Prehistoric Warfare in Central Arizona, USA: Assessing Its Scale with Ceramic Chemistry

David Abbott, Andrew D. Lack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The scale of warfare and alliance in the ancient American Southwest is hotly debated for the interval from A.D. 1100 to 1450. Some archaeologists posit conflict persistently waged in central Arizona, which thereby promoted the emergence of region-sized polities, including the so-called Verde Confederacy. Relying largely on settlement-pattern data, these theorists have hypothesized warfare and alliance practiced at a regional scale, apparently larger than anywhere else in the prehistoric American Southwest. Other evidence, however, has challenged the Verde Confederacy model and the level at which hostilities raged in central Arizona. It calls into question the organizational capabilities of hostile tribal groups and their strategic goals. In this paper, we add a new line of complementary information based on the compositional analysis of phyllite-tempered plain ware ceramics. By reconstructing the pottery's movement and exchange across the region, we outline patterns of interaction useful for evaluating the scale of alliance and warfare in central Arizona. We find, contrary to the expectations of regional scale alliances, that the ceramic exchange networks segregated some populations previously proposed to have been aligned, while integrating groups thought previously to have been enemies. The ceramic data indicate alliances and hostilities at a relatively local scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-169
Number of pages23
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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