Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

6.15: Ancestral Puebloans (700 CE – 1300 CE)

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    The Ancestral Puebloans lived in the United States in the four-corners area where the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah meet. They lived in the area from approximately 700 CE to 1300 CE. The Puebloans were master clay pot makers, and the artistry evolved during this period from simple clay decorations to elaborate pottery with black drawing on white clay. The high plateaus at Mesa Verde (6.71) were made of sedimentary rock formations with abundant junipers, pinion, and ponderosa pines, although the landscape was subject to wind and water erosion, drought and floods. Steep canyons developed from environmental erosion, exposing magnificent overhang cliffs, ideal locations for the Ancestral Puebloans to build their communities, and dwellings indefensible positions. Using sandstone common to the area, they made blocks and assembled them into the cliffs with a compound of mud and water to make a concrete mortar.

    Mesa Verde
    6.71 Mesa Verde

    The basic rooms were small, and each room seemed to have a different purpose; sleeping, storing crops, and work areas. Generations of a family would live in groupings of five to six rooms and added a room as they needed. The round kivas are underground or at least partially underground, and located in front of a group of rooms. It is possible that each family grouping or clan had a kiva associated with a set of five or six rooms with the flat, open roofs of the Kiva, creating an open courtyard or gathering place for the people.

    The people were known for their everyday pottery and generally unpainted with a smooth or textured surface used for cooking or storage. The pottery for formal use was highly adorned and decorated with black painted designs on white or gray backgrounds, depending on the type of clay available. The narrow-necked jars were used for liquids, taller pots for ceremonial purposes. Some groups used white on black (6.72) and others black on white, and each village had its own style.

    6.72 Pitcher

    For unknown reasons, Ancestral Puebloans abandoned their homes in Mesa Verde and other settlements, and one day the canyons were empty; all traces of the Puebloans people vanished except what little they left behind.