Betatakin, Keet Seel and Inscription House - Spectacular cliff dwellings of the Indian farmers who lived in the canyon country of northeastern Arizona seven centuries ago.
For over 1300 years the San Juan Basin in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona was occupied by Indians called the Anasazi, after the Navajo word meaning "the ancient ones." The earlier groups roamed over this high plateau country, hunting, trapping, gathering nuts and seeds, and growing some corn and squash. Traces of these people are faint, but what remains foreshadows a rich cultural tradition.
By A.D. 400, agriculture had become an important part of the economy. With a better and more dependable source of food, the Anasazi population increased and permanent houses were built. Gradually, three distinct cultural centers emerged: Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado, Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico and Kayenta in northeastern Arizona.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, the many hamlets in this vast region began to combine into a few relatively large villages. During this period, the household crafts reached a peak of artistic expression, especially in the realm of pottery. The three great cliff dwellings of Navajo National Monument mark the culmination of Anasazi culture in the Kayanta area.
By about 1300, the Anasazi of all three centers had abandoned their homes and fields, apparently because drought and soil erosion during the preceding decades had drasyically reduced their harvests. The Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon Anasazi semmingly migrated southeastward to more fertile lands along the Rio Grande, and the Kayenta Anasazi probably moved south to the Hopi mesas. The Hopi Indians, still carrying on their traditional ways and customs, give us a vivid picture of pueblo life as it was lived 700 years ago at Betatakin, Keet Seel and Inscription House.
The Kayenta district is now inhabited by Navajos. These people have been here only about one hundred and fifty years and are not related to the prehistoric Anasazi.
There are picnic areas and a campground within the monument, but woodgathering is not allowed. You should spend some time in the visitor center at monument headquarters. The exhibits and the slide program describe the ways of the Anasazi and show examples of their arts and crafts. In summer, campfire programs are given on the archaeology, history and natural history of the monument.
A Navajo Tribal Guild concession in the visitor center sells objects made by the Indians.
Please keep pets on a leash at all times; they are not allowed in buildings, on trails or in the ruins.
This is a copy of a National Park Service brochure.
Five photographs of ancient pueblos at Navajo National Monument are available from the Special Collections and Archives Department, Cline Library, Northern Arizona University.
Return to Day 2