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Margaret Nelson – “Then and Now: Then and Now: Lessons from Mimbres”

Note: This post refers to an event that took place on May 16, 2011.

Archaeological research is inherently interesting, but does it help us think about the present and the future?  We argue that archaeological sites are a valuable heritage resource and that archaeological research delves into and improves our understanding of past lives – ways of being and doing.  This is true.  But can the experiences of the past inform current thinking and decision-making about social and ecological issues?    I explore this question by assessing the role of social diversity in the resilience of human societies.  Recent calls for homogenization of culture emphasize the value of inquiring into the consequences of reductions in social diversity.

I will examine the Mimbres Mogollon sequence from the late 900s CE to the 1300s CE, a period in which people changed their ritual practices, their village forms, and much of their material culture.  These four centuries are marked by a major reorganization of social life and settlement and a substantial emigration.   I will explore the role that social diversity, as expressed in ceramic wares, played in the social changes that occurred.  I will then expand this view to consider other cases in the US Southwest and take a look across the Southwest more broadly.  This research is directed toward considering whether understandings derived from long-term sequences of change can inform our current thinking about the impacts of declining social diversity.