Communal spaces: Aggregation and integration in the Mogollon region of the United States Southwest

Jennifer E. Nisengard
Dept. of Anthropology, University of Oklahoma
August, 2006


Aggregation and integration are processes that occur in human societies throughout the globe. An informative example of population aggregation and social integration can be observed in the North American desert borderlands from A.D. 250 to 1450 in the area known as the Mogollon region. In fact, Mogollon communities oscillated from smaller social groups into larger ones and dispersed into smaller groups only to form larger ones again. For this reason, examining the groups of people living in the Mogollon region provides a magnified view of social change over a substantial period. Understanding patterns of aggregation and integration provides researchers with the promise for research into the nature of these phenomena.

In general, the Mogollon region is characterized by limited water supplies and low average annual precipitation. However, pockets of the Mogollon area, including the Mimbres valley and the Gila River valley, represent oases, where permanent rivers and their associated tributaries allowed for the pursuit of agricultural endeavors and access to a wide variety of wild plant and animal resources. The areas with these kinds of potential became population centers for previously dispersed groups of people living in the region. These people exploited natural resources and practiced agriculture in areas surrounding their communities. Over time, more organized aggregated and socially integrated communities were established throughout the region. Using ancient Mogollon communal architecture, commonly called kivas, this study examines issues of, and evidence for, population aggregation and social integration.