Tree-Ring dates and navajo settlement patterns in Arizona

Chip Colwell, T. J. Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The historical timing and movement of Navajo communities in the U.S. Southwest continue to be key, but unresolved, issues. This paper analyzes tree-ring data to consider initial Navajo settlement patterns in the Little Colorado River watershed, Black Mesa, and nearby regions in northern Arizona. We are critical of previous studies that deem all tree-ring dates to be equally valid, so we present a new approach to systematically identify potential early Navajo sites. After analyzing hundreds of tree-ring specimens from 774 sites, we conclude that dendrochronological evidence offers moderate-to-high confidence that 18 Navajo sites in the study area were settled prior to 1882. These dendrochronological data support the hypothesis of a westward Navajo migration from the Dinétah, reaching Black Mesa in Arizona about 1840, other areas north and east of the Hopi Mesas in the 1850s, and land west of Hopi in the 1870s after the release of Navajos from Fort Sumner in 1868.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-49
Number of pages25
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Museology


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