Published on September 22, 2010 by Alice
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Doorways, Pueblo Bonito
The Anasazi Indians lived over 1,000 years ago. The Anasazi built their homes in a special place. The land in the Southwest was very different from the Great Plains. Instead of wide open land, the Southwest is made of uneven land with canyons and mesas (ma’ suz). A mesa is a landform that is made of rock, and that is shaped like a high flat table. In fact, the word mesa is the Spanish word for table.
The Anasazi built their homes into the side of the mesa. For this reason, they were also called the Cliffdwellers. The buildings that the Anasazi lived in looked like large apartment buildings. These buildings had over 200 rooms, and more than 400 people lived there.
The Anasazi built their buildings with stone. Remember that the Indians used the natural resources around them for their basic needs. Because of the stone mesas, there was an abundance of stone to use for their homes. In between the stones they put mud to hold the stones together. They had square windows but no doors. The Anasazi entered their homes by climbing a ladder and going through a hole in the roof. They could then bring the ladders inside their homes to keep out unwanted visitors.
Each family had at least two rooms of its own. If a family was large, it had more rooms. Rooms were sometimes built on top of other rooms as the family grew. There were also rooms shared by all the people in the community.
The Anasazi were farmers. They lived at the base, or bottom, of the mesa, but they farmed on the top of the mesa. This gave the mesa a green appearance. For this reason, the community that the Anasazi lived in was called Mesa Verde. Verde is the Spanish word for green. Mesa Verde meant green table. The Anasazi grew corn, beans, and squash. They also tamed wild turkeys for meat. They used their feathers to make their blankets and clothing warmer.
In order to reach the top of the mesa to farm it, the Anasazi had to climb the steep mesa. They carved small toe and finger holes into the side of the cliff. In this way, they were able to climb up and down the mesa carrying heavy burdens.
Water was very precious to the Southwestern Indians. Because they lived in the desert, they had very little rainfall. When it did rain, the Anasazi would store their water in ditches. They built gates at the end of the ditches that could be raised and lowered to let water out. They used this to water their crops in the field.
The people of the Anasazi village were very busy. The men and women would plant, weed, and water the crops. The women would make beautiful pots out of clay. They also made baskets, some woven so tightly that they held water. The men would carry water to the top of the mesa. They also used stones to sharpen tools. Even the children had jobs. Some would grind corn using smooth round stones. Others would look after the younger children. When they did have time, they children enjoyed playing tag.
The Anasazi men went to a special room for religious ceremonies. This special room was called a kiva. (keeva) A kiva was a round room built underground at the base of the homes. Only men were allowed into the kiva. To get in and out the men had to go by ladder through the roof. There were paintings of gods around the walls and a mysterrious hole in the floor. This hole was to remind the Indians that their first ancestors, relatives that lived long ago, came from the belly of the earth. The men would pray to the Great Spirit for things such as rain, good harvests, etc.
The Anasazi left Mesa Verde suddenly. The Indian village soon became forgotten. Then in l888, two cowhands that were chasing some stray cattle accidentally discovered the ruins of Mesa Verde. Ruins are the remains of very old buildings. Since then the buildings have been repaired to look as they did when the Anasazi lived there. Mesa Verde is now a national park. A national park is land set aside for all the people of a country to enjoy.