Basket Makers


The name given to the members of an early Native North American culture in the Southwest, predecessors of the Pueblo.

Because of the cultural continuity from the Basket Makers to the Pueblos, they are jointly referred to by archaeologists as the Anasazi culture.

They are so called because of their extensive practice of basketmaking; by covering the baskets with clay and baking them hard they created waterproof containers.

One system of dating places their arrival in the area as early as 1500 b.c.

They seem to have been at first nomadic hunters, using wooden clubs, hunting sticks....

They lived chiefly in houses with adobe floors and learned to grow corn and squash, probably from southern neighbors in Mexico.

As they developed a more extensive agriculture, they dug pits and lined them with stone for grain storage and later built substantial dwellings lined with slabs of stone.

At some time, perhaps c.500 b.c. , they were succeeded in the area by the ancestors of the Pueblo, who probably absorbed many of them.

Some Basket Makers may have moved and may have been the ancestors of other Native American tribes.

Archaeologists divide the time of their culture into the Basket Maker and Modified Basket Maker periods; in the latter period they turned increasingly to agriculture.


Cliff Dwellers


Native Americans of the Anasazi culture who were builders of the ancient cliff dwellings found in the canyons and on the mesas of the U.S. Southwest, principally on the tributaries of the Rio Grande and the Colorado River in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.

It was once thought that these ruins were the work of an extinct aboriginal people, but it has been established that they were built (11th-14th cent.) by the ancestors of the present Pueblo.

The dwellings were large communal habitations built on ledges in the canyon walls and on the flat tops of the mesas.

Access to the cliffs was very difficult and thus highly defensible against nomadic predatory tribes such as the Navaho.

The cliff dwellers were sedentary agriculturists who planted crops in the river valleys below their high-perched houses.

They were experts at irrigating the fields.

Their lives were organized on a communal pattern, and the many kivas show that their religious ceremonies were like those of the Pueblo today.

Many of the dwellings are now in national parks.

Some of the better-known ones are those of the Mesa Verde National Park, in Colorado, where there are more than 300 dwellings; Yucca House National Monument, also in Colorado; Hovenweep National Monument, in Utah; and Casa Grande, Montezuma Castle, and Wupatki national monuments, in Arizona.

See William Current, Pueblo Architecture of the Southwest (1971).