The Puebloans

The excavated rooms of a pueblo overlooking a valley
Atsinna Pueblo was home to many during the 13th century.

NPS Photo


Ancient Villagers

Villages Arise

Emerging from a hunter-gatherer culture some 2,000 year ago, the ancestral Puebloans were agriculturalists who built small villages along streams throughout the Southwest. Here they would grow crops such as maize, beans, and squash, in addition to harvesting native plants and hunting. Eventually these small pueblos would evolve into larger dwellings with thriving communities throughout the El Morro valley.

Atsinna Pueblo, seen along the Headland Trail, is the largest dwelling within El Morro. Archeological investigations show that this structure would have been utilized starting around 1275 CE. Perhaps these communities were not meant to be permanent; Atsinna was only occupied for around 75-100 years.

Excessive heat, drought, or change in cultural practices may have been reasons to leave Atsinna and continue their journey beyond.

Reddish sandstone with petroglyphs carved into the surface.
Petroglyphs are just one reminder of the original inhabitants of this land.

NPS Photo/J.Ellis

Messages Left Behind

The rock markings the ancestral Puebloans left behind are a language that may communicate both the mundane and the spiritual. Petroglyphs found throughout the monument depict different cultures, ideas, and messages over hundreds of years. Created by pecking the rock surface using a chisel or antler, these messages have withstood the passing of time. Some 200 petroglyphs are protected within El Morro, in addition to several pictographs, or rock paintings, many of which can be viewed from the Inscription Loop Trail.

Three Pueblo members perform a dance in traditional dress.
Indigenous communities around El Morro have rich cultural traditions.

NPS Photo

Connections Today

For many Indigenous people, Atsinna and related sites continue to be important places to them-part of their larger homelands that once stretched far beyond the boundaries seen today.

Many people called this valley home. The Zuni (A:shiwi), whose ancestors resided in the pueblos atop El Morro, call the sandstone bluff Atsinna, or “place of writing on the rock.”

Today, the Zuni (A:shiwi), Navajo (Diné), and Acoma continue to have close cultural ties to Atsinna Pueblo and the lands around El Morro National Monument.


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    Last updated: November 20, 2023

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