The Mimbres Culture evolved in the southwestern corner of New Mexico, centered along the Mimbres River valley. Within this small area, a very distinct culture developed.
The Mimbres seem to have developed from Mogollon culture, as there are clear connections between the early pottery and house types. The people grew corn and beans, and were also hunters and gatherers. Villages consisted of small pithouse or pueblo groupings, and usually had a small rectangular ceremonial structure known as a kiva. The most common burial practices intramural inhumation. Unlike the Mogollon, who often buried numerous vessels with their dead, the Mimbres usually provided only a single bowl, ritually "killed" by punching a hole in the bottom to release the spirit.
Early Mimbres pithouses were quite deep and usually round or oval. During the middle of the period, houses became rectangular with rounded corners, and were generally not as deep. By the end of the period, surface pueblos had been adopted, presumably under the influence of the Anasazi to the north. Villages at this time were somewhat larger than the typical Mogollon settlements.
Mimbres plain wares are similar to contemporary Mogollon types, but the painted wares are quite distinctive. Vessels were constructed using the coil-and-scrape technique. They were then slipped on the interior and provided with intriguing geometric and figural designs. The Mimbres were the only ancient peoples to consistently produce pottery with figural painting. With the Mimbres, black-on-white and polychromes were developed first, after which red-on-whites became more prevalent. Figural painting also seems to preceed geometric.
The Mimbres Series of Mogollon Brown Ware includes the characteristic types found in the Mimbres area. Generally considered a subgroup of the Mogollon, we have treated them separately due to the significant difference in lifestyle and pottery.