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Ancient & Modern Pueblos - Oldest Cites in the U.S.

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Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Little has changed at the Taos Pueblo in the last

century, September, 2008, Kathy Weiser.

This image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE.





Inhabited Pueblos

Ancient Pueblos and Ruins

Pueblo Peoples Slideshow




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.”


The Pueblo Indians, who built these communities, are thought to be the descendants of three major cultures including the Mogollon, Hohokam, and Ancient Puebloans, with their history tracing back for some 7,000 years.


These apartment-like structures, sometimes several stories high often surrounded an open plaza and were occupied by hundreds to thousands of Pueblo People.


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 Pueblo Indian 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 about 1900

Acoma Pueblo, Detroit Photographic Co., about 1900


Inhabited Pueblos:



Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico -  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 information: Acoma Pueblo, P.O. Box 309, Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico 87034; 888-759-2489 or 505-552-6604.


Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico - The northernmost Keresan Pueblo in New Mexico, the old community is located about 35 miles southwest of Santa Fe. The pueblo administers 53,779 acres of reservation land and possesses concurrent jurisdiction over the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. The people of Cochiti 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. Contact information: Cochiti Pueblo, 255 Cochiti Street, P.O. Box 70, Cochiti, New Mexico 87072; 505- 465-2244.


Hopi Tribe, Arizona - The Hopi 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 in northeaster 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, Arizona  86039; 928-734-2441.


Isletta Pueblo, New Mexico - 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.



Hopi Indian Pueblo, Oraibi, Arizona

Hopi Indian Pueblo, Oraibi, Arizona, vintage postcard


One of the pueblo's more notable buildings is the adobe Church of San Augustín, one of the two oldest surviving mission churches in New Mexico. Located in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, the community is today the largest Tewa-speaking pueblo. It provides a casino and many feast days open to the public. It is located 15 miles south of Albuquerque off I-25. Contact information: Isleta Pueblo, PO Box 1270, Isleta, New Mexico 87022; 505-869-3111

Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico - 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, Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico 87024; (575) 834-7235.


Continued Next Page


Additional Reading:


Ancient Cities of Native Americans

Ancient Puebloans of the Southwest

Pueblo Indians - Oldest Culture in the U.S.

Pueblo and Reservation Etiquette



Pueblo Maiden, 1890

Pueblo Maiden, Charles F. Lummis, 1890

This image available for photographic prints HERE!


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