Southwestern History

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The Anasazi People

The Anasazi people belonged to an ancient civilization that flourished in the dry lands of the American southwest between the periods of 100 B.C. and 1300 A.D. Believed to be the ancestors of modern Pueblo Indians, the Anasazi spanned a region in the United States now known as the Four Corners which is comprised by Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.

Recent research suggests that the Anasazi are “archaic” people whose lifestyle revolved around gathering food, hunting and wandering from around 6000 B.C. until some became part of the distinctive Anasazi culture during the last millennium B.C. In the last two centuries B.C., the group learned how to use maize horticulture as a way to supplement their food gathering. Later in A.D. 1200, maize horticulture played an important role in the economy of the period.

Pueblos As Living Spaces

The Anasazi lived in groups of houses which were later on called as pueblos in Spanish. The word pueblo is the Spanish word for “village” or “town.” Made of adobe material, these pueblos were multistory buildings built on top of high, flat-topped hills or mesas. On the lower levels, pueblos bore very few doors and windows although a ladder is used in order to move from one level to another. This design is employed by the Anasazi as a way to protect themselves from an enemy attack. Once an attack is present, the Anasazi would simply pull up the ladder.

Unique Culture

As cultural entities, the Anasazi groups bore certain similarities which may have impelled them to build those large pueblos during the same time period. Most of these groups moved from pit houses to structures with walled surface and started building pueblos that had numerous stories and rooms in response to a common urge. There were some who built large kivas or ceremonial chambers that were used for community rituals and activities. Likewise, small kivas were also built for rituals and activities among family members.

The Anasazi groups took into account the broad concepts of balance and harmony in life and nature as the main focus of their ceremonies. They believed that these ceremonies, if done properly, would bring them sufficient rain, good health, successful hunts and abundant harvests.

The Grandmother

Building the pueblos in the center or middle place is most likely influenced by the Anasazi group’s belief in their Creator who is sometimes called “The Grandmother.” This creator is said to have summoned from the underworld using a sipapu or a portal that went through the earth’s surface. In her summon, she spoke of a location which promised balance and harmony. She also inspired the Anasazi people to have a high regard for the earth’s resources, a reverence for their origins, a veneration for places that are sacred and spirituality, a deep awareness of the changes in seasons, and a recognition and understanding of the significance of direction and village orientation.


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