Viejo Period, agriculture, archeology


Farming peoples thrived in the mountains, basins, and river valleys of northwestern Chihuahua for hundreds of years prior to the construction of platform mounds and ball courts at Paquime. Their small pithouse villages dotted the landscape near the rich floodplain of the Casas Grandes River, where they farmed maize, beans, and other goods. It was during this time (AD. 400-1200), known as the Viejo Period, that the foundations of the Chihuahuan culture were formed. While recognized as forming the roots of a more complex society, Viejo Period sites lack the monumental architecture and ornate pottery of the Medio Period (AD. 1150/1200-1450/1475), which have attracted archaeologists and tourists to the region for decades. One reason Viejo Period sites are understudied is that many are virtually invisible because they are buried under the adobe mounds of later inhabitants and appear as little more than scatters of artifacts on the ground surface. Some of the first clues into this earlier era were unearthed in the excavations of Charles Di Peso at the Convento Site. Conducting test excavations in a seventeenth-century Spanish settlement a few kilometers north of Casas Grandes, Di Peso discovered a cluster of underlying Viejo Period dwellings that were almost a thousand years older than the Spanish occupation.

Original Publication Citation

Searcy, Michael T., and Jane H. Kelley 2016 The Viejo Period. In Discovering Paquimé, edited by Paul E. Minnis and Michael E. Whalen, pp. 17-21. Amerind Foundation, Dragoon, Arizona and University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



University of Arizona Press




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor