Ancient & Modern Pueblos - Oldest Cities in the U.S.
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Situated throughout the west are dozens of
historic pueblos, some of which date back for centuries. These
Pre-Columbian towns and villages, which are primarily located in the
American Southwest, were often situated in defensive positions on high
mesas, cliffs, and in canyons.
The term "pueblo" was first used by Spanish
Explorers to describe the communities they found that consisted of
apartment-like structures made from stone, adobe mud, and other local
material. "Pueblo" also applied to the people who lived in these villages,
which meant in Spanish "stone masonry village dweller.”
who built these communities, are thought to be the descendants of three major cultures including the
Puebloans, with their
history tracing back for some 7,000 years.
apartment-like structures, sometimes several stories high often
surrounded an open plaza and were occupied by hundreds to thousands of
The structures were usually made of cut
sandstone or sun-dried bricks faced with adobe -- a combination of
earth mixed with straw and water. The outer walls were very thick,
sometimes several feet, which provided not only insulation, but, also
defense. Normally, outer walls had no doors or windows, but rather,
openings on the roofs with ladders leading into the interior. In case
of an attack, outside ladders could easily be pulled up. The buildings
had flat roofs, which served as working or resting places, as well as
observation points. Each family generally lived in just 1-2 rooms.
Each pueblo was an independent and separate community, though many
shared similarities in language, customs, and leaders.
Today, many of these centuries-old adobe
pueblos are still maintained and occupied and
tribes number about
35,000 people who live primarily in
New Mexico and
Arizona along the Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers. Most of the pueblos are
open to the public and many of their ceremonies can be attended. Each
pueblo has its own rules and etiquette for visitors, which should be
reviewed before visiting.
In addition to contemporary pueblos, there are
numerous ruins of ancient communities throughout the Southwest.
Acoma Pueblo, Detroit Photographic Co., about 1900
- Also called "Sky City, the
Acoma Pueblo, located 12
miles East of Grants,
New Mexico, is the oldest continuously inhabited
settlement within the United States, dating from the twelfth century.
Sitting atop a 367-foot sandstone bluff, only about 50 people now inhabit
the ancient town, which has no electricity or running water. Today, most
of the Acoma people live in the nearby communities of Acomita, Anzac, and
McCartys, New Mexico.
The pueblo provides a museum, visitor center, casino,
hotel and shops. Permission needed for cameras and tours. Contact
Acoma Pueblo, P.O. Box 309, Acoma Pueblo,
New Mexico 87034;
888-759-2489 or 505-552-6604.
- The northernmost
Keresan Pueblo in
New Mexico, the old
community is located about 35 miles southwest of
The pueblo administers 53,779 acres of reservation land and
possesses concurrent jurisdiction over the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks
National Monument. The people of
continue to retain their native language of Keres. They maintain their
cultural practices and have instituted programs dedicated to teaching and
educating the younger generations in pueblo traditions and cultural
practices emphasizing the native language. The Cochiti are well known for
their craftsmanship in making jewelry, pottery, and drums. Visitors are
welcome at the 1628 church and during certain ceremonies, as well as at Cochiti Lake. Photos and sketching are prohibited.
Cochiti Pueblo, 255 Cochiti Street, P.O. Box 70, Cochiti,
87072; 505- 465-2244.
Indians trace their history in
Arizona to more than
2,000 years, but their history goes back many more thousands of years, as
their legends tell they migrated north to
Arizona from the south, up from
what is now South America, Central America and Mexico. Their present
villages were settled around 700 A.D. The
Hopi Reservation today, located
Arizona occupies some 1.5 million acres with several
pueblos, most notably Walpi and Old Oraibi . Most village are closed to
their Kachina dances but some social dances remain open to the public.
Photography, sketching, and recordings are prohibited.
Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, P.O. Box 123, Kykotsmovi,
- Isleta Pueblo was established prior to the 1598 Spanish occupation of
New Mexico and was burned during the Spanish attempt to re-conquer the
area following the 1680 Great Pueblo Revolt. During the 18th and 19th
centuries Isleta became one of the largest and most prosperous pueblos in New Mexico
and was noted for its crops and orchards. The oldest section consists of
adobe buildings around a central plaza surrounded by cultivated lands.
One of the pueblo's more notable buildings is the adobe
Church of San Augustín, one of the two oldest surviving mission churches
New Mexico. Located in Bernalillo County,
the community is today the largest
pueblo. It provides a casino and many feast days open to the public. It is
located 15 miles south
Albuquerque off I-25.
Isleta Pueblo, PO Box 1270, Isleta,
New Mexico 87022; 505-869-3111
- The last remaining Towa-speaking pueblo, the Jemez absorbed the
Towa-speaking survivors of
Pecos Pueblo when
it Pecos was abandoned in the
1830's. Today, the Jemez Nation is a federally recognized American Indian
tribe with some 3,400 tribal members. The pueblo itself is closed to the public except during feast days.
However, Walatowa, the main village, is open to the public. Nearby is
Jemez Red Rocks Recreation Area, Jemez Springs, and Jemez State Monument.
Photography, sketching and recording are prohibited at pueblo. Located
about 30 miles northwest of Bernalillo via NM44.
Pueblo of Jemez-Walatowa Visitor Center, 7413 Hwy 4, P.O. Box 280,
New Mexico 87024; (575) 834-7235.