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Student Glossary

Adobe

Sun-dried earth used to build houses.

Alcove

An open cave formed by water in sandstone cliff faces. Alcoves were often used as places to build houses in the past.

Anasazi

A Navajo word that means "ancient ones." It is sometimes used as another name for the ancestral Pueblo Indians.

Ancestral Pueblo Indians

The prehistoric farming peoples of the southwestern Colorado Plateau who lived in permanent dwellings. This group is also known as the Anasazi, a Navajo term meaning "the ancient ones." We do not know what these people called themselves. The ancient Pueblo people are believed to be among the ancestors of the present-day Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona (the people of Hopi, Zuni, and the Rio Grande pueblos).

Anglo

Caucasian people whose ancestors came from Europe.

Architecture

All the different kinds of buildings people construct.

Artifact

Anything made and/or used by humans, including tools, containers, toolmaking debris, and food remains. Technically, buildings are also artifacts, but archaeologists usually apply the term "artifact" only to portable items.

Butte

A naturally elevated landform with steep sides.

Dam

Stacked stones built across a small water drainage. Dams may have been built to hold back soil for farming or to slow down or channel water.

Drainage

An area where water flows. In the dry Southwest, a drainage may have water only after a rainstorm.

Hogan

An eight-sided home with a doorway that opens to the east. Hogans were built historically by Navajo and Ute people.

Hopi

A group of American Indians who live in pueblos in northeastern Arizona. Hopi oral traditions link them to the Mesa Verde area.

Homesteading

A method of acquiring land from the United States government. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, settlers would claim a piece of public land by filing a record with the government and then living on and farming that land.

Kiva

A Hopi word for a special type of structure used primarily for religious and social ceremonies in present-day pueblos. In the Mesa Verde area, archaeologists apply this term to prehistoric structures that are usually round and built belowground. Prehistoric kivas were probably used for ceremonies, as well as for other activities such as cooking, eating, and sleeping.

Oral Traditions

In cultures that do not have a written language, history and other important information are passed on from one generation to the next through the spoken word. Such spoken records are referred to as oral histories or oral traditions.

Petroglyph

An image that has been pecked or scratched into a stone surface.

Pueblo

A Spanish term meaning "town." Currently, this word is applied both to a style of building (adobe-and-stone pueblo) and to particular Indian groups (the modern Pueblo people and the ancestral Pueblo people). The ancestral Pueblo people are also called the Anasazi.

Plaza

A large, open space, sometimes enclosed by buildings, used for many types of gatherings and activities.

Reservation

A tract of land set aside by the U.S. government for American Indians to live on and control. Many reservations are also sovereign nations within the United States.

Rio Grande River

One of the major rivers in the Southwest, the Rio Grande flows from southern Colorado through New Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico.

Shade House

A structure created with a wood frame and left open on the sides. Leafy branches are placed across the top to provide shade.

Site

An archaeological site is a place where humans left some physical record behind. Sites can be very small (a few flakes of stone from toolmaking) or very large (big cities where thousands of people lived).

Teepee

A house built with a pole frame in the shape of a cone and covered with animal hides or canvas.

Tower

Tall buildings that were circular or semicircular and that might have had more than one story. Archaeologists aren't sure how towers were used.

Tree-Ring Dating

A dating method that uses the pattern of tree-rings in wooden beams to date the construction of ancient houses.

Zuni

A group of Pueblo Indians who live in western New Mexico. Zuni is also the name of the pueblo in which they live.