Oasisamérica – Concept, location, characteristics and cultures

We explain what Oasisamérica is, its location, characteristics and peoples that inhabited it. Also, Mesoamerica and Aridoamérica.

The flourishing of Oasisamerica occurred between the years 1205 and 1261.

What is Oasisamérica?

Scholars of ancient Mexico give the name Oasisamerica to one of the cultural regions that existed long before the arrival of the conquerors Spanish, and in which different aboriginal populations flourished. The main regions of this type were Oasisamerica, Mesoamerica and Aridoamérica.

In the case of the latter, whose name obviously comes from the combination of “America” ​​and “Oasis”, we are referring to an intermediate North American region between the other two, which was neither characterized by Mesoamerican abundance and fertility, nor by the drought and nomadic life of the Aridoamerican region.

This means that it was an effectively dry region, but with important injections of water in the form of important rivers and lagoons (now dried), which allowed a much more benign climate and the development of certain agricultural techniques by its inhabitants.

The flourishing of the Oasisamerica region took place between the years 1205 and 1261, but around 1341 it was abandoned, leaving behind numerous evidence of commercial and cultural exchange between its inhabitants and the much more abundant Mesoamerican cultures located to the south.

Location of Oasisamérica

oasisamerica map
Oasisoamérica was surrounded by the Aridoamérica cultural region.

The cultural region of Oasisamérica It was located in the north of the current Mexican territory and south of the current United States, in the States of Chihuahua and Sonora (Mexico), and Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and California (United States).

Characteristics of the region

The South American region was characterized by the following:

  • Geographically, it is located in valleys with a dry climate and sparse vegetation, besieged by the deserts of Sonora, Chihuahua and Arizona, which over the centuries were expanding. However, the presence of important rivers such as the Yaqui, Bravo, Colorado, Gila, Casas Grandes and Río Mayo, as well as now-dried lagoons, made life and agriculture possible.
  • The region it is rich in mineral deposits such as turquoise, widely exploited and used by Oasisamerican cultures, especially in trade with Mesoamerica.
  • It is also important in the region the presence of the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Rocky Mountains.
  • Due to the drought of the climate, Oasisamerican cultures were forced to store rainwater and build canals to take advantage of the water of the rivers, which allowed the application of agricultural techniques typical of Mesoamerica. These, however, had to be complemented with fishing, trade, and gathering, which contributed to the diversification of Oasisamerican culture.
  • It is not known if Oasisamerican cultures arose independently, separated from the flourishing Mesoamerica, or whether it was Mesoamerican migrants who settled in the northern regions and managed to settle and flourish.

Oasisamerican cultures

oasisamerica anasazi
The Anasazi culture was the most complex to emerge in Oasisamérica.

The South American region witnessed the emergence of three great local cultures:

  • Anasazi. Arisen in the Cuatro Esquinas region, where the territories of the current states of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado converge, and were the most complex culture that emerged in Oasisamérica, predecessors of the current Pueblo Indians (Zuñi and Hopi) of New Mexico. . In fact, it is the most studied pre-Columbian culture in the United States. Its origins date back to the 1st century BC. C. and they go through several periods of flowering of basketry and ceramics, as well as masonry, until their total submission to the European conquest in 1540.
  • Hohokam. Inhabitants of the deserts of Arizona and Sonora, around the Colorado and Gila rivers, are a culture much less known than the Anasazi, despite the fact that their vast irrigation and canalization systems (aqueducts up to 10 km long and several meters deep ) remained in time. The ethnic identity of the Hohokam is a matter of debate, and the evidence of their existence dates back to 300 BC. C.
  • Mogollon. Located in the regions near the Sierra Madre and the states of Arizona and New Mexico, they adapted very well to the presence of pine forests and to the mining of turquoise and vermilion. The Mogollona culture often differs from the Paquimé, which is a derivation or division of its inhabitants, with which, however, it presents more similarities than with its Hohokam or Anasazi neighbors. The Mogollón practiced the ritual burial of the deceased and maintained important commercial networks with Mesoamerica, especially in the 11th century, when their population flourished. In the case of the Paquimé, in fact, there is evidence of behaviors and practices similar to those of Mesoamerica, such as the game of ball and the raising of Central American animals, such as the macaw.

In addition to these three important cultures, there were two minor cultures in Oasisamerica, which were:

  • Fremont. Located in the region of the state of Utah, this culture is considered a derivation of the Anasazi. They were important hunters of buffalo, animals that migrated south from Canada, and that had important links with Aridoamerican cultures. When the conquerors arrived in the region, however, the Fremont had long since disappeared and their cities were occupied by the Shoshone.
  • Pataya. Also known as Patayana or Hakataya, this culture inhabited regions of the state of Arizona, California and Baja California, especially between the years 770 and 1550 AD. They dedicated themselves to basketry and pottery, copying hohokam methods, with which they could have kinship roots.

End of Oasisamérica

oasisamerica petroglyphs end
Oasisamerican cultures left a cultural legacy.

Among oasisamerican cultures many disappeared before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, due to increasing desertification of the region, which would have made life much more difficult. Those who managed to resist, on the other hand, were overwhelmed by the European conquerors and incorporated into colonial rule. Much of their culture, however, survives in minority populations.


Aridoamerica It is another of the pre-Columbian cultural regions Important North American women, whose name says a lot about the difficult living conditions they faced, and which made farming particularly difficult. This caused its main economic activities were gathering, hunting and fishing eventual, as they led nomadic or semi-nomadic lives.


Of all the pre-Columbian cultural regions of America, Mesoamerica It is the most important and the one with the highest level of civilizational development.. Large farmers, builders and merchants expanded their area of ​​influence throughout the southern region of Mexico, all of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and western Nicarragua, Honduras and Costa Rica.

Mesoamerican cultures were extremely complex and important, such as the Mexica, the Mayan, the Teotihuacan, the Zapotec, the Olmec, and the Purépecha.