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History of the Pueblo Indians

  Jacqueline Peppard - Anasazi Footprints
Anasazi Footprints
Jacqueline Peppard

The Pueblo Indians, whose name is Spanish for "stone masonry village dweller", are one of the oldest cultures in the U.S.  Their ancestors, the Anasazi (Navajo for "ancient ones") have a history that has be traced back 7000 years, well into prehistory.  The most important development in the evolution of the Anasazi culture was the changeover of the tribe from a nomadic to sedentary lifestyle, and their settling  in Southeastern Colorado, New-Mexico, Utah and Arizona, also known as the Four Corners region. This is when they began constructing impressive dwellings, making pottery and other artifacts, and weaving baskets; this is also when the Anasazi  first began developing  their agricultural skills, raising turkeys, and growing maize and other crops, like the South American Maya and Aztec before them.  

Since the Four Corners area was an arid biome, the Anasazi had to develop complex irrigation system to farm the land.  The Anasazi did so with the minimal tools they had fashioned out of stone wood and bone, since they hadn't yet discovered metallurgy.  Nonetheless, the Anasazi were master craftsmen, and had managed to fashion rather sophisticated tools of all sorts, ranging from stone knives to bone awls for sewing.   While the Anasazi  raised turkey, and hunted small game, the larger part of their food intake consisted of corn, squash, and beans.  The Anasazi ate twice a day, and an offering was made to the Gods by the man of the house, who would throw a small amount of food into the fire.  Although they lived in hot and dry land, the Anasazi cooked most of their meals, which included bread, made from corn flour, and stew.  

The Anasazi Indians made their homes by out of natural caves, or on top of mesas which were all part of the rocky terrain and canyons of  the Four Corners region. These villages, or "pueblos" were remarkably similar to today's apartment complexes in that they interconnected several rooms and homes,  shaped out of stone and adobe by the expert hands of Anasazi masons.  These dwellings were adorned with a protective layer of clay mud, either white, gray, yellow, or reddish brown.  The homes were further decorated with hand prints and/or geometric patterns.  The rooftops of the houses were also used in the fall, when harvested crops were lain to dry in the heat of the sun.  Two very good examples of the sophistication of Anasazi architecture can be seen in the Concha Canyon and Mesa Verde Pueblos.

While the Anasazi men were skilled at making baskets, the women made clay pottery, adorned with a wide variety of symbols called wares, or groups of pottery types which represent each tribe's historical timeline, and are now used by archaeologists to try and piece together the still enigmatic puzzle of Anasazi history, religious beliefs, and culture.  The Anasazi also used turquoise stone in many of the different pieces of jewelry they wore during religious ceremonies.  Turquoise was also used when trading with other tribes, either for food, or livestock to use for food and clothing.  Other items used in trade included seashells, cotton, and pottery, which makes it difficult for archaeologist to figure out where the pieces originated. 

See our Pecos Classification chart for details.






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