• Historic inscriptions carved in the bluff at El Morro.

    El Morro

    National Monument New Mexico

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  • Camel Corps Commemoration!

    Join us on Saturday, Sept. 20 and Sunday, Sept 21, 2014 as we commemorate the Beale Expedition of 1857 and the "camel corps"! There will be fun for the whole family and yes, live camels! More »

  • 2014 Compendium now available

    The 2014 compendium is now available via the link below. It includes new prohibitions on the operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in national park units. More »

Home on the Desert's Rooftop

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Circular kiva at Atsinna
 

The Puebloans, ingenious farmers of the high desert, were master builders. Their earliest structures, half-buried pithouses, evolved into above-ground pueblos by 1000 CE. Soon the Puebloans were building many of their villages on mesa tops, perhaps with defense in mind or perhaps simply to be high above the plain.

Atsinna Pueblo, the largest of the pueblos atop El Morro, dates from about 1275. Its builders made use of what they had around them: flat sedimentary rock easily cut up as slabs they could pile one on top of another and cement with clay and pebbles. The pueblo was about 200 by 300 feet, and it housed between 1,000 and 1,500 people. Multiple stories of interconnected rooms - 875 have been counted -- surrounded an open courtyard. Square and circular kivas - underground chambers that recall the pithouse era - were spaces for informal gatherings as well as their religious ceremonies.

Corn and other crops were grown in irrigated fields, down on the plain; the surplus was stored in well-sealed rooms in the pueblo against times of need. The grinding bins and firepits remain today.

Cisterns on top of the mesa collected rainwater. The pool at its base was often used too, as hand-and-toe steps on the cliff face attest. An alternate trail for the residents may have followed the one that is still in use today.

Did You Know?

Image of White-throated Swift

El Morro National Monument's avian claim to fame is the White-throated Swift, which was described to science for the very first time here in 1851, by Dr. S. W. Woodhouse of the Sitgreaves Expedition.