SOBAIPURI (New Directions)
== NEW DIRECTIONS IN SOBAIPURI ARCHAEOLOGY==
The Sobaipuri, like many groups who have transformed through time to lose their historic character, are often portrayed in a cliché role played out in an
imagined past. However, now that more archaeological work has been conducted many of the roles played in this cultural historical script are being flushed
out. It is becoming possible to understand more about the actual lifeway of this group and to see how the ethnographically described O'odham compare to
the archaeological record of the Sobaipuri.
Household Archaeology and the Sobaipuri
The Sobaipuri household is now understood in a new way. No one had recognized that
Sobaipuri houses are consistently paired, with one general use structure spatially
associated with an often-smaller special-use structure. This was first noticed in the
1990s at the site I refer to as Santa Cruz de Gaybanipitea and I have since affirmed
this at dozens of other sites.
Excavations over the past six years and remapping of dozens of sites have
demonstrated this consistent association. Work areas associated with the general-use
structure suggest this was the focus of household activities, as does the replication of
this pattern across contexts. This is reported in several publications.
This type of uniquely Sobaipuri linear arrangement to the houses was
maintained until late in time. It was not until the mid- to late-1700s that
Sobaipuri site structure changed. This was seemingly in response to
the need for defense. At Guevavi the native settlement was arranged
in a distinctive formation, with paired structures tightly grouped,
sometimes with only 50 cm between houses.
Inter-settlement social, economic, and political relations are becoming accessible through a combined examination of the archaeological
and documentary records. The impact of colonial encounter has become obvious in ways that have remained unimagined. These new
findings will be updated as time allows. They are discussed extensively in "The Rancheria-People of Kino's Congregation:
Sobaípuri-O'odham Contexts of Contact and Colonialism."
To be continued...
This important methodological problem was addressed by investigating the
issue more deeply through broad-scale excavations and by looking for
houses in areas that did not fit the existing model. These extensive
excavations at other sites, coupled with site plans from dozens of Sobaipuri
sites along the San Pedro and Santa Cruz rivers indicates that houses are
linearly aligned, often in parallel rows. Sometimes these parallel rows are
capped by two end structures, that can appear to be courtyard groups if only
partially exposed. In other instances differences in erosion may expose only
some of the structures; those that are clearly visible seem to form
groupings, but more careful inspection or excavation consistently reveals
additional structures. Another way the misimpression about courtyard
groups can be made is that through time the orientation of structure rows
may change. On sites where this is evident new structures are reoriented at
90-degree-angles to the former ones. Without dates and careful inspection,
the new structures overlying the old can look contemporanous structures in
a courtyard group.
The Sobaipuri Rancheria and Site Layout
The nature of the Sobaipuri ranchería has been captured through extensive recording of numerous sites and excavations that reveal
differences between the pre-Kino and post-Kino periods. Site layout was not a focal point of past research because archaeologists
generally thought that single free-standing houses characterized Sobaipuri sites. Now data indicate that structures are not only paired in
household groupings but that they are arranged in formalized patterns (Seymour 1990, 2004, 2007a, 2007c, 2007d, 2008a, in press).
In the 1990s I originally noted that paired houses were aligned in linear rows and that later, at San Cayetano, they seemed to be in a
courtyard group formation, much like among the Hohokam (Seymour 1990, 2007a). Additional research indicates that this was a false
impression gained by limited excavation, preconceived notions, and a accidents of preservation on a fragmentary site that had been largely
destroyed by modern construction. The Sobaipuri did not arrange their houses in courtyard groups, at least not on the Hohokam model.
Organization Above the Rancheria Level
Site structure at Santa Cruz del Pitaitutgam, a site (the only Sobaipuri
site) excavated by Di Peso. He did not recognize this site structure. The
linear arrangement was recognized in the 1980s when the site was
remapped (Seymour 1990).
Site structure at the native settlement of
Guevavi showing close spacing of houses
and change in layout, probably owing to the
need for defense.
Instead of courtyard groups investigations reveal that houses are aligned in rows, often paralell rows, even on those sites that seem to
contain clusters of houses. This clearly shows that site mapping is an interpretive effort, not simply descriptive or self evident as even
contemporary researchers are seeing courtyard groups where there are none. Preconceived notions about the layout of a site may
consistently lead researchers to the wrong conclusions, as may be occurring on some Hohokam sites where archaeomagnetic dates
suggest houses are also paired rather than forming full courtyard groups (see Whittlesey and Deaver ).
THE MATERIAL ON THIS PAGE IS COPYRIGHTED AND SHOULD BE APPROPRIATELY CITED (C) 2007-2014, Deni Seymour
Many people think of Sobaipuri pottery as an extension of the historic period Tohono O'odham Red and Tohono O'odham Plain (formerly known as Papago Red and
Papago Plain). Yet, this late-occurring pottery is not present in any known Sobaipuri context prior to the Piman Revolt of 1751. It is present in contexts that date to the
1770s and later. This 20-year period seems to be relevant to the development of this new technological ceramic tradition.
This later Tohono O'odham pottery is often organic-tempered and is much thicker than earlier Sobaipuri pottery. It also takes on new vessel forms and a new surface
treatments (slipping and polishing). These vessel forms are often made in imitation of European forms (candle sticks, plates, bowls, and so on). Rather than developing
from a long ceramic tradition these seem to represent efforts to produce vessels that appealed to Europeans in ways that diverged from earlier material selection
procedures, finishing techniques, and vessel forming patterns. This trajectory of ceramic development is common in areas where groups did not have their own tradition
(e.g., African slaves in the southeastern US) and the Indians that aggregated in the California Missions or where the local tradition was interrupted. The resulting pottery is
referred to collectively as Colono ware (Deagan 1983:234; Ferguson 1992:19-22; Hume 1982:12) in other regions. The basic common factor of Colono wares
throughout the Colonial period US is that they are made by natives or slaves using folk technologies (some of which have temporal depth among the natives) and use of
forms that appeal to the dominant class or element (Europeans among natives, slave owners in plantation communities).
In this sense the Tohono O'odham wares that developed in the second portion of the eighteenth century seem to fit the definition of Colono wares. Classification of local
O'odham wares into the more general Colono ware classification is useful mainly from the perspective that similar processes of transformation and compliance seem to
be taking place. This means that once this ceramic change occurs it marks the replacement of many indigenous traditions and a step toward the final demise of the old
ways. This coincides with fundamental changes in settlement patterns, site layout, and in other historical processes. The development of this type of pottery (Colono
ware) among the O'odham is perhaps not surprising because some branches of this group may not have had a ceramic tradition owing to their high mobility, or if they had
a tradition it was not well developed. Groups from the west were brought into the riverside mission settlements to maintain population levels that would further the goals of
the missionaries. In the process, the local Sobaipuri population was gradually replaced because they died in extraordinary numbers and they were outnumbered by
Little is known about Sobaipuri vessel forms because the pottery is thin and is in contexts that are near the present ground surface and so has been subject to breakage
and then breakdown. Once a vessel is broken it disperses and pieces break into small sherds that are often impossible to reconstruct. One reconstructed Sobaipuri
vessel from a pre-Kino site on the San Pedro will be pictured on this page in the near future. What is apparent is that the Sobaipuri way of making pottery was replaced in
the later part of the eighteenth century, and marks a lasting and tranformatory instant for the Sobaipuri.
Whetstone Plain is the hallmark Sobaipuri pottery...
More to follow...
These topics are discussed further in the following publications:
Seymour, Deni J., 1990 Sobaipuri-Pima Settlement Along the Upper San Pedro River: A Thematic Survey Between
Fairbank and Aravaipa Canyon. Report for the Bureau of Land Management. On file at the Arizona State Museum.
Seymour, Deni J., 2004 Thirty-Two Degrees North Latitude: the Protohistoric Period in the Southern Southwest. Book
Seymour, Deni J., 2007a A Syndetic Approach to Identification of the Historic Mission Site of San Cayetano Del
Tumacácori. International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 11(3):269-296.
Seymour, Deni J., 2007b Delicate Diplomacy on a Restless Frontier: Seventeenth-Century Sobaipuri Social and
Economic Relations in Northwestern New Spain, Part I. New Mexico Historical Review, Volume 82, No. 4.
Seymour, Deni J., 2007c An Archaeological Perspective on the Hohokam-Pima Continuum. Old Pueblo
Archaeology Bulletin No. 51, December 2007.
Seymour, Deni J., 2008a Delicate Diplomacy on a Restless Frontier: Seventeenth-Century Sobaipuri Social and
Economic Relations in Northwestern New Spain, Part II. New Mexico Historical Review, Volume 83, No. 2.
Seymour, Deni J., 2008b Father Kino's 'Neat Little House and Church' at Guevavi. Journal of the Southwest
Seymour, Deni J., 2009 Beyond Married, Buried, And Baptized: Exposing Historical Discontinuities in an Engendered
Sobaípuri-O’odham Household. Chapter in Engendering Households in the Prehistoric Southwest, edited by Barbara
Roth. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Seymour, Deni J., 2011d Where the Earth and Sky are Sewn Together : Sobaípuri-O'odham Contexts of Contact and
Colonialism. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.