Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Anthropology


Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Jay K. Johnson

Second Advisor

Maureen Meyers

Third Advisor

Matthew L. Murray

Relational Format



This thesis explores the role of "forts" in the sociopolitical organization of a prehistoric people known as the Cohonina through the application of settlement systems analysis and functional studies. The primary objective of this thesis is to test ideas of Cohonina sociopolitical organization through an examination of the functional characteristics of forts and their positions on the landscape using a combination of theory derived from settlement and landscape archaeology, deployed in a geographic information system work environment. A Cohonina fort site known as the Pittsberg Fort Complex, was placed in its community context through broad scale survey. Artifact, architectural, and settlement data from that site were compared with other recognized Cohonina fort sites in order to establish the function of these features on the intra-community level. Visibility analyses between the Pittsberg Fort Complex and other Cohonina sites were conducted to explore the potential of forts as nodes in a regional visual communication network integrating territorially distinct communities. The results of these analyses determined the primary function of Cohonina forts was not defensive, but integrative. Cohonina forts were built environments wherein ritual behavior was acted out that integrated Cohonina society on both the intra- and inter-community scales. These findings support the mountain-centric model of Cohonina social organization which describes semi-autonomous and essentially sedentary communities centered around the major hills and mountains of the Coconino plateau with an economy that was heavily reliant on intra- and inter-regional trade networks that exerted strong integrating forces on a political economic system prone to segmentation and differentiation.



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