History and Culture of Ancestral Puebloans

Ancestral Puebloans

The Ancestral Puebloans were ancient Native Americans who developed a culture that cut across what is now the Four Corners region of the United States of America. This area covers the northwestern portion of New Mexico, southwestern Colorado, the northeastern part of Arizona, and Utah’s southeastern portion. Studies have shown that these people contributed in no small way to the Oshawa tradition, which itself emanated from the Picosa culture. 


The Ancestral Puebloans spanned the area that is now referred to as the American Southwest, and the region is sometimes called Oasisamerica, which covers that area of cultures in southwestern North America before the invasion of Christopher Columbus and other ‘so-called’ explorers from Europe. The other cultures in the region include the Patayan, Hohokam, and Mogollon. Compared with the other cultures in the same area, the Ancestral Puebloans spread across the region’s northeastern section. The Ancestral Puebloans’ homeland areas were centered on the Colorado Plateau with extension from central New Mexico to the southern parts of Nevada to the west. 

The sections of Utah, southern Nevada, and Colorado comprised a border for the northern portion, while the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers in Arizona alongside the Rio Grande and Rio Puerco Rivers in New Mexico formed the southern edge. Historians also saw other remnants of the Ancestral Puebloans’ culture in areas like the American Great Plains. 


There are different aspects of the Ancestral Puebloan culture, but the most well-known include the earth and stone dwellings that the people constructed along the cliff walls. This is particularly true of the Pueblo II and Pueblo III periods, around 900 to 1350 AD. The best of these stone dwellings remain protected today under the United States laws in national parks. These include the Aztec Ruins National Monument, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and Navajo National Monument, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Bandelier National Monument, and Hovenweep National Monument. 

Another aspect of the culture of the Ancestral Puebloans is pottery; they were famed as master potters. They engaged in pottery and used the products for storing food materials and also cooking. They also employed pottery for ornamental purposes, and that explains the profusion of pots with elaborate decorations. 

Over time, there were modifications to the structure, composition, or decoration of the pottery works and this was prominent with the tribes of the American Southwest as they left their historical homes while migrating in a southward fashion. Based on reports from archaeologists, the presence of brilliant colors in the 14th-century works pointed to changes in the political or religious systems in the region. 

The Ancestral Puebloans also created several pictographs, and the style of the pictograph is the one that is referred to as the Barrier Canyon Style. This kind of artistic representation is one in which the protection offered the images from the sun, and it is known that some of the images are strange or even alien-like in appearance. 


 The first phase of the Ancestral Puebloans’ history can be said to start in 7000 BCE and ended in 1500 BCE in what is now known as the Archaic-Early Basketmaker Era. Then there is the second phase known as the Early Basketmaker II Era, which lasted from 1500 BCE to 50CE. 

This was followed by the Late Basketmaker II era, which stretched from 50 CE to 500CE. The Basketmaker III Era is one in which they started the cultivation of food and commenced making pottery; it lasted from 500 to 750 CE. The Pueblo I to IV Periods began in 750 and continued to 1600. The Pueblo V Period commenced in 1600 and continues to date. 


The Ancestral Puebloans preferred to build under rocky overhangs when it comes to the construction of defensive forts or shelters. These villages that they built were referred to as pueblos by the European colonists and the only way to reach them was to use a rope or climb the rocks. These striking buildings started humbly, and the oldest of them were designed with the pit house pattern. 

Their unique architectural works in their communal spaces stood the Ancestral Puebloans out, and these include areas like Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, Bandelier National Monument, and others. These buildings were made of complexes with apartments, and the structures were made using adobe mud, stone, and other local items. The buildings were skillfully carved onto the sides of the walls of the canyons. The Ancestral Puebloans did not just develop their designs; they also used designs from other regions like Mexico. 

At the peak of their power, the Ancestral Puebloans had the ancient cities and towns filled with buildings with several stories and put to several purposes. These city complexes were used for various kinds of events, and much of them were built before 1492 AD. The villages and towns were built in a way that made them be in a defensive angle on the high and very steep mesas. The massive complexes were known as the great houses and were also used for religious events. 

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