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   Native American Architecture and Landmarks
Native American Architecture

Early Pueblo people built small pueblos, mostly made from stone, in the Sandia foothills and Tijeras Canyon area during A.D. 1100-1200.  Following a 13th-century drought in the Four Corners and Mogollon Mountains, the valley’s native population increased dramatically.  Numerous pueblo villages, many made of adobe and standing several stories high, were built on both sides of the Río Grande.  Many villages had hundreds of rooms; the largest ones had over a thousand rooms and probably several thousand inhabitants. Villages included rectangular living and storage areas, ceremonial kivas which were rectangular and incorporated in blocks of living rooms, or separate, semi-subterranean, circular rooms; and plaza areas. 

Rooms were constructed of either masonry or, closer to Albuquerque, “puddled” adobe built up in thin layers to form walls. Timber was cut from the cottonwood bosque or hauled from the Sandia Mountains for vigas and latillas used to support flat roofs.  Women performed much of the labor to build and maintain the impressive structures, which towered more than three stories with terraces and rooftop entryways that deterred intruders.


Local landmarks including the Sandia Mountains, the Río Grande, and the West Mesa volcanic cliffs are considered to be sacred to the Tiwa people. In their native language, the people of Sandia Pueblo named the mountain chain Bien Mur (Big Mountain.) The pueblo’s Web site notes, “Sandia Mountain provides the source of our spirituality as well as plants, animals and other resources, which have been critical to our survival in this desert region.”  Through time, Paleoindian and Archaic hunters have found water and game among its canyons and ridges, lumber for homes and warmth, game and native plants for survival.

The river we now call the Río Grande also was known by a different name. In Tiwa, it roughly translates to “Our Mother of the Green Waters.”  Its Tewa name, given by Pueblo villages farther north, was P’osoge, or “Big River” – similar to its 16th-century Spanish equivalent, El Río Grande del Norte.

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