The Post-Pueblo Period: A.D. 1300 to Late 1700s
Over the course of the thirteenth century, the entire Pueblo population of the Mesa Verde region left their villages and migrated south to the areas where other Pueblo people were already living—and where Pueblo people continue to live today—in Arizona and New Mexico. They left their homes to their ancestors, and they took with them only what could be easily carried. The things they left behind are the distinctive artifacts and architecture that archaeologists today use to reconstruct their lifeways. These remains include whole and broken pottery, projectile points, manos, and metates, as well as villages built of stone, adobe, and wood.
When the Pueblo immigrants from the Mesa Verde region arrived in their new homes, they adopted many of the ways of the Pueblo people who were already there. They lived in villages built around large public plazas containing both small and large kivas, and they made glaze ware and yellow pottery that was unlike the pottery made during the Pueblo III period in the Mesa Verde region. The fact that the immigrants so readily adopted new customs might indicate that they migrated in small groups and were quickly assimilated into existing communities.
Throughout this period, all the basic features of life remained distinctively Pueblo: People continued to live in villages built of stone, adobe, and wood, and their kivas and plazas remained important focal points of daily life. The people planted agricultural fields, raised turkeys, hunted deer and other game, and gathered wild plants. Corn—ground into meal using two-hand manos and slab metates set in metate bins—continued to be an important food, along with beans and squash.
More than 200 years after the Pueblo people migrated from the Mesa Verde region, the first Europeans entered the American Southwest. Their arrival threatened the very existence of the Pueblo people.
When the Spanish settled in New Mexico in the late 1500s, they came into immediate conflict with the Pueblo Indians. In addition, the Spanish introduced deadly diseases, such as smallpox, which killed thousands of native peoples. Within about 100 years of the Spanish arrival, disease and violence had killed at least half the Pueblo population.
Tensions erupted in 1680, when Pueblo Indians rebelled against Spanish rule in what is known as the Pueblo Revolt. The Spanish were driven from New Mexico for a full 12 years before reasserting control.
Importantly, throughout this turbulent era, Pueblo peoples maintained their traditional way of life, even as they incorporated certain elements of European customs.
Title page for Peoples of the Mesa Verde Region