D uring the eleventh century, a large part of the northern Southwest wasinvolved in a regional system of interaction centered at Chaco Canyon,New Mexico. This system has been the subject of much recent archaeological research and intense interest. Slightly later, another large, complex social network developed among the Hohokam. The evidence shows that each of these regional systems was integrated by shared beliefs and high levels of internal exchange, and featured at least part-time craft specialists. Whether or not an elite class controlled these systems remains in question, although differences in political status almost certainly existed among their populations. Most people living in the Southwest at this time, however, probably did not
participate in either of the two large regional systems. Surrounding the Chacoan and Hohokam systems and even in the midst of them, people lived in more simply organized communities. The entire Southwest featured a great deal of social and political diversity. In this chapter, we discuss the range of social and political organizations found in the region, from large, integrated systems to dispersed populations who seem to have lived relatively isolated lives. In some areas, people lived in close proximity to one another in large, aggregated settlements but were not organized beyond the community level. We use architecture, pottery, and other archaeological evidence to highlight these differences.