Chaco possesses the best specimens of Anasazi stonework in general. The most well-known feature of Mesa Verde is its cliff houses. Despite its beautiful architectural examples, the brickwork in the Kayenta region is the least well-executed. Horseshoe Canyon has some impressive monoliths, but most of them are made of sandstone instead of shale or mudstone.
The best sources for information on the Anasazi are books and museums. There are several good volumes available on Amazon. "Anasazi Heritage Center: History and Art of an Ancient American People" by William F. Romane is a classic example. The museum in Chaco offers a free app that contains videos of tours you can take of many of the sites there.
People often wonder what became of the people who built the ruins. With few exceptions, all of the Anasazi lived outside of cave dwellings when they were found. Archaeologists believe that they moved their homes frequently to avoid war with other tribes or to find better food than what was available near their previous campsites. However, there are a few excavations that have turned up evidence of violence within the structures themselves. It appears that some people were able to command respect even after they died because their graves contained more advanced burial practices than those of ordinary people.
Cliff dwellings—stone residences, villages, and towns erected in caves or on broad platforms in steep rock canyon walls—are often regarded as the best example of Anasazi architecture. In fact, when anything was known about the people who lived in areas like Mesa Verde, the ancient builders were simply referred to as "cliff dwellers." Although many archaeologists believe that the Anasazi developed their cliff dwellings as ceremonial centers, others think they were used for food storage or even as shelter from storms.
Anasazi (a term used by archaeologists to refer to the people who built the cliff dwellings) cliff dwellings are found in northern Mexico and southern Colorado. They date back approximately 700 years, but may be much older than that. The best-known cliff dwelling site is probably Chaco Canyon, which is located near Albuquerque, New Mexico. However, there are other significant sites such as Casa Grande, Ojo de Caballo, and Kapawi.
In addition to houses, archaeologists have also discovered evidence of public buildings at some sites. These include large communal rooms where ceremonies might have been held, along with other indications of social organization. Some scholars believe that the Anasazi may have had a government with leaders who decided what role each site would play within the community. Others think that each site was run independently, with only certain individuals being allowed to speak in public gatherings.
The Anasazi are also credited with creating one of the first written languages in the world.
Over time, Anasazi masonry became exceedingly exquisite and sophisticated. Both the stone and jacal constructions had a roof similar to the pithouse—sturdy poles overlain by a lattice of thin poles, branches, and brush. A coating of mud completed the job. Like the individuals, the doors were small and short. They usually opened out from the side of the building rather than at the end as in modern buildings. The only opening at the end was a small hole for smoke or air circulation.
Anasazi builders used smooth, flat stones without rough edges, and they arranged them with extreme precision. There are several types of structures found within Anasazi towns: single-room dwellings, two-roomed houses, large communal kivas, and administrative buildings. All but the largest communal kivas were made of wood, which deteriorated over time but could be replaced by new buildings. The kivas were carved out of rock shelters located on high mesa tops and served as meeting places for families or clans. They often have small windows and no door; instead there is a low entrance hole near the ground level. These openings were usually covered by wooden shutters during daytime hours when it was not desirable for people to enter the kiva uninvited.
The largest structure within an Anasazi town was the church. Usually made of adobe, the size of these buildings ranged from 20 feet long to 150 feet long. They had one or two entrances, with some having as many as four.
What kinds of houses did the Anasazi construct? Pit homes, layered pueblos, and cliff dwellings were all created by the Anasazi. The pit home was probably the first type of house built by the Anasazi. It consisted of a hole dug into the ground with a pole or beam for a roof. The Anasazi would cover the pole or beam with layers of stone to create a stable shelter against the elements.
A layered pueblo is similar to a pit home in that both are underground structures used for housing but they are not necessarily inhabited at the same time. A layered pueblo has several chambers separated by small antechambers. There are some examples of these buildings in Utah. Cliff dwellings are large complexes of rooms carved out of rock faces near rivers or other sources of water. These areas are often protected by wooden fences or walls.
Anasazi artists also made fine jewelry and tools using gold, silver, and copper. They usually wore their jewelry on special occasions. Some pieces were so beautiful that they still hold their value today.
As part of their religion, many Anasazi people believed in being good neighbors. They would help each other when needed and would not harm others. This way, they would be able to go to heaven after they died.
Anasazi Major Regions and Sites:
To defend themselves from the weather, the Anasazi constructed their homes behind overhanging cliffs. The tribe built some of the world's oldest buildings out of sandstone blocks and mud mortar. They also used wood for building materials. Grass or brush was used to protect their campsites during times of war or danger.
Anasazi means "the old people" in Spanish. This is what the natives were called because they lived long ago. Their civilization existed from approximately 550 A.D. to 1350 A.D. In its prime, it was one of the most advanced civilizations in the New World.
The Anasazi are believed to have migrated into the American southwest from nearby present-day Mexico. Archaeologists think they may have come across a waterway that was later filled in with silt and became today's Colorado River. They probably traveled by foot and probably used horses as well as mules to carry their belongings.
When the Europeans arrived in the 16th century, they found three large cities along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon inhabited by about 6,000 Native Americans. None of them had ever heard of the Anasazi, so they are now considered extinct.
In conclusion, the Anasazi built very impressive structures using only the tools available to them thousands of years ago.