Summer 2013 - Southwest
Take Two

Albuquerque, NM

August 5, 2013

Local Information

Area Map


Photographs and Commentary
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This was a great day... we finally got to Acoma Pueblo and the Petroglyph National Monument. We wanted to see both of these places for some time, but like other places we visited this time around, we either didn't have enough time or we were passing through. When we set up our original Summer 2013, these two places were on the must see list.

Acoma Pueblo, also known as Sky City, is located about an hour west of Albuquerque, south of I-40. It should definitely be on everyone's must see list. Acoma Pueblo sits on top of a 367 foot mesa (hence the Sky City name) and is the oldest continuously inhabited "town" in North America. According to our guide, the mesa was occupied around 1150. Prior to that time they briefly inhabited the nearby Enchanted Mesa. Pueblo legend has it that their ancestors moved to this area from "up north," probably from Chaco Canyon (see our 2009 Visit). The Pueblo survived peacefully on this site until contact with the Spanish. They resisted being subjugated for sometime but were finally defeated and much of the pueblo was destroyed by Spanish canon fire. The rebuilt pueblo buildings use local sandstone and mortar or mud bricks covered with straw mud.

The most prominent building is the Mission Church. The church, San Estevan Del Rey, was built starting in 1629 using slave labor. Many of the laborers died while building the church and were buried in the walls (7 ft. wide at the base and 4 ft. at the roof line).

Although many of the pueblo members have "ancestral" homes on the mesa, it only has a few hundred live here full time. Sky City has no electricity, running water or sewage system. Until the 1950s, the only way up to the Mesa was by the use of foot and hand holds. A movie company wanted to use the mesa as a location for a John Wayne movie and had a dirt road constructed to the top. A number of years later a movie, starring Henry Fonda, was made on the mesa. Mr. Fonda financed the paving of the dirt road.

Petroglyphs National Monument is located on the escarpment across the Rio Grande River from Albuquerque. The monument contains over 20,000 petroglyphs. We limited our visit to Boca Negra Canyon which has over 200 of them. Archeologists believe that most of the petroglyphs were carved between 400 to 700 years ago. Some of the images may be 2,000 to 3,000 years old. Some of the carvings, crosses and cattle brands were made by Spanish heirs of the Atrisco Land Grant in the 1600s. Other were made by early explorers in the 1800s. One of the things that annoyed me was the modern graffiti that was scratched over the older, irreplaceable petroglyphs.

Acoma Pueblo

This chimney pot got my attention. It is similar in style to the famous Acoma pottery.

Sky City, 367 feet above the surrounding terrain

Acoma Mission Church


Right, sandstone and mud used for construction of the church

Portable toilets line the edge of the cliff.

This building uses mud bricks and straw mud as construction material (adobe)

A tree grows in Acoma. This is the only tree on the mesa. It sits on the edge of one of the three natural catch basins.

Right, The Spanish destroyed the kivas used for religious ceremonies. The inhabitants just made them square and incorporated them into some of the homes.

The mission dominated the mesa

The oven, called a horno, was introduced to the pueblos by the Spanish

Enchanted Mesa

The use of buttresses, a European construction method, was introduced in the mid 1800s

This building is using sandstone blocks and mud

Petroglyphs National Monument

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