The Zuni (A:shiwi), whose ancestors built pueblos atop El Morro, call the great sandstone promontory Atsinna, or "place of writings on the rock."
Some 2,000 years ago, the Pueblo culture developed as hunter-gatherers began cultivating crops and settling into small villages along the streams of the arid Southwest. Centuries later, Puebloans began building larger towns featuring multiple stories laid out around plazas.
Zuni pueblos sprang up across the Little Colorado River valley. As trading middlemen between the Puebloan world and other cultures of the Southwest, the Zuni played a central role in the exchange of trade items and cultural values.
Archeological evidence shows Atsinna was among the large pueblos built in the area in the late 13th century. Excessive heat and drought may have driven the Zuni from the river valleys to the high ground around El Morro. Perhaps these communities were not meant to be permanent; Atsinna was occupied for about 75 years. For the Zuni people, Atsinna and nearby sites continue to be sacred places—parts of a larger homeland that once stretched far beyond today's Zuni Pueblo.
The symbols and pictures the Puebloans left behind may communicate both the mundane and the spiritual. Eventually, new groups of travelers took inspiration from the Puebloan scribes. With points of steel, they continued the story in records of attempted conquest and colonization.