There is a general lack of archaeological information about Yavapai history and culture. The traditional lifestyles of the Yavapai left little impact on the physical environment. They hunted, gathered, and traveled across a large territory. They built brush shelters (wikiups), burned the possessions of those who died, and traveled on seasonal migrations. Historically, Yavapai were often lumped in with Apache groups and not considered a distinct culture.
Archaeologists still discuss where the Yavapai culture originated and when they moved into the Verde Valley. Some say they descended from the pueblo builders who left behind their large cliff dwellings around 1425. Some scientists hold that a pre-Yavapai cultural group moved into the Verde Valley from the north and west around 1300. although their stories tell of entering the Verde Valley many years earlier. These people were the ancestors of the current Yavapai, Havasupai, and Hualapai tribes.