The Pueblo Indians are best known for their great architectural skills. Their buildings are literally carved into the rock and have astonished many people up to this day. They managed to create living spaces for hundreds of people that not only provide shelter but are practical and safe. However, not only were their houses impressive, their pottery and jewelry are very popular among collectors as well.
How did the Pueblo People live their Everyday Life?
The Pueblo people were an Indian tribe that evolved from being simple hunters and gatherers to skilled farmers that built huge communities. A Pueblo settlement usually had a population of many hundred people whom all lived in so-called adobe houses (pueblos). The walls and sometimes also the floors of these buildings were made of adobe, a mixture of clay and water. Then the Pueblo people would use twigs, branches, or woods to make it more stable. The roof on the other hand was flat and strengthened with extra branches. This setup may sound unstable, but it was a very affectionate way to build homes. The clay walls would harden and become stiff so that no water could make it into the pueblo and the house was laid out so that it could even have more than one story. The Pueblo people really cared for safety from other tribes. They set all kinds of safety measurements to protect their communities. One of these is their flat roofs which made it easy to lie down and keep a lookout, another safety precaution that the Pueblo people took where their windowless houses were. The only way to access the inside was through an opening on the roof.
The Puebloans had a special religion called the Katsina religion. According to their beliefs, nature was controlled by many so-called Kachinas, mythical spirits that roamed the land. To worship the Kachinas would build underground chambers and pray to them.
Since the Pueblo people’s main food source came from growing crops, they were skilled farmers. They grew corn, squash, maize, pumpkins, beans, tobacco, and even cotton. The climate in which they lived caused many problems and especially watering all their crops was a challenge. But the Pueblo people were up to it and created a complex irrigation system that provided all their plants with water even on very hot and dry days. To keep insects away from crops the Pueblo Indians did something very creative, they raised turkeys which ate bugs as a natural diet. These useful birds also laid eggs that the Indians could eat. The only other animal that the Pueblo people had were dogs. But the Pueblo people weren’t only great farmers, they were also skilled hunters. They hunted small and big game animals including rabbits, elk, deer, antelope, squirrels, mice, and depending on the location even bison. To catch these animals, they hunted in groups using bow and arrows, axes, and even traps. One thing that the Pueblo people didn’t do at all was fishing, experts believe that they didn’t even know about fish. To cook the food, they ate the Pueblo people put rocks into a fire, they would then drop the scorching hot stones into a special basket filled with water and food. This basket can hold water and won’t leak. The rocks weren’t hot enough to damage the basket but could cook food. This method is known as the basket technique.
Pueblo Pottery and Jewelry
The Pueblo people wove baskets out of the fiber from yucca plants, the same way they did their sandals. They also needed a way to hold liquids which is where pottery pots and vases came in. The first Pueblo pottery works were made about 1050 AD. They were made from clay that was shaped into neat coils. These coils were then smoothed out to make an even surface. Next, the pot needed to be painted. The paint was made by boiling plants and crumbled rock. After it was painted the pot needed to be fired. This wasn’t done with an oven or a kiln like we do today, it was done over an open fire. The pot was covered in sheep dung and then placed into the fire; the manure would keep air from getting into the clay. The finished product could be used to store liquids or for trading purposes.
As for jewelry the more modern-day Puebloans did and do make jewelry. In the beginning, the Puebloans made all their jewelry with shells and rocks. When the Europeans showed them precious metals (for example silver) they were instantly enchanted and started using these resources as well. To work with the hard silver they melted it, cut it into a flat sheet, and then used their tools to turn it into a shape. The Pueblo people (like all the other tribes) didn’t have very fancy tools, they mostly used scraps of metal or other things found in nature to create their pieces. To decorate their jewelry the Pueblo Indians used turquoise and made so-called heishi beads. To form the rock into beads they would drill a little hole and afterward string the rough beads onto the string. To make the beads smooth they would use a flat rock and grind them into the desired shape.
The Pueblo Indians are a fascinating culture with many decades of history, no one knows why they suddenly abandoned their settlements, but one thing is sure, this tribe left behind incredible buildings, beautiful jewelry, and well-crafted pottery. We can learn many things from this extraordinary Native American tribe.