An Exploration of the Relationship between Mobility and Sedentism in the American Southwest and Mesoamerica

Length: 7 Pages 1796 Words

In Anthropology a false notion occurs in that hunters and gatherers are mobile and agriculturalists are sedentary. There are many examples of Native North American tribes and cultures that exhibit mobile agriculturalism, opposing early archaeological preconcieved notions of a unilineal settlement continuum from mobile to sedentary. The model from mobile hunting and gathering to sedentary agriculture should be thought of as a universal, variable and mutil-dimensional phenomenon. The American Southwestern culture of the Hopi and the Mesoamerican culture of the Raramuri are two fascinating examples of the incorporation of both mobility and sedentism as subsistence strategies. CONCEPTS OF MOBILITY The concept of mobility must be thought of in terms of being a property of individuals who may move in many different ways: alone or in groups, frequently or infrequently, over short or long distances, daily, seasonaly or annually (Kelly). Binford differentiated between residential mobility, movements of the entire band or local group from one camp to another, and logistical mobility, foraging movements of individuals or small task groups out from and back to the residential camp (Binford). Binford later on added another dimensio Continue...


Hard and Merrill found that the Raramuri rely on both residential and logistical mobility as major components for their susbsistence strategies. They engage in four types of residential mobility; growing season mobility, winter mobility, wage-labor mobility, and ceremonial mobility. The gathering of wild plants is carried out by both sexes, individually or by small household groups, by taking expeditions or journeys to distant desert locations. Third, entire households sometimes relocate temporarily to work for wages outside of the Rejogochi community. SEDENTISM Sedentism is seen by most anthropologists as a process "whereby human groups reduce their mobility to the point where they remain residentially stationary year-round" and sedentary settlement systems as "thoses in which at least part of the population remains at the same location throughout the entire year" (Kelly 49). Sedentism has emerged at different places around the world in association with both hunting and gathering and farming adaptations (Hard and Merrill). Journal of Anthropological Research. The people also gather wild plants such as peppergrass, prickly pear, pigweed, ground cherry, and wild mushrooms. They marry exogomous to the valley and have a bilateral inheritance pattern which both promote residential mobility. It is important to realize that neither mobility nor sedentism is an inherently better settlement strategy (Hard and Merrill). The wood is used for craft activities, cooking, housebuilding and to keep the kivas hot enough to force the ritual bean seeds to sprout, therefore frequent trips must be made. Bibliography Literature Cited 1. Another important resource for the Hopi is salt, where any responsible man in the community may arrange for an expedition of about two weeks in length in order to obtain this important resource.