Peoples & Societies

Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi)

The Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) culture developed some two thousand years ago in the Southwestern United States, in northern New Mexico and the Four Corners area where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet. They created pottery that they buried with their dead or used for cooking and for storing water and food. When the Spanish settled in the Southwest beginning in the 17th century, traditional burials were ended by church authorities. However, since that time, the styles and techniques of Anasazi pottery have continued to develop through the Pueblo Indians who trace their culture back to the Anasazi.

Early Anasazi people made decorated baskets whose precise and highly structured designs represent the beginning of a long tradition of geometric patterning. Between 950 and 1300 CE, the Anasazi constructed the most elaborate indigenous architecture of the Southwest— the Great House communities at Chaco Canyon (New Mexico) and the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde (Colorado) and Canyon de Chelly (Arizona). Anasazi builders developed the pithouse, or excavated dwelling, into a semi-subterranean chamber, an architectural feature that has survived into the 20th century as the kiva, which Pueblo peoples use for sacred or social purposes. The Anasazi are sometimes referred to as the Ancient Pueblo Peoples. The word Anasazi means “the ancients” in the Hopi language. Pueblo, the Spanish word for “town,” is the name most often used for homes built by the Anasazi. These homes were built adjacent to cliff faces, and long ladders were often required to reach their entrances. Pueblo also refers to the contemporary Native American group in the Southwest that traces their roots back to the Anasazi.

Adapted from

  • Carol Robbins, "Storage Jar (1991.336.FA)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection , ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 195.

  • "Storage jar (1991.336.FA)," DMA Connect, Dallas Museum of Art, 2012 (accessed 13 March 2015).