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 explores that cultural heritage and celebrates its legacy and preservation.
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Places featured in the 2021 calendar include:
Tyuonyi Pueblo, Bandelier National Monument, NM
A circular pueblo constructed on the floor of Frijoles Canyon, Tyuonyi (Que-weh-nee) originally contained 300 rooms and reached three stories in height. The pueblo was constructed in about 1150 CE and continued to house pueblo peoples for another 450 years. Population in the canyon seems to have reached a peak in about 1500, about the time when the last construction appears to have taken place there. By 1600 the valley was largely abandoned as inhabitants relocated to pueblos near the Rio Grande.
Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde National Park, CO
The third largest cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park, Spruce Tree House contains 130 rooms and eight kivas. Some 60 to 100 people lived in the dwelling during the 1200s CE. The kivas, a Hopi Indian word meaning ceremonial room, were probably used by Ancient Puebloans for worship and other community functions.
Gran Quivira Ruins, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, NM
In the 17th century Spanish Franciscan priests discovered the Native American trading communities in what would become central New Mexico and decided to establish missions there. Pictured in the foreground is the Las Humans pueblo of 226 rooms that dates from 1275 to 1600 CE. The mission church behind the pueblo was begun in about 1659. In succeeding years, drought, famine, disease and raiding Apache Indians caused Gran Quivira to be abandoned.
Betatakin Cliff Dwelling, Navajo National Monument
Betatakin was constructed inside a vast rock alcove that measures 370 feet across and 450 feet high from about 1287 to 1286 CE. Betatakin had 120 rooms built of sandstone, mud mortar, and wood, as well as one kiva. Located on the Navajo Reservation in northern Arizona, the national monument includes two other dwelling sites: Keet Seel, with 150 rooms, and Inscription House.
Wukoki Ruin, Wupatki National Monument, AZ
Seen beyond the blooming Rabbitbrush bush, and constructed on a large rock, Wukoki Ruin is part of a complex of buildings protected by the national monument. Ancient Puebloans occupied the site from about 500 to 1225 CE. The structures were built of thin, flat blocks of local sandstone that give them their deep red color.
Long House, Mesa Verde National Park, CO
Long House, on Wetherill Mesa, is the second largest cliff dwelling on Mesa Verde. With more than 150 rooms and 21 kivas, it is estimated that some 200 people lived here between 1150 and 1350 CE. The dwelling was named for the impressive alcove (about 130 feet deep by 300 feet wide) that is filled end to end with rooms and kivas.
Mongollon Cliff Dwellings, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, NM
The natural caves occupied by people of the Mongollon culture in about 1275 CE proved to be attractive dwelling sites. Inside five natural cliff alcoves, these ancestral people constructed a series of interconnected dwellings. Archeologists have identified 46 rooms inside the caves and believe that the structures were occupied by from 10 to 15 families.
Chetro Ketl, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, NM
Chetro Ketl is an Ancestral Puebloan great house that is part of the largest group of Ancestral Puebloan buildings in the American southwest. The structure was begun is about 990 CE and building continued through the 1110s CE. Chetro Ketl contained more than 400 room and covered nearly three acres.
Atsinna Pueblo, El Morro National Monument, NM
Located at the top of Inscription Rock, overlooking the plain below is Atsinna Pueblo dates from about 1275 CE. Built of flat sedimentary rock that could be fashioned into slabs, Ancestral Puebloans constructed this complex of some 875 multistory, interconnected rooms to house from 1,000 to 1,500 people. (Only a small section of the pueblo has been excavated.) Crops for food were grown in irrigated fields on the plain. Grinding bins and fire pits remain today, as does evidence of cisterns used to collect water.
Painted Hand Ruin, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, CO
This prominent stone tower is part of the remains of a village site dating to the 1200s CE. Stone rubble shows where rooms were originally attached to the cliff and adjacent rocks. Near the tower are ancient pictographs of hands for which the site is named. Canyons of the Ancients is one of the most archeologically significant areas in the Four Corners region. It includes 6,000 recorded sites reflecting the history of Ancestral Puebloans and other Native American Cultures.
Rochester Panel, San Rafael Swell Recreation Area, UT
Experts in rock art are unsure whether the images found on the Rochester Panel were created by artists of the Fremont Culture, 2,000 to 700 years ago, or by an earlier Barrier Canyon Culture 4,000 to 2,000 years ago. The petroglyphs were “pecked” into light-colored sandstone which contrasts with the darker desert varnish. The area is part of San Rafael Swell, a 75-mile long dome of uplifted sedimentary rock that has been eroded over millions of years into canyons, gorges, mesas, buttes and badlands.
Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Castle National Monument, AZ
One of the first four sites declared a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, Montezuma Castle was excavated in 1933. The dwelling was constructed by the Southern Sinagua people who lived there between 1125 and 1425 CE The five-story dwelling contained 20 rooms and is 50 feet above the valley floor. The walls were built of unshaped limestone blocks set in soil mortar. Most surfaces were finished with mud plaster. The Castle is considered one of the most notable examples of prehistoric architecture in the southwest.
About 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 530 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. In order to save archaeological sites throughout the nation, the Conservancy:
Identifies the most important endangered sites;
Acquires the property by purchase, gift, or bargain sale to charity;
Secures the property and stabilizes the cultural resources in situ;
Manages the archaeological preserve as part of a long-term plan;
Educates the general public and local officials about the destruction of our cultural heritage and how we can preserve what remains.
The support of more than 20,000 Conservancy members has been invaluable to the preservation of important archaeological sites throughout the country. Conservancy members receive a quarterly magazine, American Archaeology, which includes recent discoveries in the field, updates on Conservancy projects, and related news from around the country. Members also receive announcements of the Conservancy’s archaeological tours in the United States, Mexico, and Central America. Conservancy membership starts at $30.
For more information, contact:
The Archaeological Conservancy
Albuquerque, NM 87106
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