Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Christopher A. Pool

Second Advisor

Dr. Tom D. Dillehay


This dissertation challenges traditional interpretations that indigenous groups who settled the Grand Canyon during the Pueblo Period (AD 700 -1225) relied heavily on maize to meet their subsistence needs. Instead they are viewed as dynamic ecosystem engineers who employed fire and natural plant succession to engage in a wild plant subsistence strategy that was supplemented to varying degrees by maize. By examining the relationship between archaeological sites and the natural environment throughout the Canyon, new settlement pattern models were developed. These models attempt to account for the spatial distribution of Virgin people, as represented by Virgin Gray Ware ceramics, Kayenta as represented by Tusayan Gray Ware ceramics, and the Cohonina as represented by San Francisco Mountain Gray Ware ceramics, through an examination of the relationships of sites to various aspects of the natural environment (biotic communities, soils, physical geography, and hydrology).

Inferences constructed from the results of geographic information system analyses of the Park’s legacy site data, indicate that Virgin groups were the first to arrive at the Canyon, around AD 700 and leaving around AD 1200. They practiced a split subsistence strategy, which included seasonal movements between maize agricultural areas in the western Inner Canyon and wild resource production areas in the pinyon-juniper forests on the western North Rim plateaus. The Kayenta occupied the North Rim, South Rim and Inner Canyon, throughout the entire Pueblo Period. Their subsistence system relied heavily on wild resource production on both rims supplemented by low-level maize agriculture practiced seasonally on the wide deltas in the eastern Inner Canyon. The Cohonina were the last to arrive and the first to leave, as they occupied the Canyon for about 300 years from AD 800–1100. They were the most prolific maize farmers, practicing it in the Inner Canyon near the mouth of Havasu Creek, but still seasonally exploiting wild resource on the western South Rim.

Based on my interpretations, use of the Canyon from AD 700-1225, is viewed as a dynamic interplay between indigenous groups and their environment. As they settled into the Canyon and managed the diverse ecology to meet their subsistence needs.