An archaeological survey of the Onavas Valley, Sonora, Mexico: A landscape of interactions during the late Prehispanic period

Emiliano Gallaga Murrieta
Dept. of Anthropology, University of Arizona
July, 2006


Abstract: Traditionally, the Onavas Valley located in the middle Río Yaqui, has been identified as part of the Río Sonora archaeological tradition. However, no archaeological research has taken place in this region to verify this cultural model. This work presents new data from the Onavas Valley Archaeological Project (OVAP), conducted in the summer of 2003 and 2004, which provide basic data to solidify our understanding of an archaeologically poorly researched area, examine its role in interactions with the neighboring archaeological areas, and contrast the Río Sonora tradition model. The methodology used combine archaeological survey, artifact analysis, and ethnohistorical research. A full-coverage systematic pedestrian survey, at the center of the Onavas Valley, was conducted covering an area of 67 km 2 and recorded 122 new sites. Three research approaches where set to discern and define the archaeological tradition within the Onavas Valley and then examine extra-regional interactions with neighboring archaeological areas. Those are (1) building a local chronology and a diagnostic inventory of material culture; (2) establishing the landscape structure (settlement pattern and ritual landscape) of the area; and (3) collecting and analyzing evidence for the manufacture, use, and exchange of trade goods. At the end of the material analysis, the OVAP conclude that the Onavas Valley had more cultural relation with the Huatabampo archaeological tradition than to the Rio Sonora archaeological tradition. Finally a comparison of the cultural landscape of the Onavas Valley with those of the Marana, Cerro de Trincheras, and Paquimé traditions was made, to see different cultural developments in similar geographical condition using same methodological and analytical framework.