Ancient and Archaic Civilization
New Mexico was one of the first places to harbor humans after the end of the last ice age. Archaeological findings indicate that about 12,000 years ago, people were hunting mastodons and other big game across the state. Mammoth bones, arrowheads, and the remains of campfires have been found in Folsom, in northeastern New Mexico; Clovis in the south; and the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque. Sometime between 8000 and 5000 b.c., these bands of hunters formed a small temporary settlement just north of Albuquerque, but it was not enough to stave off the decline of that ancient culture, as climatic shifts caused the big game to die off. Nomadic hunter-gatherers, seeking out smaller animals as well as seeds and nuts, did better in the new land, and by 1000 b.c., they had established communities built around clusters of pit houses—sunken, log-covered rooms dug into the earth.
Along with this new form of shelter came an equally important advance in food. Mexican people gave corn kernels (maize) and lessons in agriculture to their neighbors, the Mogollon, who occupied southern New Mexico and Arizona; by a.d. 400, the Mogollon had begun growing squash and beans as well and had established concentrated communities all around the southern Rio Grande basin. This culture, dubbed the Basketmakers by archaeologists, also developed its own pottery, another skill learned from the indigenous people of Mexico. So when the Mogollon made contact with the Anasazi (the ancestors of today’s Puebloans) in the northern part of the state, they had plenty to share.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition