The lives of ancient Puebloans who lived in the American southwest are largely mysterious to us. Their legacy is a series of architectural sites that reveal their ingenious building skills, elements of their religious practice, and the art they carved into stone. Ancient Civilizations of the Southwest 2020 explores that cultural heritage while celebrating its legacy and preservation.
Locations featured in the 2020 edition include:
Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
Alcove House was once home to 25 Ancestral Puebloan people. What this picture does not reveal is that the alcove housing this reconstructed kiva is located 140 feet above the canyon floor. To reach their home, the Puebloans would have climbed a series of ladders and stone steps carrying what they needed from the canyon below.
San Juan River at Butler Wash, Utah
These remarkable petroglyphs are carved into the stone at Lower Butler Wash near the San Juan River. The figures are anthropomorphic and measure between four and five feet tall. Who these people were and the meaning of the artwork they created remains uncertain, but still spectacular.
Hovenweep National Monument, Colorado
The Castle is one of the structures that make up the Square Tower Group, the largest collection of pueblo buildings at Hovenweep. The slots and doors of the Castle were designed to mark the summer and winter solstice as well as the spring and fall equinox. It seems clear that the Castle’s Ancient Puebloan builders understood the changes of the solar calendar when they constructed the Castle sometime between 1150 and 1350.
Cedar Mesa, Utah
A beautiful, swirling ceiling marks the alcove that protects this Ancient Puebloan dwelling. The dramatic ceiling results from a combination of iron and manganese oxide called desert varnish. The structure is located in a rugged canyon that is located in the Cedar Mesa plateau section of southeastern Utah. Cedar Mesa boasts remarkable geological formations, as well as many Ancient Peubloan structures.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
Located several hundred yards from Pueblo Bonito near Chaco Wash, Pueblo del Arroyo is the fourth largest great house in Chaco Canyon, with 300 rooms. Construction of the pueblo probably began around 1060 and continued for 30 years. In addition to housing, the Pueblo del Arroyo includes 14 kivas, though archaeologists have found no great kiva.
Aztec Ruins National Monument
The West Ruin is one section of an extensive pueblo enclave. The West Ruin included some 400 rooms and reached three stories tall in some sections. Built originally between 1111 and 1115, the pueblo was remodeled in the 1200s when it was occupied by a people related to Mesa Verdeans.
Coconino National Forest, Arizona
Sheltered by cliffs of Red Rock, the pueblos of the Palatki Heritage Site and the related Honanki site were largest cliff dwellings in Red Rock Country between 1150 and 1350. An American archaeologist from the Smithsonian Institution first explored the sites and gave them Hopi Indian names, although the Hopi have no names for the pueblos. Visiting the ruins is an easy drive from Sedona, however, reservations are recommended.
El Morro National Monument, New Mexico
El Morro (the Headland) is the Spanish name for the vast sandstone promontory that juts into the dessert in Cibbola County, New Mexico. With an oasis-like source of water at its base, Ancent Puebloans built a vast pueblo atop El Morro that housed as many as 1,500 people between 1275 and 1350. The kiva pictured, now roofless, served the people of the Atsinna pueblo.
Wupatki National Monument, Arizona
Many Ancient Peubloan people, the Cohonina, Kayenta, Anasazi, and Sinagua, built and lived in the area that is now protected by the national monument. The Tall House is a multistory Sinagua pueblo that included more than 100 rooms, a community room and a ball court. In 1182 about 100 people lived in the pueblo, but by 1225, the site was abandoned.
Tuzigoot National Monument, Arizona
The Tuzigoot pueblo is a long complex of 110 rooms built upward along the spine of a natural outcrop in the Verde Valley. This image looks toward the bottom of the pueblo. The trees at the bottom screen a meander of the Verde River. The pueblo was built between 1125 and 1400 and is the largest Sinagua ruin in the Verde Valley.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
The White House is a multilevel complex of some 80 rooms that includes a section on the floor of the canyon, hidden in this picture by cottonwood trees, and a section in the alcove visible above. Built between 1060 and 1250, archaeologists believe that lower section was tall enough to provide access to the upper section.
Navajo National Monument, Arizona
Keet Seel is one of three cliff dwellings constructed by Ancestral Puebloans that are protected by the Navajo National Monument. Located in a branch of the Tsegi Canyon, Keet Seel was first occupied in about 1250 and construction accelerated between 1272 and 1275 when about 150 people may have occupied the site. By about 1300 the site was abandoned, but beautifully preserved by the dry climate and the stone alcove.
Ancient Civilizations of the Southwest is co-sponsored by The Archaeological Conservancy. Established in 1980, The Archaeological Conservancy is the only national, non-profit organization dedicated to acquiring and preserving the best of our nation s remaining archaeological sites. Every day prehistoric and historic archaeological sites in the United States are lost forever along with the precious information they contain. Modern-day looters use backhoes and bulldozers to dig up artifacts for the international market. Suburban development and agricultural methods like land leveling and topsoil mining destroy ancient sites. The Conservancy protects these sites by acquiring the land on which they rest, preserving them for posterity. To date, the Conservancy has protected more than 500 sites, which are managed as part of state or federal parks, or by the Conservancy as permanent archaeological preserves. Each site offers us a chance to learn more about America s rich cultural heritage.