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Before you begin your investigation into why the ancient Pueblo people (Anasazi) chose to live on the edge of this steep canyon, you will need a little background information. This page tells you the who, what, where, and when of Woods Canyon Pueblo.

Who: The ancient Pueblo people, also known as the Anasazi, lived in the Four Corners region of the Colorado Plateau from 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1300. They built villages of stone, wood, and adobe. Some villages consisted of only a few families, but others had hundreds of people.

Students at Woods Canyon.

Pueblo girl in ancient times.

Pueblo boy in ancient times.

Virgie BigBee of Tesuque Pueblo shares her ideas about childhood in an ancient pueblo.

Click on the drawings of the kids to read Virgie's perspectives.

In ancient times, the Pueblo people were farmers. They grew corn, beans, and squash and raised domesticated turkeys and dogs. They also gathered wild plants and hunted animals. The people made many impressive tools out of stone, wood, and bone, but they are probably best known for their beautiful painted pottery and dramatic cliff dwellings.

Today, Pueblo people continue to live in other parts of the Southwest. They honor the traditions of their ancient ancestors while living in a modern world. Click on the button to learn more about modern Pueblo people.
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What: Woods Canyon Pueblo is the site of an ancient village that archaeologists believe had more than 200 buildings, which was a fairly large village in those days. It might have been home to as many as 50 to 200 people. Click on the button to see a map of the site.
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Ancient Pueblo villages had more than one kind of building. They had clusters of small, rectangular rooms constructed aboveground that were used for living and storage. Usually to the south of this "roomblock" would be an open space, or plaza. The plaza was used for working, for relaxing, and for social and religious gatherings.

Woods Canyon Pueblo as it may have appeared in the A.D. 1200s.

Students in a kiva at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Also to the south of the roomblock were one or more round structures called kivas, which were built underground and were probably used for both religious ceremonies and everyday living. A ladder placed in a hole in the roof would have allowed people to get in and out of these structures. Because kivas were belowground, they would have stayed warm during the Southwest's cold, snowy winters.

Ancient Pueblo villages often had towers, too. These tall structures might have been used as watchtowers, solar observatories, or ceremonial buildings; they also could have been used for storage of food or other items. It is even possible that towers were used for different purposes at different times.

Where: Woods Canyon Pueblo is located in the high desert country of the Four Corners region of the American Southwest. The site is about 20 miles northwest of Cortez, Colorado, near Mesa Verde National Park. It sits on the cliff edge and steep slope of a large canyon called Woods Canyon.

When: Pueblo people lived at Woods Canyon Pueblo for at least 100 years. They built the first structures about 850 years ago (A.D. 1150) near the bottom of the canyon. Approximately 750 years ago (A.D. 1250), the villagers began adding new buildings up the steep side of the canyon and on top of the canyon's cliff edge.

Now that you have learned about the ancient Pueblo people, you are ready to investigate theories about why they chose to live on the edge of Woods Canyon so many years ago.

Let's get started

Ancient wall and doorway at Woods Canyon Pueblo.