Patayan Culture – Southwest US Tradition 700 AD – 1550 AD

Patayan Culture developed around 700 AD and remained in existence till 1550 AD. The culture developed in the regions of lower Colorado River and the Gila River valleys. Many of the archeological sites regarding these people are found throughout the southwest US from Lake Cahuilla in California to Grand Canyon.

Map Of Patayan Region

Map Of Patayan Region


Patayan people were found by the Spanish people in the sixteenth century. The Spanish historical accounts mentions that the Yuman speaking people cultivated various crops in the alluvial plains and during the flood time these people fled to desert region where they hunted animals. The Yuman people had rich culture, war history and mythological tales which were sung in a group. This culture is also called Hakataya culture.

Archaeological study

The word Patayan is from Quechan language which means old people. Many other terms are also used for the culture. Malcolm Rogers firstly identified and named this culture around 1945. He came to a conclusion that a culture was flourishing near the Hohokam culture and Anasazi culture which was having trade and cultural links with both the culture. He also suggested that this community used to speak Numic language. Certain of the Patayan sites are found in desert. These people hardly built any permanent site as they had move from one place to another. Most of their sites were destroyed after the floods in this region.


The settlement sites made by these people were in group form. Almost 10 to 15 pithouses or longhouses were constructed in a linear way. These houses were having big rooms which were used both as residential complex and storing grain. Many ceremonial practices were also conducted in these houses. Later due to change in climatic patterns the way of making house also changed and these people started building isolated homes.


The pottery making skills of Patayan people was very similar to that of Hohokam people. The potteries created by these people were of two types.

Patayan Culture - Engravings on the Rocks

Patayan Culture – Engravings on the Rocks

The potteries created near the river bed using fine river clay were off white in color. The potteries created in the mountainous regions were deep brown in color. They were heavily decorated using red color and various geometrical patterns. They also created fine baskets.


Due to climatic changes after mini ice age and further Spanish conquest these people vanished from the southwest around 1550 AD.

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