Native American Tribes: The History and Culture of the Anasazi (Ancient Pueblo)

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As the name reflects, basket making was evident during these phases, and, as the lifestyle became increasingly sedentary, pottery developed. In these early times their homes were pit-houses or caves ; in the Bastketmaker III period they lived in semi-subterranean houses constructed in caves or on the top of mesas. In the Pueblo phases, beginning in Pueblo I , they built houses above ground with kivas, circular underground chambers, constructed for ceremonial purposes. The Ancient Pueblo culture is perhaps best-known for the stone and adobe cliff dwellings built along cliff walls, particularly during the Pueblo II and Pueblo III eras.

These villages were often only accessible by rope or through rock climbing. By around C. They created new communities, using adobe to a greater extent, and their culture continued to flourish until the Spanish explorers arrived. It was the Spanish who called their communities pueblos.

Ancestral Puebloans are known for their pottery. In general, pottery was used for cooking or storage and was unpainted gray, either smooth or textured. From about to C.

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Decoration was characterized by fine hatching, and contrasting colors were produced by the use of mineral-based paint on a chalky background. Tall cylinders are considered to have been ceremonial vessels, while narrow-necked jars may have been used for liquids.


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Ware in the southern portion of the region, particularly after C. The Ancestral Puebloans also created many petroglyphs and pictographs. The best known petroglyph is the "Sun Dagger" on the Fajada Butte at which a glint of sunlight passes over a spiral petroglyph. At the summer solstice a dagger-shaped light form pierces through the heart of the spiral; similar sun daggers mark the winter solstice and the equinoxes.

It has been proposed that this petroglyph was created to mark these events. At two other sites on Fajada Butte, located a short distance below the Sun Dagger site, five petroglyphs are also marked by visually compelling patterns of shadow and light that indicate solar noon distinctively at the solstices and equinoxes. The Ancestral Puebloan People crafted a unique architecture with planned community spaces. The ancient population centers for which the Ancestral Puebloans are renowned consisted of apartment-like complexes and structures called pueblos by the Spanish explorers made from stone, adobe mud, and other local material, or carved into the sides of canyon walls cliff dwellings.

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These ancient towns and cities were usually multi-storied and multi-purposed buildings surrounding open plazas 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 roadways. Constructed well before C. From before C. In Chaco Canyon, Chacoan developers quarried sandstone blocks and hauled timber from great distances, assembling fifteen major complexes which remained the largest buildings in North America until the nineteenth century.

Throughout the southwest Ancient Puebloan region cliff dwellings , housing, defensive, and storage complexes were built in shallow caves and under rock overhangs along canyon walls. The structures contained within these alcoves were mostly blocks of hard sandstone , held together and plastered with adobe mortar. 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. 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 thirteenth 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 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.

This has been taken by some archaeologists as evidence of the continuing reach of the Chaco Canyon elite system, which had seemingly collapsed around a century before. Immense complexes known as "Great Houses" embodied worship at Chaco Canyon. As architectural forms evolved and centuries passed, the houses kept several core traits. Most apparent is their sheer bulk; complexes averaged more than rooms each, and some enclosed up to rooms. They were well-planned: vast sections or wings erected were finished in a single stage, rather than in increments.


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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 kivas were built in proportion to the number of rooms in a pueblo. One small kiva was built for roughly every 29 rooms. 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 blocks bound in clay mortar were erected.

Gaps between walls were packed with rubble, 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. One of the most fascinating and intriguing aspects of Ancestral Puebloan infrastructure is the Chaco Road system. This is 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.

These were excavated into a smooth leveled surface in the bedrock or created through the removal of vegetation and soil. The Ancestral Puebloan 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 longest and most famous of these roads is the Great North Road, which 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.

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 reveal the long-distance commercial relations Chaco had with other regions. The widespread use of timber in Chacoan constructions—a resource not locally available—also needed a large and easy transportation system. Through analysis of various strontium isotopes, archaeologists have realized that much of the timber that composes Chacoan construction came from a number of distant mountain ranges.

The Chaco road system may also have played a symbolic, ideological role linked to ancestral Puebloan beliefs. In fact, some archaeologists have suggested that the main purpose of the road system was a religious one, providing pathways for periodic pilgrimages and facilitating regional gatherings for seasonal ceremonies. A 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. Sparse concentrations of ceramic fragments along the North Road have been related to some sort of ritual activities carried out along the roadway.

Ancestral Pueblo culture

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. 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. Considering that some of these roads seem to go nowhere, it has been suggested that they can be linked—especially the Great North Road—to astronomical observations, solstice marking, and agricultural cycles.

Astronomy certainly played an important role in Chaco culture, as it is visible in the north-south axis alignment of many ceremonial structures. Many Chacoan buildings may have been aligned to capture the solar and lunar cycles, [14] requiring generations of astronomical observations and centuries of skillfully coordinated construction. Other archaeoastronomical evidence has been found at Chaco, such as the Sun Dagger petroglyph at Fajada Butte. 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. This state park and museum in Southern Utah features the reconstructed ruins of an ancient Anasazi village, referred to as the Coombs Village Site. It is the site of one of the largest Anasazi communities known to have existed west of the Colorado River and is believed to have been occupied from to C. As many as people lived there. Ancestral Pueblo structures in north-western New Mexico , close to the town of Aztec and northeast of Farmington, near the Animas River.

The buildings date back to the eleventh to thirteenth centuries, and the misnomer attributing them to the Aztec civilization can be traced back to early American settlers in the mid-nineteenth century. It is named after Swiss anthropologist Adolph Bandelier, who researched the cultures of the area.

The main attraction of the monument Frijoles Canyon, containing a number of ancestral pueblo homes, kivas, rock paintings , and petroglyphs. Some of the dwellings were rock structures built on the canyon floor; others were "cavates" produced by voids in the volcanic tuff of the canyon wall and carved out further by humans. A visitor center features exhibits about the site's inhabitants, including Ancestral Pueblo pottery , tools , and artifacts of daily life. Located in northeastern Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation, this site preserves ruins of the early indigenous tribes that lived in the area, including the Ancient Pueblo Peoples and Navajo.

This National Historical Park, located in northwestern New Mexico between Albuquerque and Farmington, hosts the densest and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest. Between and C. There is significant archaeoastronomical evidence, such as the "Sun Dagger" petroglyph , at this site.

The people built dams and reservoirs and moved their fields into areas where water could be controlled. They also built large stone towers, living quarters, and other shelters to safeguard springs.

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Their stone course pueblos and towers exhibit expert masonry and engineering sjukks. The towers were built in a variety of shapes; D-shapes, squares, ovals, and circles. These stone pueblos were understandably referred to as "castles" by nineteenth-century explorers. The Anasazi inhabited Mesa Verde between to C. By C. By the late twelfth century they began to build the cliff dwellings for which Mesa Verde is famous. New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards.

This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats. The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:. Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed. Ancient Pueblo Peoples.

Previous Ancient Philosophy. Next Ancient economic thought. Did you know? The ancestors of the Pueblo people built incredible cities, cliff dwellings , along the walls of canyons as well as enormous "great houses" and roads along the valleys. Credits New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards.

Categories : Politics and social sciences Anthropology Ethnic group Credited. Contents 1 Names 2 History 2. Pueblo people rooted in this region of the southwest are descendants of an indigenous Native American culture that has established itself over many centuries. Part II provides information for each individual Pueblo as it stands today.

Although theirs seemed to be a most efficiently run society, the 14th century saw the rapid decline of the Anasazi empire. The real cause for the decline of this enigmatic and impressive civilization is still the subject of debate amongst archaeologists and anthropologists, who have brought forth a multitude of theories ranging from warfare with other tribes, to a mass exodus brought on by a new religion Kachina, which was being practiced in the south.

Still, careful study of the Pueblos shows that the settlements were built with a certain degree of concern for the safety of their inhabitants, and that the Anasazi were prepared to deal with invaders.

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There, multi-cultural influences had their effect on social interaction, government, religion, and most importantly, language. The Pueblo Indians were also farmers, as the Anasazi had been before them, growing pumpkins, squash, melons, and corn. They formed peaceful communities, and were welcoming of the Spanish settlers who had just arrived in Rio Grande area. The Spanish contributed to the Pueblo Indian way of life by introducing horses and livestock, and crafts such as metallurgy, while the Pueblo Indians influenced the way the Spanish built their homes.

Once again, the Pueblo Indians fell prey to the arid climate and droughts which had driven their ancestors out of the Four Corners region.

This created conflicts between the Native Americans and the Spanish, which led to hostilities between the two groups. Unfortunately, the Pueblo were outnumbered, and the Spaniards were better equipped with weapons, which resulted in the massacre of many Pueblo Indians, and the subjugation of the tribe. A few years later, the Pueblos staged another revolt, but once again had to submit to their oppressors.

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