The Ancient Native American Southwest

The panoramas in this collection cover just a few of the many sites in the American Southwest where Native American communities thrived many hundreds of years ago. The remains of their skillfully engineered pueblos and cliff dwellings, many of which are over a thousand years old, offer testimony to the expertise of the builders and the sophistication of the vibrant cultures they were part of.

Click on the images below to bring up the first panorama for the location and then click on that panorama’s hot spots to view additional content. For some locations, clicking on the image below brings up an intermediate map with hotspots for accessing the location’s panoramas.

When viewing and visiting these fascinating sites, please keep in mind that these locations hold great spiritual significance to many present day Native Americans and should be treated with the utmost respect.

 

Ancestral Puebloan Culture

The Ancestral Puebloan people lived in the “four corners” region of south-east Utah, south-west Colorado, north-eastern Arizona, and northern New Mexico. The roots of this culture may be traced back as far as the 12th century BC but the many beautiful cliff dwelling and pueblo complexes they produced between 900 AD and 1350 AD have brought them the most renown. Also of note are the great roads they constructed during that period to link their cultural center at Chaco with their other communities. Although sometimes called the Anasazi, use of that term is discouraged by current-day Puebloans because it is a Navajo word meaning “ancient enemy”. You can learn more about the Ancestral Puebloan culture on Wikipedia.

 

 

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Aztec, New Mexico

1 panorama (more coming)

This national monument showcases the remains of a 500-room pueblo built by the Chacoans a little after 1100 AD. It hosts the only re-roofed great kiva in the southwest. You can learn more by visiting the Monument’s website or Wikipedia.

 

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Chinle, Arizona

10 panoramas

Although currently the home of the Navajo, Ancestral Puebloans built and farmed in spectacular Canyon de Chelly as far back as 1300 AD. The remains of many of their cliff houses and ground level pueblos can still be seen. You can learn more by visiting the Monument’s website or Wikipedia.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

New Mexico

5 panoramas (more coming)

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Chaco Culture National Historical Park preserves and protects what was a major cultural center of the Ancestral Puebloan peoples a thousand years ago. Multiple ancient building complexes line the canyon. You can learn more by visiting the park’s website or Wikipedia. To view the structures from above, click on the panorama’s map icon and zoom in on the satellite view.

Coronado Historic Site

Bernalillo, New Mexico

1 panorama

The Coronado Historic Site preserves the remains of the Kuaua Pueblo, which was founded around 1300 AD and was home to over a thousand people. The site is named after the Spanish explorer Coronado, whose 1540 expedition preyed upon this and other nearby Native American communities, leading to the Tiguex War. You can learn more about the Coronado Historic Site by visiting the park’s website or Wikipedia.

Homolovi State Park

Winslow, Arizona

17 panoramas

This park preserves Ancestral Hopi village sites which thrived between about 1200 AD and 1400 AD. The modern-day Hopi consider the Ancestral Puebloans to be their ancestors. Learn more about Homolovi State Park by visiting the park’s website or Wikipedia. The former includes an excellent audio tour. If you would like to listen to it while you view the panoramas, click “here” to bring up the park page, then start the audio, bring up the first panorama, and follow the directions in the panorama “Information” boxes to keep the panoramas in sync.

 

 

 

 

Petroglyph National Monument

Albuquerque, New Mexico

1 panorama

This national monument presents an odd juxtaposition of the ancient and modern. Rock formations with petroglyphs that are many hundreds of years old sit like an island in a sea of suburban housing developments. You can learn more by visiting the Monument’s website or Wikipedia.

Sinagua Culture

The people we call the Sinagua lived in central Arizona from about 500 AD to about 1425 AD. Skillful builders, they left behind cliff dwellings, pueblo-style great houses, and lesser pit-style houses. As craftsmen, farmers, and traders, they interacted with their Puebloan neighbors to the north and the Hohokam to the south, sometimes adopting their building techniques and cultural traits. You can learn more about the Sinagua on Wikipedia.

 

 

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Camp Verde, Arizona

11 panoramas (cylindrical)

Montezuma Castle is a Sinaguan cliff-dwelling located in Central Arizona. Despite being nearly a thousand years old, it is one of the best-preserved structures of its kind. Reflecting the site’s importance, it was one of the nation’s first national monuments. You can learn more by visiting the Monument’s website or Wikipedia.

 

Montezuma Well

Camp Verde, Arizona

1 panorama

This striking natural limestone sinkhole is administered as part of Montezuma Castle National Monument. Spring fed even during times of drought, ancient Sinaguan farmers built a seven-mile canal to channel the Well’s outflow to their fields. They also built the rock rooms still visible in the Well’s rim. The Well is sacred place for the present-day Yavapai people. You can learn more about Montezuma Well by visiting the Monument’s website or Wikipedia.

 

 

Tuzigoot National Monument

Clarkdale, Arizona

5 panoramas

Rising over the Verde River valley, this 110-room hilltop Sinaguan pueblo was an important center for both agriculture and trade from about 1100 AD to 1400 AD.  Over the centuries, the elements reduced the structures to ruins but the walls and tower we see today were rebuilt during the Great Depression under the direction of the Federal Works Project Administration. You can learn more by visiting the Monument’s website or Wikipedia.

 

 

 

 

 

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Flagstaff, Arizona

7 panoramas

The beautifully forested walls of Walnut Canyon shelter the remains of over 80 small cliff dwellings. They were built by the Sinaguan community that made the canyon their home from about 1100 AD to 1250 AD. As you scan the steep sides of the canyon, see how many you can spot tucked away in their natural alcoves. Follow the Island Trail to see some of these ingeniously engineered rooms up close. On the rim of the canyon, the remains of above ground pueblo structures and older pit houses can be found. You can learn more by visiting the Monument’s website or Wikipedia.

 

Wupatki National Monument

Flagstaff, Arizona

6 panoramas

This national monument preserves and protects the remains of several Native American communities which farmed the area over 800 years ago. An eruption at nearby Sunset Crater was a boon to the farmers, with the ash falls replenishing the soil. The largest of the villages in the area was the 100 room Wupatki Pueblo, which was built around and atop a rock outcrop. The communities were also heavily involved with trade and artifacts from both the Pacific and Gulf coasts have been found here. You can learn more by visiting the Monument’s website or Wikipedia.

 

 

Hohokam Culture

The Hohokam culture thrived in central and southern Arizona for over fourteen hundred years, ending around 1450 C.E. Beginning around 800 C.E., they were building systems of very sophisticated and well-engineered irrigation canals to support their agricultural efforts. By about 1300, it is estimated that their people formed the largest population group in the Southwest. Their dwellings included impressive multi-story pueblo buildings. You can learn more about the Hohokam culture on Wikipedia.

 

 

 

Casa Grande National Monument

Coolidge, Arizona

2 panoramas (more coming)

The massive great house found in this Gila River Valley Hohokam community was four stories tall. It is just part of a much larger village complex that existed at this location from around the sixth century until the mid-1400s. In  1892, the importance of the site resulted in it being named the first archeological preserve in the U.S. It became a national monument in 1918. The protective roof structure was built in 1932. You can learn more by visiting the Monument’s website or Wikipedia.

 

Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park

Phoenix, Arizona

6 panoramas

A National Historic Landmark, Pueblo Grande was the site of a major Hohokam community that thrived for about a thousand years, beginning around 450 C.E. Located in downtown Phoenix, the park includes a first-class museum and preserves the remains of a major Hohokam platform mound and a ballcourt. There are also re-creations of the ancient Hohokam houses. You can learn more by visiting the park’s website or Wikipedia.

 

 

 

Salado Culture

The people we call the Salado farmed, hunted, and traded in south-eastern Arizona in an area called the Tonto Basin for about 300 hundred years, starting around 1150 C.E. They are noted for their beautiful polychrome pottery. They lived in ground level walled pueblos and also in cliff dwellings. You can learn more about the Salado culture on Wikipedia.

 

 

 

Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum

Globe, Arizona

4 panoramas

As one of the museum exhibits states: “Besh Ba Gowah is a 200 room prehistoric Salado masonry pueblo occupied between A.D. 1225 and A.D. 1400.” The stone walls were originally plastered. A model in the museum recreates the original appearance. The name of the park comes from the Apache words for “place of metal”, a reference to the mining that took place in early Globe. You can learn more by visiting the park’s website or Wikipedia.

 

Tonto National Monument

Globe, Arizona

4 panoramas

Tonto National Monument preserves the remains of two ancient Salado cliff dwellings. Currently, the panoramas on this site cover only one of them: the Lower Ruin. You can learn more by visiting the Monument’s website or Wikipedia.

 

 

 

 

Other Cultures

 

 

 

 

The Blythe Intaglios

Blythe, California

2 panoramas, 2 signs

The Blythe intaglios are huge figures that were scraped into the desert surface by Native Americans hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of years ago. You can learn more about them on Wikipedia. Note: to view the figures from above, click on the panorama’s map icon and then zoom in on the satellite image until the figures become visible. Also, be sure to read the two informational signs at the second intaglio.

 

Recommended Reading

 

 

 

A.D. 1250, Ancient Peoples of the Southwest

By Lawrence W. Cheek

Published by Arizona Highways, 1994

 

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

by Charles C. Mann

Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2005