THE ANCESTRAL APACHE IN THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST
THE MATERIAL ON THIS PAGE IS COPYRIGHTED AND SHOULD BE APPROPRIATELY CITED (C) 2007- 2014, Deni Seymour
The Apache are known for such famous figures as Geronimo and Cochise. Yet, the late Apache leaders and the sites they created represent only a small
portion of the relatively long history of this group in the American Southwest. In fact, late Apache sites from the nineteenth century are easy to identify
and there a many known, contrary to common belief. These are typically identified on the basis of the presence of European artifacts that have been
modified for new uses. Yet, efforts have been underway for many years now to identify Apache sites without European artifacts and to identify sites that
predate contact with Europeans.
The most cutting-edge research is using a systematic dating methodology to ascertain the age of sites, and in doing so is showing that ancestors of the
Apache (early Athapaskans) were present in southern Arizona and New Mexico by the 1300s, perhaps earlier (see date table in Platform Cave Cache
article; also see Despoblado or Athapaskan Heartland download below). Multiple chronometric dates (using annual-species-based AMS and
luminescence dating) found in association with Athapaskan rock art (mountain spirit figures), distinctly Athapaskan feature types, and diagnostic flaked
stone and pottery on a number of sites provide support for this statement.
Innovative methodologies examine the nature of the native assemblage of artifacts (pottery and flaked stone) and housing features and differences from
the Plains so that they may be distinguished from prehistoric groups and from other contemporaneous late prehistoric and historic groups, such as the
mobile Jano and Jocome and the farming-based Sobaipuri. Middle-range theory developed specifically to understand Apachean archaeology and their way
of life provides a basis for recognizing and connecting evidence in the material record and connecting it to the documentary and ethnographic records.
The documentary record indicates that at times sizable groups of Apache came together in large hilltop settlements for ceremonies, for social gatherings,
and to plan for raids and warfare. At present three of these large hilltop sites are known. One is the Cerro Rojo Site, located in the Hueco Mountains of
southern New Mexico. Another that contains uniquely Apache rock art, along with structures and other features, is in the Peloncillo Mountains (AZ
CC:12:58, ASM). A small ancestral Chiricahua Apache residential site I recorded many years ago, called the Three Sisters Site, probably represents a
small family encampment of three related women and their families who used the location as a based for for plant collection activities.
These ancestral Apache sites found in the southern Southwest differ in fundamental ways from ancestral Apache sites on the Llano Estacado-- the plains
of New Mexico and West Texas. One reason for this is that there was likely a western route of migration south from the Subartic as well as a route down
the Plains. It has long been thought that the ancestral Athabascans came down the Plains and then later, much later, looped west into the mountainous
Southwest. Yet new research has produced the earliest dates in the mountains and much further south much earlier than expected. Numerous dates
from a number of different sites provide evidence of an early presence in the A.D. 1300s. This is discussed and these chronometric dating evidence is
presented most thoroughly in the Apache Platform Caches article cited below. An explanation for their distribution is provided in the Athabascan
Gateways paper cited below.
The early documentary record also mentions plains groups visiting the Salinas Pueblos, Galisteo Basin Pueblos, Paa-ko Pueblo, and Pecos Pueblo.
Evidence of a number of these mobile group sites have been found in each of these areas, including some that are ancestral Apachean and others for
which cultural affiliation cannot yet be determined. Some of these have produced dates in the 1200s and 1300s, much like those further west in the
mountains, suggesting an early Athapaskan and mobile group presence in both zones. This evidence is discussed in two upcoming papers cited below.
Articles and monographs specifically on the Ancestral Apache in the southern Southwest:
Seymour, Deni J.
2002 Conquest and Concealment: After the El Paso Phase on Fort Bliss. Conservation Division, Directorate of Environment, Fort Bliss. Lone
Mountain Report 525/528. This document can be obtained by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
2003 Protohistoric and Early Historic Temporal Resolution. Conservation Division, Directorate of Environment, Fort Bliss. Lone Mountain Report
560-003. This document can be obtained by contacting email@example.com.
2003 The Cerro Rojo Complex: A Unique Indigenous Assemblage in the El Paso Area and Its Implications For The Early Apache. Proceedings of
the XII Jornada Mogollon Conference in 2001. Geo-Marine, El Paso.
2004 A Ranchería in the Gran Apachería: Evidence of Intercultural Interaction at the Cerro Rojo Site. Plains Anthropologist 49(190):153-192.
2004 Before the Spanish Chronicles: Early Apache in the Southern Southwest, pp. 120 –142. In "Ancient and Historic Lifeways in North America’s
Rocky Mountains." Proceedings of the 2003 Rocky Mountain Anthropological Conference, Estes Park, Colorado, edited by Robert H. Brunswig and
William B. Butler. Department of Anthropology, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley.
2005 The Implications of Mobility, Reoccupation, and Low Visibility Phenomena for Chronometric Dating. Under review.
2005 Mobile Visitors to The Eastern Frontier Pueblos. Under review.
2007 Sexually Based War Crimes or Structured Conflict Strategies: An Archaeological Example from the American Southwest. In Texas and
Points West: Papers in Honor of John A. Hedrick and Carol P. Hedrick, edited by Regge N. Wiseman, Thomas C. O’Laughlin, and Cordelia T.
Snow, pp. 117-134. Papers of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico No. 33. Archaeological Society of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
2007 Apache, Spanish, and Protohistoric Archaeology on Fort Bliss. Conservation Division, Directorate of Environment, Fort Bliss. Lone Mountain
Report 560-005. With Tim Church
2007 Stranger Sojourners: Spatial Indications of Mobile Group Visiting Protocol. Under review.
2007 An Archaeological Perspective on the Hohokam-Pima Continuum. Old Pueblo Archaeology Bulletin No. 51 (December 2007):1-7. (This
discusses the early presence of Athapaskans.)
2007 Delicate Diplomacy on a Restless Frontier: Seventeenth-Century Sobaípuri Social and Economic Relations in Northwestern New Spain, Part I.
New Mexico Historical Review, Volume 82(4):469-499.
2008 Despoblado or Athapaskan Heartland: A Methodological Perspective on Ancestral Apache Landscape Use in the Safford Area. Chapter 5 in
Crossroads of the Southwest: Culture, Ethnicity, and Migration in Arizona's Safford Basin, pp. 121-162, edited by David E. Purcell, Cambridge
Scholars Press, New York.
2008 A Pledge of Peace: Evidence of the Cochise-Howard Treaty Campsite. Historical Archaeology 42(4):154-179. With George Robertson.
2008 Apache Plain and Other Plainwares on Apache Sites in the Southern Southwest. In "Serendipity: Papers in Honor of Frances Joan Mathien,"
edited by R.N. Wiseman, T.C O'Laughlin, C.T. Snow and C. Travis, pp 163-186. Papers of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico No. 34.
Archaeological Society of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
2008 Surfing Behind The Wave: A Counterpoint Discussion Relating To “A Ranchería In the Gran Apachería.” Plains Anthropologist
2008 Pre-Differentiation Athapaskans (Proto-Apache) in the 13th and 14th Century Southern Southwest. Chapter in edited volume under
preparation. Also paper in the symposium: The Earliest Athapaskans in Southern Southwest: Implications for Migration, organized and chaired by
Deni Seymour, Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver.
2008 Delicate Diplomacy on a Restless Frontier: Seventeenth-Century Sobaípuri Social and Economic Relations in Northwestern New Spain, Part
II. New Mexico Historical Review, Volume 83, No. 2:171–199.
2009 Evaluating Eyewitness Accounts of Native Peoples along the Coronado Trail from the International Border to Cibola. New Mexico Historical
2009 Distinctive Places, Suitable Spaces: Conceptualizing Mobile Group Occupational Duration and Landscape Use. International Journal of
Historical Archaeology 13(3): 255-281.
2009 Nineteenth-Century Apache Wickiups: Historically Documented Models for Archaeological Signatures of the Dwellings of Mobile People.
2009 Comments On Genetic Data Relating to Athapaskan Migrations: Implications of the Malhi et al. Study for the Apache and Navajo. American
Journal of Physical Anthropology 139(3):281-283.
2009 The Cerro Rojo Site (LA 37188)--A Large Mountain-Top Ancestral Apache Site in Southern New Mexico. Digital History Project. New Mexico
Office of the State Historian.
2009 Manso Tipis and Other Non Sequiturs Relating to the Protohistoric Southwest. Quince: Papers from the 15th Biennial Jornada Mogollon
Conference, pp. 107-119, edited by Marc Thompson. El Paso Museum of Archaeology, El Paso.
2010 Cycles Of Renewal, Transportable Assets: Aspects of the Ancestral Apache Housing Landscape. Plains Anthropologist (Spring or Summer
2010 Contextual Incongruities, Statistical Outliers, and Anomalies: Targeting Inconspicuous Occupational Events. American Antiquity
2011 To Go Together: Focal Residential Strategies of the Southernmost Ancestral Apache. With Richard N. Henderson. Chapter in The Apache
Presence in the Borderlands of the American Southwest. Book under preparation for University of Arizona Press, edited by David Carmichael.
2011 1762 On the San Pedro: Reevaluating Sobaípuri-O'odham Abandonment and New Apache Raiding Corridors. The Journal of Arizona History
2011 Ancestral Apache Use of Otero Mesa. One article in a series to save Otero Mesa from mining and oil and gas development.
Ruidoso News, Alamogordo Daily News, and the Carlsbad Current-Argus, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011, Otero Mesa Conservation column
2012 From the Land of Ever Winter to the American Southwest: Athapaskan Migrations, Mobility, and Ethnogenesis. edited by Deni J.Seymour.
University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
2012 Introduction to "From the Land of Ever Winter to the American Southwest: Athapaskan Migrations, Mobility, and Ethnogenesis," edited by
Deni J. Seymour, pp. 1-19. University of Utah Press. Salt Lake City.
2012 "Big Trips" and Historic Apache Movement and Interaction: Models for Early Athapaskan Migrations. Chapter 17 in "From the Land of Ever
Winter to the American Southwest: Athapaskan Migrations, Mobility, and Ethnogenesis," edited by Deni J. Seymour, pp. 377-409. University of
Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
2012 Isolating a Pre-Differentiation Athapaskan Assemblage in the Southern Southwest: The Cerro Rojo Complex. 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, Salt Lake City.
2012 When Data Speak Back: Resolving Source Conflict in Apache Residential and Fire-Making Behavior. International Journal of Historical
2012 Gateways for Apache Migration to the American Southwest. Plains Anthropologist 57(222):9-21.
2013 Geronimo's Wickiup: Mobile Group Hut Signatures. International Journal of Historical Archaeology.
2013 Platform Cave-Cache Encampments: Implications for Mobility Strategies and the Earliest Athabascans. Journal of Field Archaeology
2013 Horse Herd Size and the Role of Horses among the Mescalero Apache: A Response to Osborn. In From the Pueblos to the Southern Plains:
Papers in Honor of Regge Wiseman, edited by Emily J. Brown, Carol J. Condie, and Helen K. Crotty, pp. 129-139. Papers of the Archaeological
Society of New Mexico 39, Albuquerque.
2014 A Fateful Day in 1698: The Remarkable Sobaípuri O’odham Victory over the Apaches and Their Allies. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake
2014 Three Sisters Site: An Ancestral Chokonen Apache Encampment in the Dragoon Mountains. Chapter in Fierce, Barbarous, and Untamed: The
Protohistoric Non-Pueblo World, edited by Deni J. Seymour.
2014 Mobile Group Visitation at the Salinas Pueblos: An Archaeological Example from Tabirá. Plains Anthropologist 229: . February issue
2014 Conceptualizing Mobility In The Pueblo Area: Evidence In Images. Chapter in Fierce, Barbarous, and Untamed: The Protohistoric Non-Pueblo
World, edited by Deni J. Seymour.
Contradictions In History: Who Chose The 1886 Geronimo Surrender Site at Cañon De Los Embudos?