Pagosa’s Past: Life in Pagosa Country 2,000 years ago

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    Photo courtesy John M. Motter
    Engine No. 37 belonging to the Pagosa Lumber Company is shown on its way from Pagosa Junction to Pagosa Springs carrying a couple of joyful young ladies on their way to a picnic.

    By John M. Motter
    PREVIEW Columnist

    We’ve been writing about the Ancestral Puebloans, previously called Anasazi Indians, who lived in Pagosa Country circa 2,000 years ago. Continuing from where we left off last week, “These later Basketmakers added beans to their diet, developed the bow and arrow, and learned to make pottery.

    “Turquoise and pottery jewelry and statues have been found from this period indicating an increased interest in religion. Clothing probably was little worn by the Basketmakers. Sandals were woven from yucca strips. Loin cloths and mantle-like garments may have been worn.

    “The Basketmakers were short in stature. Men averaged 5 feet, 3 inches in height and women were slightly shorter. As life became easier, the population multiplied.

    “Slowly, reliance shifted from baskets to pottery. The period of time when pottery gained ascendence over baskets launched the beginning of what archaeologists refer to as the Pueblo Period. The Pueblo period is subdivided into the Developmental Pueblo Period, the Great Pueblo Period, the Regressive Pueblo Period and the Historic Pueblo Period. Because the Anasazi abandoned Pagosa Country before the last two periods began, we will not deal with those periods in this history.

    “Multi-family dwellings called Pueblos provide the name for the Pueblo Period. These communal dwellings were at first built on a small scale, but later increased in size and complexity. Pueblo dwellings were constructed of stone and adobe and faced a central plaza containing one or more kivas. 

    “Kivas, introduced during the later years of the Basketmaker Period, assumed extreme importance. They were used for religious ceremonies and, perhaps, as a gathering place for male societies within the tribe.

    “Cotton was introduced, allowing the weaving of true cloth suitable for blankets, poncho-like shirts, skirts and other apparel. Another important change affected the appearance of the people. The soft cradle of the Basketmakers was replaced by the hard cradleboard of the Pueblos. The hard cradleboard, to which infants were attached, caused the back of the head to flatten, giving the entire head a rounder and broader appearance.”