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TREE-RING DATES AND NAVAJO SETTLEMENT PATTERNS IN ARIZONA

  • Chip Colwell (a1) and T. J. Ferguson (a2)

Abstract

The historical timing and movement of Navajo communities in the U.S. Southwest continue to be key, but unresolved, issues. This paper analyzes tree-ring data to consider initial Navajo settlement patterns in the Little Colorado River watershed, Black Mesa, and nearby regions in northern Arizona. We are critical of previous studies that deem all tree-ring dates to be equally valid, so we present a new approach to systematically identify potential early Navajo sites. After analyzing hundreds of tree-ring specimens from 774 sites, we conclude that dendrochronological evidence offers moderate-to-high confidence that 18 Navajo sites in the study area were settled prior to 1882. These dendrochronological data support the hypothesis of a westward Navajo migration from the Dinétah, reaching Black Mesa in Arizona about 1840, other areas north and east of the Hopi Mesas in the 1850s, and land west of Hopi in the 1870s after the release of Navajos from Fort Sumner in 1868.

El surgimiento y el movimiento de las comunidades navajo en el suroeste de EE.UU. sigue siendo una pregunta clave sin resolver. Este artículo analiza datos de anillos de crecimiento de árboles para reconstruir los patrones de asentamiento tempranos de la cultura navajo en la cuenca del río Little Colorado, Black Mesa y regiones circundantes en Arizona. Nos distanciamos de estudios previos que consideran todas las fechas de anillos de árboles como igualmente válidas. Por lo tanto, presentamos un nuevo enfoque metodológico para identificar sistemáticamente los posibles sitios más tempranos de los navajos en la región. Después de examinar las fechas de cientos de especímenes dendrocronológicos provenientes de 774 diferentes sitios, llegamos a la conclusión que hay evidencia moderada o alta en apenas 18 sitios del área de estudio con ocupación navajo que fecha antes de 1882. Los datos dendrocronológicos apoyan la hipótesis de una migración hacia el oeste desde Dinétah, en la cual los navajos alcanzaron Black Mesa, Arizona, en 1840; otras áreas al norte y este de las Mesas Hopi durante la década de 1850; y zonas al oeste de los hopis en la década de 1870, tras la liberación de los navajos de Fort Sumner en 1868.

Copyright

Corresponding author

(chip.colwell@dmns.org, corresponding author)

References

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TREE-RING DATES AND NAVAJO SETTLEMENT PATTERNS IN ARIZONA

  • Chip Colwell (a1) and T. J. Ferguson (a2)

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