In this ceramic manual, we follow historical tradition in Southwestern archaeology and refer to the prehispanic people of the Colorado Plateau as "Anasazi" where our type descriptions call for cultural affiliation. To do otherwise would solve some problems, but create others.

Anasazi comes from a mispronunciation of a Navajo word. The Navajo word may mean "ancient enemies," "enemy ancestors," or simply "ancient non-Navajos." Archaeologists borrowed this term to refer to a prehistoric culture area north of those cultures they called Mogollon, Hohokam, and Sinagua, and south of those they called Fremont.

The term is firmly entrenched in the archaeological literature, but some contemporary people find the term inappropriate at best, and offensive at worst. The Hopi Tribal Cultural Preservation Office prefers the terms "ancestral pueblo" and "Hisatsinom." Hisatsinom is the Hopi word for ancient people. The Navajo Nation Archaeology Department continues to use the term Anasazi.

There is no doubt that the pottery tradition described here is ancestral to the tradition still practiced in the Pueblos today. We recognize that the term "Anasazi" may offend some, and would very much like to find a term that pleases everyone and still does the work we need it to do.

This decision does not reflect an official Northern Arizona University position on the matter, nor even the opinion of all students in the ceramic analysis course.

© Copyright 2001 Northern Arizona University.

What does "Anasazi" mean?