Throughout the southwest, ancient people left their mark but mysteriously abandoned their villages between 750 and 1350 AD/Current Year (CE). The ruins are beautiful reminder of their heritage.
Recently, the term Anasazi has been replaced by Ancestral Puebloans, referring to people who lived in the Colorado Plateau roughly 2000 to 700 years ago. Why? Anasazi is a Navajo word that translates to “enemy ancestors”, and the peoples were not necessarily enemies.
The Dwellings of Puebloan People
- Pit-houses were the earliest Ancestral Pueblo residences. Subterranean wood and earth structures with roof entryways were cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
- Pueblos, above ground stone-masonry structures, later replaced pit-houses.
- Cliff Dwellings were compact, masonry-walled pueblos located in cliffs. Ladders used to access the dwellings were pulled up for protection.
- Kivas are round, semi-subterranean structures used for ceremonial purposes or other large gatherings.
Visiting the Ruins
Palatki Heritage Site, Sedona.
Cliff dwellings and rock art from the Sinqua people from 1150 to 1350 AD/CE. Sinqua means “without water”.
Palatki is a Hopi word for Red House; however, the Hopi had no specific name for this site. It was named by an archaeologist.
Since its discovery in the 1900’s, about 70 to 90% of the structure has disappeared due to looting and misuse. It has since been designated a World Heritage Site.
Montezuma’s Well, Sedona
An oasis/sinkhole with cliff dwellings for the Sinaqua in the 1100’s. Despite less than 13″ of annual rainfall, the well is replenished daily with 1.5 million gallons from an underground spring percolating through miles of rock.
Despite the name, the site has nothing to do with Monetzuma or the Aztecs, the name is based on an inaccurate assumption by those who discovered the ruins.
Montezuma Castle National Monument, Sedona.
Built 90 feet up a cliff face, possibly to protect from flooding, this is a five-story structure with 20 rooms for 30 to 50 Sinaqua. 1100-1450 AD/CE. (Montezuma is a misnomer).
Tuzigoot National Monument, Sedona.
Tuzigoot is a word that means “crooked water”. The pueblo ruins are two to three stories with 110 rooms that housed 250 Sinaqua.
Wupatki National Monument, north of Flagstaff.
Wupatki is Hopi for “Tall House”: By 1182, 85 to 100 Puebloans lived in Wupatki Pueblo with 100 rooms, a community room and a ball court. The community room was likely used for trading and interaction with the larger community. Within a day’s walk, a population of several thousand lived in separate villages. Wupatki, the largest building within 50 miles, and the nearby hamlets were mysteriously abandoned circa 1250 AD/CE.
Playball!: There are over 200 ball courts in southern Arizona, common from 750 to 1200 AD. The Wupatki people intermingled with their neighbors between villages, (a days walk).
The Blowhole – A crevice in the earth’s crust that connects to an underground passage in the village. Archaeologists have no idea why. There was a nice warm updraft that I appreciated on a freezing day in May.
Wukoko a neighboring hamlet
Wukoko Pueblo, an elegant hamlet 3 miles from Wupatki Pueblo, is built on a giant rock and stands three stories tall. Pieces of wood beam remain.
The Sad Truth
The Visitor Center displays testimonials from Navajo families that called this place home, but were evicted due to competition and conflict with ranchers, the railroad, and later the National Park Service.
Coombs Excavation Site, Boulder, UT,.”Anasazi” State Park
A village of almost 100 rooms occupied between 1050 and 1175 AD/CE. The excavation site shows evidence of early pit houses and masonry pueblos. The people departed in 1175 AD and the village was burned, possibly by the inhabitants. One artifact on display, the Atlatl (Spear Thrower) is 2,000 years old.
Petroglyphs are carvings or etchings in the rock. Pictographs are painted figures.
Palatki Rockart (1150 to 1350 AD), Sedona. The rock art predates the ruins and are thousands of years old.
Newspaper Rock, Near Needles/Canyonlands UT. Petroglyph panel recording 2000 years of early human activity. Etchings on the rock date from BC time to 1300 AD/CE by Ute, Navajo, Europeans, Americans (and some recent high school grads).
Petroglyphs Fremont Cliffs Capitol Reef. 600 to 1300 AD/CE