Southwestern Houses

The Pueblo Indians, whose name is Spanish for “stone masonry village dweller," have one of the oldest cultures in the United States . In the Pueblo Indians' early history, shelters consisted of structures integrated into natural caves and on cliffs. Later, they began to build homes out of sand and adobe next to rivers. Clusters of these homes, called pueblos (meaning “villages” or “towns” in Spanish), were also built on mesas, cliffs, and in canyons. Pueblos were remarkably similar to today's apartment complexes in that they interconnected several rooms and homes. Some pueblos were very large, with more than 100 rooms, 2 to 6 stories high, able to accommodate a village of 500 dwellers. A family would live in a room 12 by 24 feet in size. Most pueblos had large underground rooms called kivas that were used for ceremonies and meetings.

Pueblos were adorned with a protective layer of clay mud, either white, gray, yellow, or reddish brown. The homes were often decorated with handprints and/or geometric patterns. The rooftops of the houses were also used in the fall, when harvested crops were spread out to dry in the heat of the sun.

In areas where trees and long grasses grew, logs were used to support the roof of the pueblos. The thick outer walls were built first. Poles were then placed on top of the outer walls. Next, willow branches were piled on the beams that supported the roof. A layer of grass and weeds followed, then a layer of earth. Houses shared walls and were often stacked on top of one another. One's porch was often the roof of the house below. Ovens were built on roofs. Doors and windows were small and walls were thick to keep the pueblo cool. The Pueblos entered their homes by ladders through the roof. The ladders could be moved if enemies attacked. Inside the pueblo, ledges on walls were used as shelves. The people sat on blankets. Beds were rugs or sheepskins. In some southwest areas, there was not access to tall trees and grasses for thatch, or to buffalo hides to cover their homes. What they did have was dirt, rock, and straw; with these materials, the Peublos made their homes from adobe. Adobe is mud and straw mixed together and dried to make a strong brick-like material. Pueblo peoples stacked these bricks to make the walls of the house. Gaps between the bricks were filled with more mud to block the wind and rain, and to keep out bugs and other unwanted pests. Structures made of adobe would not stand up to long periods of rain—over time they would dissolve!

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