Early Navajo land use in northwestern New Mexico: Big Bead Mesa in regional perspective

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2 Scopus citations


Big Bead Mesa (LA 12351) is the most famous Navajo archaeological site ever investigated and has played an important role in the interpretation of Navajo culture history. It remains a sacred place to the Navajo, both for historical and spiritual reasons. Pioneering work by Dorothy L. Keur resulted in the publication of the first Society for American Archaeology Memoir and brought Navajo archaeology national recognition. James Hester used Big Bead Mesa as the type site for his Cabezon Phase, although he conducted no research at the site. Big Bead Mesa is not the only Early Navajo site in the Rio Puerco Valley; however, the surrounding area has never been adequately investigated or reported. This paper documents a variety of Navajo sites in the Rio Puerco Valley and indicates that Big Bead Mesa was only a small part of a much larger Navajo occupation that extended to the north, west, and south.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-129
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Field Archaeology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


  • Big Bead Mesa
  • Dendrochronology
  • Dinétah
  • Gobernador polychrome
  • Navajo
  • Rio Puerco Valley

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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