Camp Internet's Explore the Ancient Southwest!
Ancient Peoples of the Southwest
The Southwest is famous
for its ancient cliff dwellings, adobe pueblos, and traditional native
arts that have been carried on for generations. In fact, the longest continually
inhabited cities in North America are the Acoma and Taos Pueblos in New
Mexico. The famous pueblos date back at least 800 years, and the cliff
dwellings date back a thousand or more years.
But even further back in time, earlier First Peoples lived in what is
now the Southwest, from California to Colorado to New Mexico and Baja
Let's go back in time to the Ice Age when massive sheets if snow and ice,
stretching hundreds of miles, covered large areas of North America. Nearly
no plants grew in the northern areas of the continent, and a few struggled
to survive in the south.
Large shaggy beasts roamed the land. The Ice Sheets that began up in the
arctic reached down far into the middle of what is now the United States,
but did not cover all of the Southwest, and early nomadic game hunting
peoples made their camps in what is now New Mexico and Arizona.
Now-extinct animals were then living in the Southwest - the camel, the
Shasta sloth, the horse, the lion and the mammoth. The time is during
the Pleistocene … 35,000 years ago.
Come meet the ancient ancestors of the Southwest, 33,000 BC -1500 AD -
click on their picture, bold text, or image to learn more about each period
of time and people.
· The Great Journey
- how North America may have come to be visited by the First People.
· 35,000 - 55,000 years ago the Sandia people left the earliest evidence
of S outhwest human existence in caves around Albuquerque. The Lucy site
was found east of Albuquerque and the Hermit and Pendego Cave sites have
human evidence that dates 15,000 - 55,000 years ago.
Pendego Cave Here
This time matches other ancient sites found in South America and near
the Bering land bridge that connected Asia and North America when the
ocean waters were lower.
· 13,000 years ago, the earliest California Pacific peoples yet known
lived out on Santa Rosa Island, accompanied most likely by dwarf pygmy
mammoths soon to become extinct. On Santa Rosa, Arlington Woman's bones
were discovered, and recent radio carbon dating has placed them at 11,000
· 13,000 BC - 1500 AD,
one of the greatest concentration of native peoples in North America has
established itself in the Channel Islands region, along the shores, along
the inland rivers, and on the islands surrounding what is now Santa Barbara,
from Malibu in the south to San Luis Obispo in the North, and inland to
Cuyama. Now known as the Chumash,
they lived in tule reed or sea grass round dome houses, enjoyed abundant
foods with out agriculture, and had very detailed religious ceremonial
customs. Their priest-astronomers studied the night sky and developed
legends around the stars. The Chumash people created multi-colored cave
paintings in the sandstones mountains 10-100 miles inland in their region,
and sailed the Channel waters in ingenious canoes. They traded with the
Tongva to the South for soapstone, among themselves for shell bead money,
and in a wide trade network that brought distant goods from northern California,
such as obsidian, and cotton treasured for clothing from the inland Southwest
· 12,000 years ago Clovis hunters roamed the Southwest in search of Ice
Age mammoths, bison, and other big game. They left behind fire pits and
animal food and material preparation tools ...and many bones of the animals
· 10,000 years ago the Ice Age was coming to an end and the Folsom people
were flourishing throughout the Southwest, hunting smaller mammals like
deer, sheep and antelopes, and gathering wild grains as the earth warmed
up and the Ice Age began to draw to a close.
Clovis and Folsom people are names given to human inhabitants living
all over North America during the Ice Age of the Pleistocene Period. But
they are named after ancient sites discovered in the Rio Grande Valley
of the Southwest. They are known for their carefully carved spear points
that helped them hunt for food in those cold long ago times. Another name
for them is Paleo-Indians.
· Between 10,000
- 500 BC an important technological revolution took place all over the
world - and in the Southwest. The Archaic people began to cultivate corn,
squash and later beans, bringing the first farming to he Southwest. This
knowledge was passed north from tribes in South, central and Meso America
over thousands of years, changing forever the health and lie span of the
Gabrelinos · 500BC, migrations of tribes were taking place along the
eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, eventually brining tribes from Canada
down around the south of the Sierras and into the Los Angeles basin. These
non-farming people once called the Gabrielino, who now call themselves
the Tongva, also learned to canoe out to the Channel Islands and resided
on Catalina, San Clemente and San Nicholas Islands, replacing earlier
inhabitants. Trade beads have revealed a long continuous trading system
between the San Clemente Islanders, their mainland counterparts, and relations
all the way up the eastern side of the Sierras.
basketmakers · 100-700AD, ancient cave dwellers began making baskets,
sandals and clothing from plant materials native to the Southwest. Their
materials have been found in ancient caves in New Mexico, Colorado and
Arizona. These First People are called the Basketmakers.
Pottery · 300AD, the Mogollon of Arizona and New Mexico introduced
another technology revolution - pottery. Fired clay pots enabled the people
to better cook and store their food, again helping to improve their nutrition
and health. The Mogollon lived in the southern region of the Southwest,
and had the closest ties to traders from Mexico who might have taught
them how to gather clay, form vessels, and fire them. Also at this time
the first settlements began to appear ion the form of semi-underground
pit houses. To the north, the Anasazi also were establishing pit house
villages and learning to make pottery.
· By 700-1200AD the northern Anasazi
Culture, now known as the Ancestral Puebloans, left behind their pit
house dwellings and began building astounding cliff houses, towns and
stone cities on the Colorado Plateau's mesa tops, canyon floors and in
its canyon walls. They created astronomical observatories, developed a
trade network down into Mexico, and built 30-foot wide roads in precise
directions linking their outliers to their central cities. They traded
turquoise from their mine in Cerrillos, New Mexico for seashells from
the Gulf and Pacific shores, and for goods brought up from Mexico. In
Canyon de Chelly, at Mesa Verde, and in Chaco Canyon, the heights of their
civilization flourished, reaching its peak in the two hundred ears between
1000 and 1200AD.
the Southern regions in this early village period of 700-1200AD, the Mimbres
developed remarkable ceramics in southwestern New Mexico, and the Hohokam
built and elaborate network of canals and ball courts in central and southern
Arizona. The Salado developed beautiful polychrome pottery and weaving
techniques on the border of Arizona and New Mexico at this time. While
their architecture was not as spectacular as the Ancestral Puebloans to
the north, these southern cultures faced different challenges and developed
ingenious solutions to the climate and social development situations they
· 1200-1400AD the largest city in North America was thriving in the deep
Southwest, in today what is Northern Mexico. This little known city site
covered 88 acres, 27 times the size of Pueblo Bonito, the largest Puebloan
town to the North. Paquime
is the name of this huge adobe city, and it has proven to have been a
major hub for trade between the Toltecs to the south and the Ancient Puebloans
and other tribes to the north. Rare, exotic scarlet and green macaws have
been found in abundance, birds brought up to the North from forests in
the lower Sonoran (green macaws) or from even further away from the humid
Caribbean shores of the Gulf of Mexico (scarlet macaws). Paquime, also
called Casas Grandes (large houses), was a site where tons of shells,
hundreds of pieces of turquoise and hundreds of copper bells and amulets
were stored every year for trade to the north and to the south. Paquime
mysteriously burnt and was never re-inhabited around 1400AD.
Pueblos · 1200-1500, the Ancestral Puebloans left their elaborate
stone cities, huge underground kivas, and ingenious cliff palaces on the
Colorado Plateau and began moving to the adobe Pueblos situated along
the Rio Grande River. From this period the oldest continually occupied
cities and apartment dwellings in North America can be dated. And these
pueblos also added kivas, ceremonies, art, technology, and culture brought
from the Colorado plateau to their daily life. 1500 to present, the Pueblo
cultures have withstood the devastating impact of foreign settlement and
have retained their unique cultures, religious practices, art, agriculture
and way of life. Their ways are studied by Anthropologists to understand
both pueblo life today and the ways of their long distant ancestors.
· During this time period, 1200-1500AD, the Sinagua, who settled in the
Flagstaff and Sedona areas of Arizona, also rose and fell. Having first
survived the huge blast in the San Francisco Peaks that created Sunset
Crater around 1064-65AD, they then developed small stone villages in the
region. By the 1400s, they were unable to maintain a healthy village life
and their villages disbanded.
· In Baja
California larger-than-life rock art murals cluster in remote rocky
canyon caves and cliff walls. The Indians living there today do not claim
them, and refer to 'a race of giants who came down from the north' in
the past and painted them. The area shows habitation as long as 9,000
years ago, and the immediate rock art sites have human occupation from
· Ancient Ruins
· Ancient Arts and Crafts
· Ancient Archaeoastronomy
· Ancient Religions
· Ancient Trade Routes
Ancient Foods and Recreation
· What is an Anthropologist?
· Meet and Anthropologist
· What is an Archeologist?
· Meet an Archeologist
· Ancient Peoples Hands-on Projects
· Ancient Peoples Quizzes