Collection Description

Tradition Name


Tradition Description

The Basketmaker tradition is found in southern Nevada and Utah, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona, from around 3000 to 1300 BP. The people were semi-sedentary horticulturalists who lived in pit houses in rockshelters during the early part of the tradition, and in pit houses in open-air sites forming small hamlets during the later part of the tradition. They grew corn and squash but also relied on pine nuts and other gathered foods. Sophisticated fiber baskets and string bags are characteristic. Very late in the tradition people started making plain pottery, probably for cooking the beans they had begun to cultivate. Elaborate burials were placed in and around their dwellings.


Select the Tradition Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


North America --Southwest and Basin


United States

OWC Code


Number of Documents


Note: Select the Collection Documents tab above to browse documents.

Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF Archaeology collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Basketmaker collection documents discuss the Basketmaker tradition in the Four Corner's region (northeastern Arizona, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and southeastern Utah) in the United States from around 3500 BP-1250 BP (1500 BC- AD 750). This is outside the absolute date of 3000 BP – 1300 BP for the Basketmaker partly due to Blackburn and Williamson's (1997, no. 1) dating the Basketmaker tradition from 3500 BP-1250 BP (1500 BC-AD 750). Two documents provide overviews of the Basketmaker tradition. One the best places to start is Blackburn and Williamson (1997, no. 1). Their book describes efforts by avocational archaeologists to relocate the original 1890s Wetherill excavations. Wetherill was the first to describe the Basketmakers as a separate culture. Matson (1991, no. 6) describes his own work on Cedar Mesa and also provides a cultural summary of Basketmaker culture.

Several documents are articles from an issue of the journal Kiva. The issue was devoted to research on Basketmaker II. Two of the articles describe the authors' findings from excavated sites. Geib and Davidson (1994, no. 3) excavated at Old Man Cave, while Gilpin (1994, no. 4) describes emergency excavations at Lukachukai and Salina Springs. One of the earliest dates for maize in the Four Corner regions is a result from these excavations. Basketmaker settlement patterns on Cedar Mesa were examined by Dohm (1994, no. 2) and Matson (1994, no. 10). Nelson (1994, no. 12) used lithic data to test a theory that a more sedentary settlement pattern will be accompanied by changes in lithic technology. The data from Cedar Mesa didn't support that, however. Smiley (1994, no. 9) examined the chronological data on the spread of agriculture in the Southwest. So far, the data indicate agriculture spread so rapidly that it appears throughout the southwest at essentially the same time. That the Basketmaker II diet was based on maize is confirmed by Chisholm and Matson (1994, no. 11) when they examine isotopic evidence from bone gelatin. Rock art on the Colorado Plateau from Basketmaker II times up through Pueblo IV is described by Cole (1994, no. 13) while Webster and Hays-Gilpin (1994, no. 14) describe and compare perishable artifacts to examine Basketmaker origins. The final document by Gumerman and Dean (1989, no. 5) examines the Basketmaker II-III archaeological record to explain the Anasazi society. They see periods of widespread interaction followed by periods of competition and fighting.

For further information on individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Sarah Berry

Blankets –including twined rabbit fur blankets– Use SLEEPING (513)

Cradles – Use INFANT CARE (854)

Sandals – Use NORMAL GARB (291)

Skull shape – Use BODY ALTERATIONS (304)

Storage caches/cists/pits – Use WAREHOUSING (488)

String bag – Use BURDEN CARRYING (482)

Indexing Notes by

Sarah Berry

Close Box