The Zuni Indians descended from desert hunter-gatherers. About 2000 years ago, they joined in a general shift toward the cultivation
of crops that gave birth to the Southwest's Anasazi tradition. In time, small villages appeared along the streams of this arid land. As more centuries passed the Anasazi built
large multi-storied towns laid out around plazas.|
The Zuni towns centered on the little Colorado River drainage. As trading middlemen between the Anasazi world and other cultures of the Southwest, the Zuni played a central role in the transmission of trade items and cultural values.
A'ts'ina Ruin atop El Morro dates from the time of larger towns. Archaeological evidence show sthat A'ts'ina and nearby massive pueblos were built about the same time - in the late 1200s. After only 50 or 60 years they were abandoned. (Perhaps they were meant only to be temporary: unusual heat and drought may have driven the Zuni from the river valleys to the high ground around El Morro).
For the Zuni people, A'ts'ina and nearby sites continue to be sacred places, parts of a larger homeland that once stretched far beyond today's Zuni Reservation. The symbols and pictures communicate both the mundane and the spiritual. Eventually a new breed of travelers took inspiration from the Indian scribes. With points of steel they continued the story in records of conquest and colonization.
| The Anasazi, ingenious farmers of the
high desert, were master builders. Their earliest structures, half-buried pithouses, evolved into above-ground pueblos by AD 1000. Soon
the Anasazi were building many of their pueblo villages on mesa tops, perhaps with defense in mind or perhaps simply to be high above the plain.
A'ts'ina pueblo, the larger of the two pueblos atop El Morro, dates from about AD 1275. Its builders made use of what they had around them: flat sedimentary rock that cut easily into manageable slabs piles one on top of another. Clay and pebbles cemented the slabs.
The pueblo was about 200 by 300 feet and housed between 1000 and 1500 people. Multiple stories of interconnected rooms - 875 have been counted - surrounded an open courtyard. Square and circular kivas - underground chambers that recall the pithouse era - provided space for informal gatherings as well as religious ceremonies.
Corn and other crops were grown in irrigated fields down on the plain; the surplus was stored in well-sealed rooms in the pueblo for times of need. Grinding bins and firepits remain today. Rainwater was collected in cisterns on the mesa top. The pool at the base was also frequently used, as hand-and-toe "steps" on the cliff face attest (see photo on the right). An alternate trail for the residents may have followed the one still in use.
El Morro is located 56 miles southeast of Gallup, NM via Highways 602 and 53; or 42 miles southwest of Grants, NM via Highway 53.
Text from National Park Service publication GPO:2002-491-282/40340 Reprint 1995.