account_circle Log in
add Create
cancel Log out
settings Settings
Email address



By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

▶︎ View related▼︎ Tap to hide

The major portion of the prehistoric Southwest was inhabited by a cultural group known as the Anasazi. The Navajo word "anasazi" means "enemy ancestors" and refers to the ancestors of the present pueblo Indians of the northern Southwest. This wide-ranging culture extended over northern Arizona and New Mexico, southern Utah and the southwestern corner of Colorado. Oppelt 1981, p 7

Geo-cultural regions

Mesa VerdeEncompasses the Four Corners area and extends west to where the San Juan River flows into the Colorado and east to the Piedra River. Mesa Verdans were also present in the Canyonlands area of southeastern Utah and in Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona.
ChacoCentered on the ruins in Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico, and extending west to the present New Mexico-Arizona state line. To the north, it reaches the San Juan River and includes the Salmon Ruins near Bloomfield, New Mexico.
Rio GrandeLocated in the northern portion of the Rio Grande drainage, from the Taos area south to approximately the Rio Puerco of the West. From east to west, it reaches the Grants, New Mexico, to Pecos Pueblo, the most easterly of the major pueblo ruins.
Little ColoradoIncludes the upper portion of the Little Colorado River drainage in east-cenral Arizona and west-central New Mexico. It extends east into the Zuni area, north into the vicinity of Klagetoh Ruins, and west to near Flagstaff, Arizona. It is sparsely settled and the least studied of the Anasazi regions.
Virgin Kayenta
(West Kayenta)
This region covers what is known as the Arizona Strip north of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and southwestern Utah, and north to the vicinity of the Coombs Site near Boulder, Utah. It also extends into the southeastern corner of Nevada near Las Vegas and includes Pueblo Grande de Nevada (Lost City) near Overton, Utah, most westerly of the major pueblo sites. Of note, the Virgin River itself lies in southwestern Utah.

Time periods

Basketmaker II100 BC - AD 500Most Anasazi during this period were hunter-gatherers. Lacking bow and arrow weapons, they used spears and traps. Pottery making was practiced by the Hohokam but was as-yet unknown to the Anasazi. The Anasazi were troglodytes but also built shelters of poles and mud. Floor pits were dug in the caves to store food, and burials were made in similar floor cists. Maize was cultivated in small quantities, a technique that diffused from Mesoamerica.

The term "basketmaker" was first used by Richard Wetherill, who was one of the first to recognize that the remains which lay below the later pueblo materials indicated an earlier culture. The basketmakers were named for the expertly woven baskets found in their caves. Oppelt 1981, p 9

Basketmaker IIIAD 500 - 700Ruins from this era include small villages of pithouses, a type of circular semisubterranean structure. Agriculture intensified, and bean cultivation commenced. People began to live together in large groups and the bow and arrow was introduced. Sedentary lifestyles made pottery practical, and pottery usurped basketry as the container of choice; however, fine basketry was still produced. Basketmaker III sites include Shabik'eshchee Village in Chaco Canyon, several mesatop sites at Mesa Verde National Park, and Bear Ruin in the White Mountains of Arizona.
Pueblo I700 - 900During this period, surface house blocks were built with many rooms. Pithouses continued to be built and grew in size and complexity as the Anasazi became more sedentary. Pottery types became more variable, and black-on-white types became common. Black-on-red types were also produced in some areas, and some of the gray utility ware had a few unsmoothed coils around the necks of jars. Agriculture continued to improve and become more important, allowing the people to live together in larger villages. Pueblo I sites include Piedra Ruin, White Mound Village and Cahone Site #1.
Pueblo II900 - 1150Anasazi populations increased, and villages grew in size. Surface rooms were built in blocks of up to 25 rooms. Large pithouses were still made, likely for religious ceremonies. It is believed that these developed into the kivas of later stages. Black-on-white and red-on-white types continued as the most common decorated pottery, and corrugated pottery with indented coils also became popular over most of the Anasazi region. Pueblo II sites include Chetro Ketl, Hungo Pavie, Una Vida in Chaco Canyon, Lowry Ruin and King's Ruin.
Pueblo III
Classic Period
1150 - 1300The Classic Period is marked by architectural and artistic refinement. Small villages and large multistory masonry pueblos, some with as many as 1200 inhabitants. Beautiful polychrome pottery was made in some areas, and black-on-white types reached the zenith of their development. Trade with Hohokam, Mogollon and other cultures increased.
Collapse13th CenturyAn exodus occurred, and by the end of the 13th century most of Mesa Verda and parts of Kayenta and Chaco areas were almost entirely abandoned. Drought, arroyo cutting or hostile nomads are possible reasons for this collapse. Northern Anasazi moved to the less-populated areas of central Arizona, west-central New Mexico and the northern Rio Grande.
Pueblo IV1300 - 1598There were some well-built structures in the south, and in some regions polychrome pottery was still produced. Otherwise, this was a regressive era. Kivas continued to be important, and some (ie, Pottery Mound, Kuaua and Awatovi) had fine murals.
Spanish Contact1540Coronado entered the area of the northern Rio Grande.
Spanish Settlement1598Settlers began to arrive.
17th CenturySpaniards influenced the Rio Grande area mostly, and also the Little Colorado and Kayenta areas. Some groups on the periphery of Spanish settlement, such as the Hopis, resisted Spanish religious and political pressures.