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T. J. Ferguson – “Two Views of Zuni Migration: Traditional History and Archaeology”

Note: This post refers to an event that took place on Dec 20, 2010.

The traditions of the Zuni people derive from the occupation of their homeland for more than a millennium. These traditions are tied to named places in a cultural landscape that provides the Zuni people with the means to symbolize and recall the ancient past. The Zuni landscape incorporates an extensive geographical area and considerable time depth, representing the long period during which the Zuni people migrated from their place of emergence to Zuni Pueblo. The area occupied by their ancestors during this migration has continuing historical and religious significance to the Zuni people. As the Zunis talk about and use this landscape, the ancient past is projected into the contemporary world and kept alive.

Archaeologists have long believed that the Zuni culture is an amalgamation of two groups of people. One of these groups resided in the Zuni area for a considerable time and participated in the Chacoan interaction sphere. The other group migrated to Zuni relatively late in the archaeological sequence, arriving from the southwest and introducing new cultural practices like cremation.

A robust archaeological theory of Zuni origins needs to take into account Zuni traditional history and cultural geography. Inasmuch as Zuni traditions are congruent with archaeological data, we have corroboration for archaeological theories. In instances where archaeology and Zuni traditions diverge, we are faced with the challenge to explain this disparity in a manner that makes anthropological sense, and which respects both archaeological and traditional sources of knowledge.