrations, Mobility, and Ethnogenesis,"
edited by Deni J. Seymour, pp. 90-123. University of Utah Press.
In order for chronometric dates to make sense it is imperative that distinctly Apachean material culture is being sampled. This chapter
discusses how the ancestral Apache (Cerro Rojo) complex was distinguished in the archaeological record from earlier, later, and
contemporaneous manifestations. This methodological statement summarizes presentations in other contexts and discusses the
difficulties of isolating the earliest ancestral Apache signature.
Gateways for Athabascan Migration to the American Southwest.
Deni J. Seymour, 2012, Plains Anthropologist 57(222):9-21.
There's a reason the earliest chronometric dates in the southern Southwest are where they
are. Dates in the A.D. 1300s occur in southweastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.
This article discusses a western route for the ancestral Apaches from the Subartic to the
American Southwest, a route which does not posit a swing westward from the plains once
they arrived in the south. The paper also discusses why the migratory trail was as far west as
it was but not further west. "Gateways" provided access through the deeply incised
landscapes of Colorado and Utah.
2013 Platform Cave-Cache Encampments: Implications for Mobility Strategies and the Earliest Athabascans.
Deni J. Seymour, 2013, Journal of Field Archaeology 38(2):161-172.
The Ancestral Apache were present in the southern portion of the Southwest by the 14th century (e.g., A.D. 1300s).
Several sites have produced early dates but the best examples are from features called platform caches which are found
in rock shelters. These features are uniquely Apachean as discussed in this paper using ethnographic, historic, and
archaeological data. Chronometric dates obtained directly from these features on a number of sites as well as from
directly associated Apachean pottery provide a sequence of use from the 1300s through the 1800s. Sampling material
was of exceptional quality including radiocarbon dating of annuals, such as leaves and grass from the platforms
themselves, and luminescence dates on Apachean pottery.