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Jocome and Jano archaeology
canutillo complex

sharples points color_edited.jpg

The Apache were just one of several mobile peoples who occupied the southern Southwest at and before Spanish conquest. Although some researchers have  suggested that the Jano, Jocome, Manso, and Suma were Apachean (e.g., Forbes 1960, and others), archaeological evidence indicates the presence of another type of group or groups. The archaeological evidence is indicative of a mobile group, but differs from the Apache evidence. Moreover, what has been found conforms relatively well with documentary data provided by Spanish explorers who indicated that people with a river-focused adaptation occupied the region. The Apache were known for their mountain focus. Thus, it should be of little surprise that the complex of archaeological traits found in Arizona and southern New Mexico, that are inferred to be related to the Jano or Jocome, tend to be found near playas (seasonal lakes) and along rivers. The following text outlines some of this evidence for this archaeological complex.


Bifaces are some of the most distinctive artifacts from this period and complex. They certainly are the most visible. Yet, in the past these biface forms have been confused with those from the Archaic period. In fact, the one on the right is from Ventana Cave and was listed by Sayles and Haury as relating to the Cochise Culture or Archaic period. The one in the middle was suggested by MacNeish to relate to the Archaic
component at Pintada Rockshelter. They are not and even MacNeish had to throw out numerous protohistoric dates to make this stratum and its artifacts (including this biface) fit within his conceptualized stratigraphic and occupational scheme for the rockshelter. These bifaces are similar to the Harahey knives found on the plains and hill country of Texas, including in the Trans-Pecos, and in northern
Chihuahua and Sonora. The three forms depicted here show some of the inherent variation. There is also another type that has yet to be described because so few examples have been found. these seem to be most similar to the Covington blade defined further east.

biface drawings_edited.jpg

Careful inspection of the flaking patterns indicates that some were hafted at the end while others were hafted in the middle. Examples of this latter hafting technique have been found in rockshelters in Texas, as shown below.

biface hafted.jpg
hafted biface from texas.jpg

An assortment of bifaces have been found on sites from the Hueco Mountains, TX and Otero Mesa, NM (on the east) over to Tubac (south of Tucson) and Ventana Cave, AZ (west).

bifaces from Sharples.jpg

These bifaces are also sometimes found on Sobaipuri sites. Usually these are found in fragmentary form and so little can be said about them. In some instances complete or fragmentary forms have been found that have been reworked to from some other type of tool. This is clearly the case in the examples shown below. These bifaces have been reworked to be used as an end scraper. This is usually the preferred tool form resulting from reworking.


Front and back of a broken reworked biface found at the fringe of a Sobaipuri site, Quibuiri of Kino's time.


Canutillo complex biface that has been broken and reworked. Close up shows that it was retouched to be used as a scraper. This is from the Kuykendall Ruin, and was found sitting on the top of the burned roof fall layer of the pueblo, indicating mobile groups visited this site and lived within the ruined buildings.


Reworked biface found near a large
Sobaipuri site; the end has been
reworked as a scraper and
indentations retouched on the sides
allow it to be hafted like a scraper.


This broken biface has been reworked
along one margin where the original tool
broke. It is now best used as a scraper and
even includes a small indentation on one
margin that likely assisted with hafting
without cutting the sinew.

san pedro core biface ventana.jpg

This is remarkably similar to a Canutillo Complex tool found at Ventana Cave that also appears to have been a reworked broken biface.

Prior to the current investigations only one such biface had been suggested to be associated with the Sobaipuri. This was the biface found with the Bechtel burial. In hindsight, this burial may have been a Canutillo complex burial, like many of the other recent burials encountered in southeastern Arizona that have been attributed to the Sobaipuri. The reason these burials, including the Bechtel Burial, have been associated with the Sobaipuri is because this Canutillo complex had yet to be defined and it was
not known that the associated artifacts, while often found on Sobaipuri sites, are actually indicative of the mobile groups.


Small triangular-shaped bifaces that may have functioned as preforms or they may have served as points and tools without further modification. Expediency is the name of the game during this period, but nonetheless, the technology is more formal than the Apache and most similar to various phases of the Archaic period.


Close up of margin.

This biface has been inappropriately attributed to the Sobaipuri. We now know this is classic Canutillo complex.

Comparisons to Archaic Assemblages: Bifaces

Despite past and continuing practices of lumping these later materials with those of the Archaic, there are clear quantitative and qualitative distinctions between them. Canutillo complex bifaces and their resulting debitage may look superficially like Archaic materials simply because they are formal tools. The discontinuation of a formal tool technology with the advent of the ceramic period has led to the erroneous grouping all formal tools into earlier pre-ceramic stages. Yet with the rise of mobility in the late prehistoric a formal biface-based technological organization appears again and a variety of measures allow these to be distinguished from their earlier counterparts. The goals of production were similar (biface-oriented technologies aimed at producing durable cutting implements), but the products are quite different. When comparing Archaic bifaces to those of the Canutillo complex one is immediately struck by basic differences in technology, visual quality, and a number of physical attributes including the freshness of the flakes scares on the Canutillo material. These differences as discussed below include: (1) differences in materials used (silicified limestone and fine-grained basalt for Archaic versus fine-grained silicates for Canutillo along the same drainages), (2) differing degrees in patenation and dullness versus sharpness of edges related to age, (3) stylistic differences including clunky, thicker, and asymmetrical Archaic bifaces versus the symmetry, high quality flaking, and thinner Canutillo ones as reflected through visual inspection as well as in number of marginal flake scars, (4) the distinctiveness of shape between the thin ovate or leaf-shaped Canutillo bifaces versus San Pedro bifaces, for example, that are triangular in form, with a broad or expanded base that tapers toward the opposing end, and (5) the distinction of Canutillo complex and the Archaic San Pedro and Chiricahua materials is also apparent with regard to biface length, width, and thickness.


When opening any drawer of the catalogued materials from the Cochise Culture type sites (Sayles' referent for Archaic period sites) at the Arizona State Museum the clarity of the differences are immediately apparent. For example, San Pedro stage and Chiricahua stage materials from the Fairbank and Cave Creek type sites, respectively are heavily patenated, with rounded edges that have been dulled with age (Figure 6). These represent the latest materials from the Cochise culture sequence; earlier Archaic materials are even more weathered (but few bifaces are included in the collections). In comparison, protohistoric tools are fresh looking, often with a bright luster to the surface and with relative sharp edges. Even on sites with both prehistoric (Archaic or ceramic period) and Canutillo complex materials, the protohistoric tools and debitage consistently show substantially less weathering than their earlier counterparts, whether in buried or surface contexts. This is not surprising given the late dates that are produced on sites containing these unweathered artifacts from across the region.

Materials Used
Material types used were also distinctive. Archaic-age artifacts from the San Pedro Valley and much of southeastern Arizona are often made of silicified limestone and fine-grained basalt whereas protohistoric Canutillo complex bifaces are made of fine-grained cherts, chalcedonies, and fine-grained rhyolites. Through time these materials seem to be locally procured, including the red, orange-tan, and gray cherts that are found in neighboring mountain ranges along the San Pedro, in tributary canyons, and in lag gravels. The selection of distinctive material types in different eras likely relates in part to the quality of the desired finished product; large pieces of finer-grained materials were needed to achieve the thin final protohistoric specimens that were produced through fine bifacial flaking.

Style and Symmetry
Stylistically the symmetry of the protohistoric Canutillo complex bifaces is immediately apparent, whereas the Archaic bifaces are often clunky and asymmetrical. The difference in flaking quality and final product probably relates to the use of Canutillo complex bifaces as knives and perhaps as flake cores, whereas the thicker Chiricahua stage and San Pedro stage Archaic ones probably functioned as cores for the production of flakes (see Sayles and Antevs 1941: Plate Xd; Haury 1975:272, Figure 56d, 276, Figure 57d). The thinner San Pedro stage bifaces (that were not projectile points) were probably used as cutting implements (Haury 1975:269, Figure 54e,f; also see Huckell 1984:Figure 5.23k,l,o; Huckell 1995:55, Figure 4.2d,e), but these are not as finely flaked, nor as thin, or as symmetrical as the later forms (Haury 1975:265, Figure 52f). Moreover, Canutillo bifaces are alternately flaked on opposite sides of the tool so that the edge is wavy and produces a distinctive and durable
cutting edge.

Flaking Quality
This difference in flaking quality is quantifiable in the amount of flaking on tool surfaces, which differs substantially between Archaic and Canutillo protohistoric bifaces. This is apparent with simple visual inspection but can be quantified with a measure of number of marginal flake scars per a 10 mm linear area along a randomly selected portion of the margin. Figure 8 illustrates the differences in quality of manufacture and investment in flaking that characterize this tool form through time. San Pedro bifaces-those from the Archaic that are most similar to the Canutillo complex-average around 1 to 2 flake scars per 10 cm area whereas Canutillo bifaces have three to five. Finer flaking likely relates to the desire to maintain flaking control so as to produce the desired edge on and thinness to the tool.

The distinctive ovate or leaf-shaped form of Canutillo bifaces is one of the most telling attributes, particularly when combined with specimen thinness. A subset of San Pedro bifaces, those that probably functioned as knives, is most similar to Canutillo bifaces with regard to their thin profile. But as shown in Figure 9, these San Pedro bifaces are triangular in form, with a broad or expanded base that tapers toward the opposing end. Plus, while Chiricahua bifaces trend toward an ovate or leaf-shaped form, these are substantially thicker than their protohistoric counterparts, with deep multidirectional negative flake scars that are consistent with these forms being used as cores or heavy implements. Many of the thick San Pedro bifaces are also ovate but, like Chiricahua bifaces, they lack symmetry in flake scar orientation and probably functioned as cores or more durable forms of tools. The thin Archaic and Protohistoric bifaces that possess attributes indicative of their use as knives (e.g., thinness of margins consistent with cutting and acute edge angles), are distinctive in outline form as compared to the Protohistoric ones. Although most Archaic knives are broken, the tapering nature of their margins is indicated on the fragmentary specimens and is confirmed in the more complete forms. 


Canutillo bifaces tend to fall into at least two shape categories suggesting that there may be grounds for further subdivision. These differences probably relate to how they were hafted. One variety has an ovate outline (with its greatest width near the midsection) and two pointed ends, and may have been hafted as shown in Figure 10a. The second is pointed on one end and blunt or flattened on the other suggesting hafting from the end (Figure 10b). Evidence for these differences in hafting is provided in the negative flake scars on the surface of these specimens. An often-visible feature of these bifaces is a slight indentation on one or both margins, where the edge was blunted so that the sinew would not be severed. In addition, flake removal on the blunt end of some specimens indicates preparation for hafting. More obviously, the face of the double pointed bifaces is often thicker near the center of the tool where flakes seem to have been intentionally terminated (hinged out) in the center to form a thicker section to hold the hafting in place. This placement is consistent with the indentations on the margins. In some instances, instead of being raised one or more large flake scars will decrease the thickness of the surface, leaving an adjacent raised surface, which accomplishes the same result (Figure 11). This effect can be quite subtle and were it not for photographs showing hafted examples (Figure 12) this attribute might go unnoticed. 


It is likely that these bifaces were used as knives, judging from the hafted examples, the vaguely sinuous margins, and the acute edge angles. This inference that is consistent with the historic record that notes the use of knives among mobile groups encountered in southern New Mexico and Texas along the Rio Grande (Ayer 1965:14; Hodge and Lewis 1990), as was discussed briefly above.

As Figure 13a-c shows, basic metric differences between Canutillo and Arizona Archaic (the original Cochise culture complex type site) materials demonstrate they differ in more than visual qualities. The sample size is still small because the protohistoric complex has only recently been defined. Also, regrettably, these fine tools are the type of items that have been removed from sites by collectors because they are pretty, valued, and visible. Although these types of tools have been found in sound archaeological contexts, many specimens are known from collector's riker mounts or donated unprovenienced finds in museum drawers. Some, like those from Ventana Cave and Pintada Rockselter, are included in mixed assemblages that have not yet been culled. Regardless of these difficulties, the metrics demonstrate discernable differences between these protohistoric bifaces and those attributable to the Archaic period. Thus, for those not convinced of the difference between Canutillo and the Archaic by the aesthetics of the tools, the measurements provided in the accompanying figures supplement the visual qualities in characterizing the differences.

The distinction of protohistoric Canutillo and the Archaic San Pedro and Chiricahua materials is apparent in these figures. With regard to biface length, width, and thickness tangible differences can be seen graphically (Figure 13a-c). While Canutillo and Chiricahua bifaces are most similar with regard to length and width, they are most different in thickness. San Pedro and Canutillo bifaces are most similar in thickness, as is consistent with their inferred use as cutting implements, but they diverge widely in length and width. 


Figure 14 illustrates the relationship between biface length and thickness. From the constructed index (length divided by thickness) it is possible to see that Canutillo complex bifaces are at the same time longer and thinner than their Archaic counterparts and in this relationship there is little difference between San Pedro and Chiricahua stage materials. Canutillo complex bifaces are so distinctive because they are relatively thin for their length as compared to San Pedro and Chiricahua stage materials. 


By a variety of measures and considerations the Canutillo complex materials are distinctive from the Archaic assemblages that are found in the same geographic areas, often in similar environmental and physiographic settings, and many times on the same multicomponent sites. These bifaces are but one of the many tool types found on these Canutillo complex sites but they serve as an example of the uniqueness of this protohistoric assemblage from the Archaic assemblage with which they have been confused.

These figures and the associated text were originally part of the Canutillo complex Kiva article (see reference at end) but made the article too long so they were edited out.

canutillo chiricahua comparison.jpg

Figures 6 and 7. These figures compare Canutillo complex bifaces on the far left to Chiricahua stage Archaic bifaces
on the right, and San Pedro Stage Bifaces in the separate figure to the far right. The degree of weathering is being
shown. The difference in weathering between the periods (Archaic versus Protohistoric) is obvious as is the
difference in the material types used. The shapes of the points and the crafting of the points differ substantially too.

archic bifaces.jpg
canutillo flake scars.tif

Figure 8. Flaking quality was examined by measuring in number of flake scars along the margins of tools between Canutillo complex tools (one on the left) and Cochise culture ones (three on the right). Something is lost in the translation to low resolution Jpeg, making these a bit blurry, but the point should be clear.

canutillo metrics.tif

Figure 13 a-c. shows the basic metric differences between Canutillo and Arizona Archaic. See Metrics discussion above.

canutillo length to thickness.jpg

Figure 14 illustrates the relationship between biface length and thickness, as discussed above.

canutillo ridge.tif

Flake scars intentionally hinge out in the middle to facilitate hafting.

canutillo hafted.jpg


The projectile points of these groups fall within the small triangular tradition so prevalent in this region in the terminal prehistoric and
historic periods. Most often they have basal indentations and sometimes serrated margins. Minor variations in execution may be indicative
of identity, which has caused considerable confusion in the archaeological literature as archaeologists attempt to figure out which subtle
indices actually have social meaning.

For example the Soto point is highly distinctive for its "Eiffel Tower" shape, with ears flaring outward toward the base. Those points
illustrated here show this attribute rather clearly, but notice that as points are resharpened they take on a different look. These occur in
northern Chihuahua and in the southern and western portion of Texas, but are only rare in the southern Southwest. Some of these overlap
in form with the southern Arizona Huachuca point. Does this mean that there is a continuum of form that is meaningless with respect to
assignment of culture group affiliation? Does it mean that these Huachuca points were not really made by the Sobaipuri but are sometimes
found in Sobiapuri contexts because of later reoccupation of those locations, battles, and intermixing of groups?

Riker mount with mostly Soto points obtained from northern Chihuahua, with a few other forms
including side-notched examples mixed in.

sharples house final.jpg

We also have examples of habitation sites with Canutillo complex materials. Small surface structures document the encampment
and suggest a mobile lifestyle. The associated flaked-stone assemblage provides further confirmation of this association.

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One hint as to what these people were eating is provided by their setting. They often occupied playa margins and riverside
terraces. This suggests that riparian and lacustrine resources were important--an inference that is backed up by the
documentaruy record as it relates to some of these historically documented groups. Moreover, when subjected to residue
analysis a biface (shown below) from the Sharples Site produced evidence of rabbit and fish, as well as yucca and nuts. As
expected, this biface was seemingly used as a multi-purpose tool.

hide working area.jpg

Excavated area with hide-working stone where biface was
recovered (blue flagging).

tanning rock sharples.jpg

Hide tanning rock similar to the one
near which the biface was found.

anvil stone sharples.jpg

Anvil stones occur at the fringe of the site. Here flaked stone is scattered around, suggesting that these anvil stones were used in the reduction of flaked stone material.

Groundstone is expedient and shows only the barest evidence of use. No attempt was made to shape the piece. Instead, suitable rocks were found around the site and used on a limited basis.

groundstone sharples.jpg

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Deni J. Seymour (c) 2004-2009

see KIVA:

2009 The Canutillo Complex: Evidence of Protohistoric Mobile Occupants in the Southern Southwest. Kiva 74(4):421-446.

Early Spanish documentary sources refer to a number of mobile groups in southern Arizona and southern New
Mexico, including but not limited to the Manso, Suma, Jano, and Jocome. These groups have remained
unidentified archaeologically and their history is often conflated with that of ancestral Apachean groups.
Investigations aimed at identifying and distinguishing the suite of mobile and semi-sedentary groups who
occupied the southern Southwest has resulted in the identification of an archaeologically definable complex
that likely belongs to one or more of these historically referenced groups. Brief presentation of this suite of traits
is designed to elevate the evidence of these mobile groups from obscurity and to encourage further
investigations into the distribution and nature of this complex. Absolute dates, artifacts, and features on open
sites and in rockshelters provide the basis for definition of this complex that has remained invisible because of
its general similarity to and mixing with Archaic assemblages. This paper focuses specifically on the expression
of this complex in the southern Southwest.


Also see Jack Forbes' paper but ignore the part about the Jocome being Apache:
The Janos, Jocomes, Mansos, and Sumas Indians

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