Ancient Pueblo Peoples
Overview
 
Ancient Pueblo People or Ancestral Pueblo peoples were an ancient Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 culture centered on the present-day Four Corners area of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, comprising southern Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

, northern Arizona
Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

, northwest New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, and southern Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

. They lived in buildings called pueblos, designed so that they could lift up entry ladders during enemy attacks, which provided security. Archaeologists referred to one of these cultural groups as the Anasazi, although the term is not preferred by contemporary Pueblo peoples.
Encyclopedia
Ancient Pueblo People or Ancestral Pueblo peoples were an ancient Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 culture centered on the present-day Four Corners area of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, comprising southern Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

, northern Arizona
Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

, northwest New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, and southern Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

. They lived in buildings called pueblos, designed so that they could lift up entry ladders during enemy attacks, which provided security. Archaeologists referred to one of these cultural groups as the Anasazi, although the term is not preferred by contemporary Pueblo peoples. The word Anaasází is Navajo
Navajo language
Navajo or Navaho is an Athabaskan language spoken in the southwestern United States. It is geographically and linguistically one of the Southern Athabaskan languages .Navajo has more speakers than any other Native American language north of the...

 for "Ancient Ones" or "Ancient Enemy".
Archaeologists
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 still debate when this distinct culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 emerged. The current consensus, based on terminology defined by the Pecos Classification
Pecos Classification
The Pecos Classification is a division of all known Ancient Pueblo Peoples culture into chronological phases, based on changes in architecture, art, pottery, and cultural remains. The original classification dates back to consensus reached at a 1927 archæological conference held in Pecos, New...

, suggests their emergence around the 12th century BCE, during the archaeologically designated Early Basketmaker II Era
Early Basketmaker II Era
The Early Basketmaker II Era, 1500 BC - AD 50 was the first Post-Archaic cultural period of Ancient Pueblo People. The era began with the cultivation of maize in the northern American southwest, although there was not a dependence upon agriculture until about 500 BC.-Basketmaker origin:The...

. Beginning with the earliest explorations and excavations, researchers postulated that the Ancient Puebloans are ancestors of the modern Pueblo people
Pueblo people
The Pueblo people are a Native American people in the Southwestern United States. Their traditional economy is based on agriculture and trade. When first encountered by the Spanish in the 16th century, they were living in villages that the Spanish called pueblos, meaning "towns". Of the 21...

s. In general, modern Pueblo people claim these ancient people as their ancestors.

Etymology

The name Pueblo originated with the Spanish explorers, who referred to their particular style of villages. It means "village" in Spanish. The Navajo people
Navajo people
The Navajo of the Southwestern United States are the largest single federally recognized tribe of the United States of America. The Navajo Nation has 300,048 enrolled tribal members. The Navajo Nation constitutes an independent governmental body which manages the Navajo Indian reservation in the...

, who now reside in formerly Pueblo territory, referred to the ancient people as Anaasází, an exonym
Exonym and endonym
In ethnolinguistics, an endonym or autonym is a local name for a geographical feature, and an exonym or xenonym is a foreign language name for it...

 meaning "ancestral enemies."

Geography

The Ancient Pueblo were one of four major prehistoric archaeological traditions recognized in the American Southwest. The others are the Mogollon, Hohokam
Hohokam
Hohokam is one of the four major prehistoric archaeological Oasisamerica traditions of what is now the American Southwest. Many local residents put the accent on the first syllable . Variant spellings in current, official usage include Hobokam, Huhugam and Huhukam...

and Patayan
Patayan
Patayan is a term used by archaeologists to describe prehistoric and historic Native American cultures who inhabited parts of modern day Arizona, west to Lake Cahuilla in California, and in Baja California, between 700–1550 CE...

. In relation to neighboring cultures, the Ancient Pueblo occupied the northeast quadrant of the area. The Ancient Pueblo homeland centers on the Colorado Plateau
Colorado Plateau
The Colorado Plateau, also called the Colorado Plateau Province, is a physiographic region of the Intermontane Plateaus, roughly centered on the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States. The province covers an area of 337,000 km2 within western Colorado, northwestern New Mexico,...

, but extends from central New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

 on the east to southern Nevada
Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

 on the west. Areas of southern Nevada, Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

 and Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

 form a loose northern boundary, while the southern edge is defined by the Colorado
Colorado River
The Colorado River , is a river in the Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, approximately long, draining a part of the arid regions on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. The watershed of the Colorado River covers in parts of seven U.S. states and two Mexican states...

 and Little Colorado rivers
Little Colorado River
The Little Colorado River is a river in the U.S. state of Arizona, providing the principal drainage from the Painted Desert region. Together with its major tributary, the Puerco River, it drains an area of about in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico...

 in Arizona and the Rio Puerco and Rio Grande
Rio Grande
The Rio Grande is a river that flows from southwestern Colorado in the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way it forms part of the Mexico – United States border. Its length varies as its course changes...

 in New Mexico. Structures and other evidence of Ancient Pueblo culture has been found extending east onto the American Great Plains
Great Plains
The Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S...

, in areas near the Cimarron and Pecos river
Pecos River
The headwaters of the Pecos River are located north of Pecos, New Mexico, United States, at an elevation of over 12,000 feet on the western slope of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in Mora County. The river flows for through the eastern portion of that state and neighboring Texas before it...

s and in the Galisteo Basin
Galisteo Basin
The Galisteo Basin is a surface basin and a closely related groundwater basin in north-central New Mexico.  Its primary watercourse is the Galisteo River or Galisteo Creek, a perennial stream, for part of its course, that flows from the eastern highlands down into the Rio Grande about three...

.

Terrain
Terrain
Terrain, or land relief, is the vertical and horizontal dimension of land surface. When relief is described underwater, the term bathymetry is used...

 and resources within this expansive region vary greatly. The plateau
Plateau
In geology and earth science, a plateau , also called a high plain or tableland, is an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain. A highly eroded plateau is called a dissected plateau...

 regions have high elevations ranging from 4500 to 8500 feet (2,590.8 m). Extensive horizontal mesa
Mesa
A mesa or table mountain is an elevated area of land with a flat top and sides that are usually steep cliffs. It takes its name from its characteristic table-top shape....

s are capped by sedimentary formations and support woodlands of juniper
Juniper
Junipers are coniferous plants in the genus Juniperus of the cypress family Cupressaceae. Depending on taxonomic viewpoint, there are between 50-67 species of juniper, widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere, from the Arctic, south to tropical Africa in the Old World, and to the...

s, pinon
Pinyon pine
The pinyon pine group grows in the southwestern United States and in Mexico. The trees yield edible pinyon nuts, which were a staple of the Native Americans, and are still widely eaten...

, ponderosa pines, and yellow pines, each favoring different elevations. Wind and water erosion have created steep-walled canyons, and sculpted windows and bridges out of the sandstone
Sandstone
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow,...

 landscape. In areas where resistant strata (sedimentary rock layers), such as sandstone or limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

, overlie more easily eroded strata such as shale, rock overhangs formed. The Ancient Pueblo favored building under such overhangs for shelters and building sites.

All areas of the Ancient Pueblo homeland suffered from periods of drought, and wind and water erosion. Summer rains could be undependable and often arrived as destructive thunderstorms. While the amount of winter snowfall varied greatly, the Ancient Pueblo depended on the snow for most of their water. Snow melt allowed the germination of seeds, both wild and cultivated, in the spring. Where sandstone layers overlay shale, snow melt could accumulate and create seeps and springs, which the Ancient Pueblo used as water sources. Snow also fed the smaller, more predictable tributaries, such as the Chinle, Animas, Jemez and Taos rivers. The larger rivers were less important to the ancient culture, as smaller streams were more easily diverted or controlled for irrigation.

Cultural characteristics

The Ancient Pueblo culture is perhaps best known for the stone and adobe
Adobe
Adobe is a natural building material made from sand, clay, water, and some kind of fibrous or organic material , which the builders shape into bricks using frames and dry in the sun. Adobe buildings are similar to cob and mudbrick buildings. Adobe structures are extremely durable, and account for...

 dwellings built along cliff walls, particularly during the Pueblo II
Pueblo II Era
The Pueblo II Era, AD 900 to 1150, was the second pueblo period of the Ancient Pueblo People of the Four Corners region of the American southwest. During this period people lived in dwellings made of stone and mortar, enjoyed communal activities in kivas, built towers and water conversing dams,...

 and Pueblo III
Pueblo III Era
The Pueblo III Era, AD 1150 to 1350, was the third period, also called the "Great Pueblo period" when Ancient Pueblo People lived in large cliff-dwelling, multi-storied pueblo, or cliff-side talus house communities...

 eras. Adobe structures are constructed with bricks created from sand, clay, and water, with some fibrous or organic material, shaped using frames and dried in the sun. The best-preserved examples of the stone and adobe dwellings are in National Parks (USA), such as Chaco Canyon or Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a United States National Historical Park hosting the densest and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest. The park is located in northwestern New Mexico, between Albuquerque and Farmington, in a remote canyon cut by the Chaco Wash...

, Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park is a U.S. National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Montezuma County, Colorado, United States. It was created in 1906 to protect some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the world...

, Aztec Ruins National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument
The Aztec Ruins National Monument preserves ancestral Pueblo structures in north-western New Mexico, United States, located close to the town of Aztec and northeast of Farmington, near the Animas River...

, Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument is a National Monument preserving the homes of the Ancestral Pueblo People. It is named after Swiss anthropologist Adolph Bandelier, who researched the cultures of the area. Bandelier was designated a National Monument on February 11, 1916, and most of its backcountry...

, Hovenweep National Monument
Hovenweep National Monument
Hovenweep National Monument is located on land in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah, located between Cortez, Colorado and Blanding, Utah on the Cajon Mesa of the Great Sage Plain...

, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument was established on April 1, 1931 as a unit of the National Park Service. It is located in northeastern Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation...

. These villages, called pueblos by Spanish settlers, were often only accessible by rope or through rock climbing. These astonishing building achievements had more modest beginnings. The first Ancestral Puebloan homes and villages were based on the pit-house, a common feature in the Basketmaker
Basketmaker (culture)
The Basketmaker culture of the Ancient Pueblo People began about 1500 BC and continued until about AD 500 with the beginning of the Pueblo I Era...

 periods.

Ancestral Puebloans are also known for their pottery. In general, pottery was used for cooking or storage in the region was unpainted gray, either smooth or textured. In the northern or "Anasazi" portion of the Ancestral Pueblo world, from about 500 to 1300 CE, the most common decorated pottery had black painted designs on white or light gray backgrounds. Decoration is characterized by fine hatching, and contrasting colors are produced by the use of mineral-based paint on a chalky background. Some tall cylinders are considered ceremonial vessels, while narrow-necked jars may have been used for liquids. Ware in the southern portion of the region, particularly after 1150 CE, is characterized by heavier black-line decoration and the use of carbon-based colorants. In northern New Mexico, the local "black on white" tradition, the Rio Grande white wares
Rio Grande white wares
The Rio Grande white wares comprise multiple pottery traditions of the prehistoric Puebloan peoples of New Mexico. About AD 750, the beginning of the Pueblo I Era, after adhering to a different and widespread regional ceramic tradition for generations, potters of the Rio Grande region of New...

, continued well after 1300 CE.

Changes in pottery composition, structure and decoration are signals of social change in the archaeological record. This is particularly true as the peoples of the American Southwest began to leave their traditional homes and migrate south. According to archaeologists Patricia Crown and Steadman Upham, the appearance of the bright colors on Salada Polychromes in the 14th century may reflect religious or political alliances on a regional level. Late 14th and 15th century pottery from central Arizona, widely traded in the region, has colors and designs which may derive from earlier ware by both Ancestral Pueblo and Mogollon peoples.

The Ancestral Puebloans also created many petroglyphs and pictographs.

Architecture - Pueblo complexes and Great Houses

The Ancestral Puebloan People crafted a unique architecture with planned community spaces. The ancient population centers such as Chaco Canyon (outside Crownpoint, NM), Mesa Verde (outside Cortez, CO), and Bandelier (outside Los Alamos, NM) for which the Ancestral Puebloans are renowned, consisted of apartment-like complexes and structures made from stone, adobe mud, and other local material, or were carved into the sides of canyon walls. Each were influenced by themselves and design details from other cultures as far away as modern-day Mexico. In their day, these ancient towns and cities were usually multi-storied and multi-purposed buildings surrounding open plazas and viewsheds and were occupied by hundreds to thousands of Ancestral Puebloan People. These population complexes hosted cultural and civic events and infrastructure that supported a vast outlying region hundreds of miles away linked by transportation roadways.

Constructed well before 1492 CE, these Ancestral Puebloan towns and villages in the Southwestern U.S. were located in various defensive positions, for example, on high steep mesas such as at Mesa Verde or present-day Acoma "Sky City" Pueblo, in New Mexico. Earlier than 900 CE progressing past the 13th century, the population complexes were a major center of culture for the Ancient Pueblo Peoples. In Chaco Canyon, Chacoan developers quarried sandstone blocks and hauled timber from great distances, assembling 15 major complexes which remained the largest buildings in North America until the 19th century. Evidence of archaeoastronomy at Chaco has been proposed, with the Sun Dagger petroglyph at Fajada Butte a popular example. Many Chacoan buildings may have been aligned to capture the solar and lunar cycles, requiring generations of astronomical observations and centuries of skillfully coordinated construction. Climate change is thought to have led to the emigration of Chacoans and the eventual abandonment of the canyon, beginning with a 50-year drought in 1130.

Great Houses

Immense complexes known as "Great Houses" embodied worship at Chaco. As architectural forms evolved and centuries passed, the houses kept several core traits. Most apparent is their sheer bulk; complexes averaged more than 200 rooms each, and some enclosed up to 700 rooms. Individual rooms were substantial in size, with higher ceilings than Ancestral Pueblo works of preceding periods. They were well-planned: vast sections or wings erected were finished in a single stage, rather than in increments. Houses generally faced the south, and plaza areas were almost always girt with edifices of sealed-off rooms or high walls. Houses often stood four or five stories tall, with single-story rooms facing the plaza; room blocks were terraced to allow the tallest sections to compose the pueblo's rear edifice. Rooms were often organized into suites, with front rooms larger than rear, interior, and storage rooms or areas.
Ceremonial structures known as kiva
Kiva
A kiva is a room used by modern Puebloans for religious rituals, many of them associated with the kachina belief system. Among the modern Hopi and most other Pueblo peoples, kivas are square-walled and underground, and are used for spiritual ceremonies....

s
were built in proportion to the number of rooms in a pueblo. One small kiva was built for roughly every 29 rooms. Nine complexes each hosted an oversized Great Kiva, each up to 63 feet (19.2 m) in diameter. T-shaped doorways and stone lintels marked all Chacoan kivas. Though simple and compound walls were often used, Great Houses were primarily constructed of core-and-veneer walls: two parallel load-bearing walls comprising dressed, flat sandstone
Sandstone
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow,...

 blocks bound in clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 mortar were erected. Gaps between walls were packed with rubble
Rubble
Rubble is broken stone, of irregular size, shape and texture. This word is closely connected in derivation with "rubbish", which was formerly also applied to what we now call "rubble". Rubble naturally found in the soil is known also as brash...

, forming the wall's core. Walls were then covered in a veneer of small sandstone pieces, which were pressed into a layer of binding mud
Mud
Mud is a mixture of water and some combination of soil, silt, and clay. Ancient mud deposits harden over geological time to form sedimentary rock such as shale or mudstone . When geological deposits of mud are formed in estuaries the resultant layers are termed bay muds...

. These surfacing stones were often placed in distinctive patterns. The Chacoan structures altogether required the wood of 200,000 coniferous trees, mostly hauled—on foot—from mountain ranges up to 70 miles (112.7 km) away.

Ceremonial Infrastructure - Great North Road: the thirty foot wide highway

One of the most fascinating and intriguing aspects of Ancestral Puebloan infrastructure is at Chaco Canyon and is the Chaco Road, a system of roads radiating out from many great house sites such as Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl and Una Vida, and leading towards small outlier sites and natural features within and beyond the canyon limits.

Through satellite images and ground investigations, archaeologists have detected at least 8 main roads that together run for more than 180 miles (ca 300 km), and are more than 30 feet (10 m) wide. These were excavated into a smooth leveled surface in the bedrock or created through the removal of vegetation and soil. The Ancestral Pueblo residents of Chaco Canyon cut large ramps and stairways into the cliff rock to connect the roadways on the ridgetops of the canyon to the sites on the valley bottoms.

The largest roads, constructed at the same time as many of the great house sites (between 1000 and 1125 CE), are: the Great North Road, the South Road, the Coyote Canyon Road, the Chacra Face Road, Ahshislepah Road, Mexican Springs Road, the West Road and the shorter Pintado-Chaco Road. Simple structures like berms and walls are found sometimes aligned along the courses of the roads. Also, some tracts of the roads lead to natural features such as springs, lakes, mountain tops and pinnacles.

The Great North Road

The longest and most famous of these roads is the Great North Road. The Great North Road originates from different routes close to Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl. These roads converge at Pueblo Alto and from there lead north beyond the Canyon limits. There are no communities along the road's course, apart from small, isolated structures.

Archaeological interpretations of the Chaco road system are divided between an economic purpose and a symbolic, ideological role linked to ancestral Puebloan beliefs.

The system was first discovered at the end of the 19th century, and first excavated and studied in the 1970s. Archaeologists suggested that the road's main purpose was to transport local and exotic goods inside and outside the canyon. Someone also suggested that these large roads were used to quickly move an army from the canyon to the outlier communities, a purpose similar to the road systems known for the Roman empire. This last scenario has long been discarded because of the lack of any evidence of a permanent army.

The economic purpose of the Chaco road system is shown by the presence of luxury items at Pueblo Bonito and elsewhere in the canyon. Items such as macaws, turquoise, marine shells, and imported vessels prove the long-distance commercial relations Chaco had with other regions. A further suggestion is that the widespread use of timber in Chacoan constructions—a resource not locally available—needed a large and easy transportation system. Through analysis of various strontium
Strontium
Strontium is a chemical element with the symbol Sr and the atomic number 38. An alkaline earth metal, strontium is a soft silver-white or yellowish metallic element that is highly reactive chemically. The metal turns yellow when exposed to air. It occurs naturally in the minerals celestine and...

 isotopes, archaeologists have realized that much of the timber that composes Chacoan construction came from a number of distant mountain ranges, indicative also of the Chaco Road's economic significance.

Ancient Religion and Road Building

Chaco Road Religious Significance:
Other archaeologists think instead that the main purpose of the road system was a religious one, providing pathways for periodic pilgrimages and facilitating regional gatherings for seasonal ceremonies. Furthermore, considering that some of these roads seem to go nowhere, experts suggest that they can be linked—especially the Great North Road—to astronomical observations, solstice marking, and agricultural cycles.

This religious explanation is supported by modern Pueblo beliefs about a North Road leading to their place of origin and along which the spirits of the dead travel. According to modern pueblo people, this road represents the connection to the shipapu, the place of emergence of the ancestors or a dimensional doorway. During their journey from the shipapu to the world of the living, the spirits stop along the road and eat the food left for them by the living.

What Archaeology tells us About the Chaco Road:
Astronomy certainly played an important role in Chaco culture, as it is visible in the north-south axis alignment of many ceremonial structures. The main buildings at Pueblo Bonito, for example, are arranged according to this direction and probably served as central places for ceremonial journeys across the landscape.

Sparse concentrations of ceramic fragments along the North Road have been related to some sort of ritual activities carried out along the roadway. Isolated structures located on the roadsides as well as on top of the canyon cliffs and ridge crests have been interpreted as shrines related to these activities.

Finally, features such as long linear grooves were cut into the bedrock along certain roads which do not seem to point to a specific direction. It has been proposed that these were part of pilgrimage paths followed during ritual ceremonies.

Archaeologists agree that the purpose of this road system may have changed through time and that the Chaco Road system probably functioned for both economic and ideological reasons. Its significance for archaeology lies in the possibility to understand the rich and sophisticated cultural expression of ancestral Puebloan societies.

Cliff Palace Communities and design

Throughout the southwest Ancient Puebloan region and at Mesa Verde, the best known site for these large number of well preserved cliff dwellings, housing, defensive and storage complexes were built in shallow caves and under rock overhangs along canyon
Canyon
A canyon or gorge is a deep ravine between cliffs often carved from the landscape by a river. Rivers have a natural tendency to reach a baseline elevation, which is the same elevation as the body of water it will eventually drain into. This forms a canyon. Most canyons were formed by a process of...

 walls. The structures contained within these alcoves were mostly blocks of hard sandstone
Sandstone
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow,...

, held together and plastered with adobe
Adobe
Adobe is a natural building material made from sand, clay, water, and some kind of fibrous or organic material , which the builders shape into bricks using frames and dry in the sun. Adobe buildings are similar to cob and mudbrick buildings. Adobe structures are extremely durable, and account for...

 mortar. Specific constructions had many similarities, but were generally unique in form due to the individual topography of different alcoves along the canyon walls. In marked contrast to earlier constructions and villages on top of the mesas, the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde reflected a region-wide trend towards the aggregation of growing regional populations into close, highly defensible quarters during the 13th century.

While much of the construction in these sites conforms to common Pueblo architectural forms, including Kivas, towers, and pit-houses, the space constrictions of these alcoves necessitated what seems to have been a far denser concentration of their populations. Mug House, a typical cliff dwelling of the period, was home to around 100 people who shared 94 small rooms and eight kivas built right up against each other and sharing many of their walls; builders in these areas maximized space in any way they could and no areas were considered off-limits to construction.

Not all of the people in the region lived in cliff dwellings; many colonized the canyon rims and slopes in multi-family structures that grew to unprecedented size as populations swelled. Decorative motifs for these sandstone/mortar constructions, both cliff dwellings and non-, included T-shaped windows and doors. This has been taken by some archaeologists, such as Stephen Lekson (1999), as evidence of the continuing reach of the Chaco Canyon elite system, which had seemingly collapsed around a century before. Other researchers see these motifs as part of a more generalized Puebloan style and/or spiritual significance, rather than evidence of a continuing specific elite socioeconomic system.

Origins

The period from 700-1130 CE (Pueblo I
Pueblo I Era
The Pueblo I Era, from AD 750 to 900, was the first period in which Ancient Pueblo People began living in pueblo structures and realized an evolution in architecture, artistic expression, and water conservation...

 and II Eras
Pueblo II Era
The Pueblo II Era, AD 900 to 1150, was the second pueblo period of the Ancient Pueblo People of the Four Corners region of the American southwest. During this period people lived in dwellings made of stone and mortar, enjoyed communal activities in kivas, built towers and water conversing dams,...

) saw a rapid increase in population due to consistent and regular rainfall patterns. Studies of skeletal remains show that this growth was due to increased fertility rather than decreased mortality. However, this tenfold increase in population over the course of a few generations could not be achieved by increased birthrate alone; likely it also involved migrations of peoples from surrounding areas. Innovations such as pottery, food storage, and agriculture enabled this rapid growth. Over several decades, the Ancient Pueblo culture spread across the landscape.

Ancient Pueblo culture has been divided into three main areas or branches, based on geographical location:
  • Chaco Canyon (northwest New Mexico)
  • Kayenta (northeast Arizona), and
  • Northern San Juan (Mesa Verde and Hovenweep National Monument
    Hovenweep National Monument
    Hovenweep National Monument is located on land in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah, located between Cortez, Colorado and Blanding, Utah on the Cajon Mesa of the Great Sage Plain...

    ) (southwest Colorado and southeastern Utah).


Modern Pueblo oral traditions hold that the Pueblo originated to the north of their current settlements, from Shibapu
Sipapu
Sipapu, a Hopi word, is a small hole or indentation in the floor of kivas used by the Ancient Pueblo Peoples and modern-day Puebloans. It symbolizes the portal through which their ancient ancestors first emerged to enter the present world....

, where they emerged from the underworld. For unknown ages they were led by war chiefs guided by the Spirits across North America. They settled first in the Ancient Pueblo areas for a few hundred years, then migrated to their current location.

Migration from the homeland

It is not entirely clear why the Ancestral Puebloans migrated from their established homes in the 12th and 13th centuries. Factors examined and discussed include global or regional climate change (cf. Little Ice Age
Little Ice Age
The Little Ice Age was a period of cooling that occurred after the Medieval Warm Period . While not a true ice age, the term was introduced into the scientific literature by François E. Matthes in 1939...

), prolonged periods of drought, cyclical periods of topsoil erosion, environmental degradation, de-forestation, hostility from new arrivals, religious or cultural change, and even influence from Mesoamerican cultures. Many of these possibilities are supported by archaeological evidence.

Current opinion holds that the Ancestral Puebloans responded to pressure from Numic-speaking peoples moving onto the Colorado Plateau, as well as climate change that resulted in agricultural
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 failures. The archaeological record indicates that it was not unusual for ancient Pueblo peoples to adapt to climatic change by changing residences and locations. Early Pueblo I Era
Pueblo I Era
The Pueblo I Era, from AD 750 to 900, was the first period in which Ancient Pueblo People began living in pueblo structures and realized an evolution in architecture, artistic expression, and water conservation...

 sites may have housed up to 600 individuals in a few separate but closely spaced settlement clusters. However, they were generally occupied for a mere 30 years or less. Archaeologist Timothy A. Kohler excavated large Pueblo I sites near Dolores, Colorado
Dolores, Colorado
The town of Dolores is a Statutory Town in Montezuma County, Colorado, United States. The population was 936 at the 2010 census. It is one of three incorporated municipalities in the county....

, and discovered that they were established during periods of above-average rainfall. This would allow crops to be grown without benefit of irrigation. At the same time, nearby areas experiencing significantly drier patterns were abandoned.

The ancient Pueblos attained a cultural "Golden Age" between about 900 and 1150. During this time, generally classed as Pueblo II Era
Pueblo II Era
The Pueblo II Era, AD 900 to 1150, was the second pueblo period of the Ancient Pueblo People of the Four Corners region of the American southwest. During this period people lived in dwellings made of stone and mortar, enjoyed communal activities in kivas, built towers and water conversing dams,...

, the climate was relatively warm and rainfall mostly adequate. Communities grew larger and were inhabited for longer periods of time. Highly specific local traditions in architecture and pottery emerged, and trade over long distances appears to have been common. Domesticated turkey
Domesticated turkey
The domesticated turkey is a large poultry bird. The modern domesticated form descends from the wild turkey , one of the two species of turkey ; in the past the ocellated turkey was also domesticated.The turkey is raised throughout temperate parts of the world and is a popular form of poultry,...

s appear.
After approximately 1150, North America experienced significant climatic change in the form of a 300-year drought called the Great Drought. This also led to the collapse of the Tiwanaku
Tiwanaku
Tiwanaku, is an important Pre-Columbian archaeological site in western Bolivia, South America. Tiwanaku is recognized by Andean scholars as one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire, flourishing as the ritual and administrative capital of a major state power for approximately five...

 civilization around Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is a lake located on the border of Peru and Bolivia. It sits 3,811 m above sea level, making it the highest commercially navigable lake in the world...

 in present-day Bolivia. The contemporary Mississippian culture
Mississippian culture
The Mississippian culture was a mound-building Native American culture that flourished in what is now the Midwestern, Eastern, and Southeastern United States from approximately 800 CE to 1500 CE, varying regionally....

 also collapsed during this period. Confirming evidence is found in excavations of the western regions of the Mississippi Valley between 1150 and 1350, which show long-lasting patterns of warmer, wetter winters and cooler, drier summers. In this later period, the Pueblo II became more self-contained, decreasing trade and interaction with more distant communities. Southwest farmers developed irrigation techniques appropriate to seasonal rainfall, including soil and water control features such as check dams and terraces. The population of the region continued to be mobile, abandoning settlements and fields under adverse conditions. Along with the change in precipitation patterns, there was a drop in water table levels due to a different cycle unrelated to rainfall. This forced the abandonment of settlements in the more arid or over-farmed locations.

Evidence suggests a profound change in religion in this period. Chacoan and other structures constructed originally along astronomical alignments, and thought to have served important ceremonial purposes to the culture, were systematically dismantled. Doorways were sealed with rock and mortar. Kiva
Kiva
A kiva is a room used by modern Puebloans for religious rituals, many of them associated with the kachina belief system. Among the modern Hopi and most other Pueblo peoples, kivas are square-walled and underground, and are used for spiritual ceremonies....

 walls show marks from great fires set within them, which probably required removal of the massive roof - a task which would require significant effort. Habitations were abandoned, tribes split and divided and resettled far elsewhere. This evidence suggests that the religious structures were deliberately abandoned slowly over time. Puebloan tradition holds that the ancestors had achieved great spiritual power and control over natural forces, and used their power in ways that caused nature to change, and caused changes that were never meant to occur. Possibly, the dismantling of their religious structures was an effort to symbolically undo the changes they believed they caused due to their abuse of their spiritual power, and thus make amends with nature.

Most modern Pueblo peoples (whether Keresans, Hopi
Hopi
The Hopi are a federally recognized tribe of indigenous Native American people, who primarily live on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi area according to the 2000 census has a population of 6,946 people. Their Hopi language is one of the 30 of the Uto-Aztecan language...

, or Tanoans) assert the ancient Pueblo did not "vanish", as is commonly portrayed in media presentations or popular books, but migrated to areas in the southwest with more favorable rainfall and dependable streams. They merged into the various Pueblo peoples whose descendants still live in Arizona and New Mexico. This perspective is not new. It was presented by early 20th century anthropologists, including Frank Hamilton Cushing
Frank Hamilton Cushing
Frank Hamilton Cushing was an American anthropologist and ethnologist...

, J. Walter Fewkes
J. Walter Fewkes
Jesse Walter Fewkes was an American anthropologist, archaeologist, writer and naturalist. He was born in Newton, Massachusetts, and initially trained as a zoologist at Harvard University...

 and Alfred V. Kidder
Alfred V. Kidder
Alfred Vincent Kidder was an American archaeologist considered the foremost of the southwestern United States and Mesoamerica during the first half of the 20th century...

. Many modern Pueblo tribes trace their lineage from settlements. For example, the San Ildefonso Pueblo people believe that their ancestors lived in both the Mesa Verde and the Bandelier areas. Evidence also suggests that a profound change took place in the Ancestral Pueblo area and areas inhabited by their cultural neighbors, the Mogollon. The contemporary historian James W. Loewen agrees with the oral traditions in his book, Lies Across America: What Our Historic Markers and Monuments Get Wrong (1999), but there is not a consensus within the professional academic community.

Warfare and cannibalism

Stress on the environment may have been reflected in the social structure, leading to conflict and warfare. Near Kayenta, Arizona
Kayenta, Arizona
Kayenta is a census-designated place which is part of the Navajo Nation and is in Navajo County, Arizona, United States. The population was 5,189 at the 2010 census. Kayenta is located south of Monument Valley and contains a number of hotels and motels which service visitors to Monument...

, Jonathan Haas of the Field Museum in Chicago has been studying a group of Ancient Pueblo villages that relocated from the canyons to the high mesa tops during the late 13th century. The only reason Haas can see for a move so far from water and arable land is defense against enemies. He asserts that isolated communities relied on raiding for food and supplies, and that internal conflict and warfare became common in the 13th century. This conflict may have been aggravated by the influx of less settled peoples, Numic-speakers such as the Ute
Ute Tribe
The Ute are an American Indian people now living primarily in Utah and Colorado. There are three Ute tribal reservations: Uintah-Ouray in northeastern Utah ; Southern Ute in Colorado ; and Ute Mountain which primarily lies in Colorado, but extends to Utah and New Mexico . The name of the state of...

s, Shoshone
Shoshone
The Shoshone or Shoshoni are a Native American tribe in the United States with three large divisions: the Northern, the Western and the Eastern....

s and Paiute people, who may have originated in what is today California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. Others suggest that more developed villages, such as that at Chaco Canyon overstressed their environment, resulting in widespread deforestation and eventually the fall of their civilization through warfare over depleted resources.

A 1997 excavation at Cowboy Wash
Cowboy Wash
Cowboy Wash is a group of 9 archaeological sites used by Ancient Puebloans in Montezuma County, southwestern Colorado, United States. Each site includes one to three pit houses, and was discovered in 1993 during an archaeological dig...

 near Dolores, Colorado
Dolores, Colorado
The town of Dolores is a Statutory Town in Montezuma County, Colorado, United States. The population was 936 at the 2010 census. It is one of three incorporated municipalities in the county....

, found remains of at least twenty-four human skeletons that showed evidence of violence and dismemberment, with strong indications of cannibalism
Cannibalism
Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh of other human beings. It is also called anthropophagy...

. This modest community appears to have been abandoned during the same time period. Other excavations within the Ancient Pueblo culture area produce varying numbers of unburied, and in some cases dismembered, bodies. This evidence of warfare, conflict, and cannibalism is hotly debated by some scholars and interest groups. Suggested alternatives include: a community under the pressure of starvation or extreme social stress, dismemberment and cannibalism as religious ritual or in response to religious conflict, the influx of outsiders seeking to drive out a settled agricultural community via calculated atrocity, or an invasion of a settled region by nomadic raiders who practiced cannibalism; such peoples have existed in other times and places, e.g. the Androphagi
Androphagi
Androphagi was an ancient nation of cannibals north of Scythia , probably in the forests between the upper waters of the Dnepr and Don...

 of Europe.

Anasazi as a cultural label

The term "Anasazi" was established in archaeological terminology through the Pecos Classification system in 1927. Archaeologist Linda Cordell discussed the word's etymology and use:
Many contemporary Pueblo peoples object to the use of the term Anasazi, although there is still controversy among them on a native alternative. Some modern descendants of this culture often choose to use the term "Ancestral Pueblo" peoples. Contemporary Hopi use the word "Hisatsinom" in preference to Anasazi.

David Roberts, in his book "In Search of the Old Ones: Exploring the Anasazi World of the Southwest", explained his reason for using the term "Anasazi" over a term using "Puebloan", noting that the latter term "derives from the language
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 of an oppressor who treated the indigenes of the Southwest far more brutally than the Navajo ever did."

Cultural distinctions

Archaeological cultural units such as Ancestral Pueblo, Hohokam
Hohokam
Hohokam is one of the four major prehistoric archaeological Oasisamerica traditions of what is now the American Southwest. Many local residents put the accent on the first syllable . Variant spellings in current, official usage include Hobokam, Huhugam and Huhukam...

, Patayan
Patayan
Patayan is a term used by archaeologists to describe prehistoric and historic Native American cultures who inhabited parts of modern day Arizona, west to Lake Cahuilla in California, and in Baja California, between 700–1550 CE...

 or Mogollon are used by archaeologists to define material culture similarities and differences that may identify prehistoric socio-cultural units, equivalent to modern societies or peoples. The names and divisions are classification devices based on theoretical perspectives, analytical methods and data available at the time of analysis and publication. They are subject to change, not only on the basis of new information and discoveries, but also as attitudes and perspectives change within the scientific community. It should not be assumed that an archaeological division or culture unit corresponds to a particular language group or to a socio-political entity such as a tribe.

When making use of modern cultural divisions in the American Southwest, it is important to comprehend that current terms and conventions have significant limitations:
  • Archaeological research focuses on items left behind during people’s activities: fragments of pottery vessels, garbage, human remains, stone tools or evidence left from the construction of dwellings. However, many other aspects of the culture of prehistoric peoples are not tangible. Their beliefs and behavior are difficult to decipher from physical materials, and their languages remain unknown as they had no known writing system
    Writing system
    A writing system is a symbolic system used to represent elements or statements expressible in language.-General properties:Writing systems are distinguished from other possible symbolic communication systems in that the reader must usually understand something of the associated spoken language to...

    .
  • Cultural divisions are tools of the modern scientist, and so should not be considered similar to divisions or relationships the ancient residents may have recognized. Modern cultures in this region, many of whom claim some of these ancient people as ancestors, contain a striking range of diversity in lifestyles, social organization, language and religious beliefs. This suggests the ancient people were also more diverse than their material remains may suggest.
  • The modern term "style" has a bearing on how material items such as pottery or architecture
    Architecture
    Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

     can be interpreted. Within a people, different means to accomplish the same goal can be adopted by subsets of the larger group. For example, in modern Western cultures, there are alternative styles of clothing
    Clothing
    Clothing refers to any covering for the human body that is worn. The wearing of clothing is exclusively a human characteristic and is a feature of nearly all human societies...

     that characterized older and younger generations. Some cultural differences may be based on linear traditions, on teaching from one generation or “school” to another. Other varieties in style may have distinguished between arbitrary groups within a culture, perhaps defining status
    Social status
    In sociology or anthropology, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society . It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group, for example son or daughter, playmate, pupil, etc....

    , gender, clan
    Clan
    A clan is a group of people united by actual or perceived kinship and descent. Even if lineage details are unknown, clan members may be organized around a founding member or apical ancestor. The kinship-based bonds may be symbolical, whereby the clan shares a "stipulated" common ancestor that is a...

     or guild
    Guild
    A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society...

     affiliation, religious belief or cultural alliances. Variations may also simply reflect the different resources available in a given time or area.


Defining cultural groups, such as the Ancient Pueblo peoples, tends to create an image of territories separated by clear-cut boundaries, like border boundaries separating modern states. These simply did not exist. Prehistoric people traded, worshipped, collaborated and fought most often with other nearby groups. Cultural differences should therefore be understood as “clinal”, "increasing gradually as the distance separating groups also increases". Departures from the expected pattern may occur because of unidentified social or political situations or because of geographic barriers. In the Southwest, mountain ranges, rivers and, most obviously, the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in the United States in the state of Arizona. It is largely contained within the Grand Canyon National Park, the 15th national park in the United States...

 can be significant barriers for human communities, likely reducing the frequency of contact with other groups. Current opinion holds that the closer cultural similarity between the Mogollon and Ancient Pueblos and their greater differences from the Hohokam and Patayan is due to both the geography and the variety of climate zones in the Southwest.

See also

  • Puebloan architecture
  • Anasazi flute
    Anasazi flute
    The Anasazi flute is the name of a pre-historic end-blown flute replicated today from findings at a massive cave in Prayer Rock Valley in Arizona, USA by an archaeological expedition led by Earl H. Morris in 1931...

  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
  • Gallina
    Gallina
    The Gallina or Largo-Gallina culture was an occupation sequence during the pre-hispanic period in the American Southwest from approximately 1050 to 1300...

  • Kokopelli
    Kokopelli
    Kokopelli is a fertility deity, usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player , who has been venerated by some Native American cultures in the Southwestern United States. Like most fertility deities, Kokopelli presides over both childbirth and agriculture...

  • Matrilocal residence

  • Oasisamerica cultures
    Oasisamerica
    Oasisamerica was a broad cultural area in pre-Columbian southwestern North America. It extended from modern-day Utah down to southern Chihuahua, and from the coast on the Gulf of California eastward to the Río Bravo river valley...

  • Prehistoric Southwestern Cultural Divisions
    Prehistoric Southwestern Cultural Divisions
    The American Southwest has long been occupied by hunter/gatherers and agricultural people. This area, identified with the current states of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada, and areas of northern Mexico, has seen successive prehistoric cultural traditions since approximately 12,000...

     

  • Virgin Anasazi
    Virgin Anasazi
    The Virgin Anasazi were the westernmost Ancestral Puebloan group in the American Southwest. They occupied the area in and around the Virgin River and Muddy Rivers, the western Colorado Plateau, the Moapa Valley and were bordered to the south by the Colorado River. They occupied areas in present day...

  • Water glyphs
    Water glyphs
    Water glyphs are a recurring type of petroglyph found across the American southwest, but primarily in southern Utah, northern Arizona, and Nevada. The symbols are thought to be of ancient origin, , and have been dated via x-ray fluorescence to ~2,000 old by...

  • Zuni people


External links

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