Ancient & Modern Pueblos – Oldest Cities in the U.S.

Taos, New Mexico Pueblo, by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Taos, New Mexico Pueblo, by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Situated throughout the southwest 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 canyons.

Inhabited Pueblos:

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico

Hopi Tribe, Arizona

Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico

Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico

Kewa Pueblo, New Mexico

Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico

Nambé Pueblo, New Mexico

Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, New Mexico

Picuris Pueblo, New Mexico

Pojoaque Pueblo, New Mexico

Sandia Pueblo, New Mexico

San Felipe Pueblo, New Mexico

San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico

Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico

Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Tesuque Pueblo, New Mexico

Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Texas

Zia Pueblo, New Mexico

Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico by Detroit Photographic Co., about 1900

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico by Detroit Photographic Co., about 1900


Hopi Pueblo

Hopi Pueblo


San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico by Edward S. Curtis, 1927

San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico by Edward S. Curtis, 1927

The term “pueblo” was first used by Spanish Explorers to describe the communities they found that consisted of apartment-like structures made of 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 to some 7,000 years.

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

1 thought on “Ancient & Modern Pueblos – Oldest Cities in the U.S.”

  1. i have stumbled upon an older civilization of native healers who while not known by name were perhaps the origin of southwestern native american medicine. i have no other resource except a tale told to me while in college in pueblo, colorado. if anyone knows about this lost race please contact me at thank you.

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