Consolidation of populations and incipient political centralization characterize the period, particularly in the Eastern Woodlands and the Southwest. The success of food crops such as maize and beans allows for meaningful concentrations of peoples. Settlements are enlarged along local patterns, with individual centers assuming regional dominance. Cahokia on the Mississippi River floodplain of Illinois expands; its over 100 earthen mounds are used for varying purposes. Important Mississippian sites in the Southeast such as Moundville, Spiro, and Etowah show clear evidence of high-ranking inhabitants with many precious objects in their burials. In the arid Southwest, where the sophisticated influence of Mexico to the south is felt, numerous centers become large only to be abandoned. In the far north, the pan-Arctic Thule culture begins in Alaska and rapidly spreads eastward.
Villages, known as pueblos, are built over the remains of earlier pithouses; in the Mimbres Valley, New Mexico, Black-on-White ceramics (1978.412.123) are placed in subfloor burials.
Mississippian cultural patterns are well established in the Midwest and Southeast, grounded in population growth and economic stability; maize agriculture and long-distance exchange systems are in place.
The four-terraced Monks Mound, the largest earthen structure in the United States, is under construction at Cahokia.
Pueblo Bonito, the largest of the great houses of Chaco Canyon, is a multistoried structure with almost 700 rooms; the Chaco regional system, with its ceremonial structures known as great kivas, as well as mounds and other earthworks, dominates northwestern New Mexico.
The drought in Chaco Canyon leads to its abandonment.
Beans are a staple in the Eastern Woodlands and are grown together with maize.
Population in the northern San Juan Basin of New Mexico concentrates in cliff dwellings such as Mesa Verde; Snaketown in Arizona is abandoned.
Moundville on the Black Warrior River in Alabama, a political and religious center with a large population, produces ceramic, stone, and copper objects.
Hohokam settlements increase in southern Arizona. Major construction at Casas Grandes, on the Casas Grandes River in northern Chihuahua, includes ballcourts, walk-in wells, and sewer systems. Casas Grandes is an important center for trade with Mexico.
The inhabitants of Spiro, in Le Flore County, Oklahoma, enlarge Craig Mound with aspects of both platform and funerary structures; many objects of the Southern Cult are placed in burials.
Etowah, in northeastern Georgia, dominates the region; its major mounds, Mounds A, B, and C, are enlarged, and precious objects of the Southern Cult are placed in Mound C burials.
The population of Cahokia declines; a defensive wall is built at the site’s center.
Populations leave the northern region of the Southwest and settle south along the Little Colorado River and the Rio Grande.
The Kachina (Katsina) cult is established in the Southwest’s upper Little Colorado River Valley. The cult is visually manifest in supernatural beings, masked impersonators, and dolls.
In the Southwest’s Puebloan area, village size increases and populations concentrate into fewer, larger centers; the enclosed plaza–possibly an influence from Mexico–becomes common.
The Southern Cult reaches its peak of influence. Similarities in religious practices and art proliferate across the Eastern Woodlands; warrior, bird-man, and serpent imagery are among the visual themes.
“North America, 1000–1400 A.D.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=07®ion=na (October 2001)