Bandelier National Monument contains Anasazi (Ancestral Pueblo) ruins from the Pueblo III Era and
Pueblo IV Era (1150-1350 and 1350-1600). Named for the Swiss Anthropologist Adoph Bandelier,
who researched the cultures in the region, it contains a series of cavates (hollowed out voids in the
volcanic tuff) and cliff dwellings, the Tyuonyi Pueblo village ruins and Long House ruins in Frijoles
Canyon. The site was perfect for homes because the entire area was covered by the volcanic
  ash of the Valles Caldera over a million years ago, which hardened into the Bandelier Tuff.
 The softer material was hollowed out to form the cavates, and harder material was used
 to make the building stones for the Tyuonyi Pueblo. The last construction occurred
c. 1500, and the pueblos were abandoned by 1600 when the people moved
 south to pueblos near the Rio Grande such as Cochiti and San Ildefonso.

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Located at the southern end of the Pajarito (Little Bird) Plateau near Los Alamos, New Mexico,
the main attraction at Bandelier National Monument is Frijoles Canyon, which contains the ruins
of Anasazi cliff and cave dwellings, ceremonial Kivas, and a pueblo community called Tyuonyi.

Paleo-Indian hunter-gatherers had been following game into the area from as early as 8000 BC.
They did not settle the area, but spear points do exist which indicate their presence. The Archaic
and Basketmaker cultures continued to use the area for hunting, and to acquire Basalt stone for
tools and Obsidian for points. Some Basketmaker pithouse sites are in the area to the south.

By 1150 AD, Anasazi Ancestral Pueblo People had begun to build permanent settlements in
the canyon, making use of the year-round water source of Frijoles Creek and farming beans,
corn, and squash on the canyon floor. They first lived in caves and cavates in the cliffs, which
they enlarged, then they built rock settlements at the base of the cliff and the Tyuonyi Pueblo
community on the floor of the canyon. The Anasazi lived in the area until 1550, when they
moved to pueblos along the Rio Grande, such as Cochiti Pueblo and San Ildefonso.


Cliff Face Bandelier X5433
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Approaching the cliff face in Frijoles Canyon on which ruins of the Talus Houses
and Long House are located. These cliff dwellings were built on the canyon floor
against the cliff and in cavates (hollowed-out voids in the volcanic tuff of the cliff).

The Anasazi built small houses from the Tuff (volcanic rock) and hollowed out
over 300 cavates in the cliff creating the Talus villages and Long House pueblo.
Cavates were most often used as back rooms or as communal rooms and Kivas,
but a few of the cavates were used as primary domiciles. Some of the cavates
were hollowed out and roughly leveled to form terraces and work spaces.


Cliff Face Bandelier X5438
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The Valles Caldera volcano erupted over a million years ago, covering the entire area in ash, which cooled and welded into what is called Bandelier Tuff, a soft friable rock.


Frijoles Canyon Wall Bandelier X5475
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Note the series of cavates across the center of the image at the base of the cliff face. The voids were enlarged by Anasazi and cliff dwellings were built into them.

Valles Caldera is one of only six known land-based Supervolcanoes.
Supervolcanoes such as the Valles Caldera and Yellowstone Caldera can
eject more than 1000 cubic kilometers of material. These megacalderas create
super-eruptions which can cause mass extinctions and major climatic change such
as Ice Ages. The Toba supervolcano eruption of about 73,000 years ago killed most
humans alive at the time, creating a population bottleneck affecting the entire human race.
It plunged the Earth into a 6-10 year volcanic winter, and was coincident with the onset of the
last glacial period which reduced the human population to as few as 3000-10,000 people.


Cliff Face Bandelier X5439
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The cliff face with cavates and the remains of rock enclosures. What looks like a mirror at left is a glass-covered pictograph.


Cliff Face Bandelier X5440
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The Park Service built the Main Loop Trail and paved it to ease access to some of the archaeological sites.


Cliff Texture Bandelier Tuff X5207
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Detail of eroded sections of cliff face. Bandelier Tuff formed by compacted volcanic ash overlies shale and sandstone.


Cliff Texture Bandelier Tuff X5207c
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The surface structure is called “tent rock”. This is caused by harder material  or mineral coatings resisting erosion.


Cliff Texture Bandelier Tuff X5209
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The softer material beneath can erode into voids (or cavates), which were enlarged and improved into Anasazi dwellings.


Cliff Texture Bandelier Tuff X5422
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Bandelier Tuff surface texture can resemble Swiss Cheese. Coincidentally, Adolph Bandelier was a Swiss anthropologist.


Long House Bandelier X5219
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Long House is an 800 foot long multi-story cliff dwelling along the cliff face.
Harder blocks of volcanic tuff were assembled into structures along the cliff.


Talus House Cavate Ladder Bandelier X5210
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One of the cavates (hollowed out caves in the Bandelier Tuff) accessed by a ladder. Some of the caves were living and working areas, others had a ceremonial function like Kivas.


Long House Bandelier X5220
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A view down the length of Long House. Structures built along the cliff were several layers deep and as many as four stories tall. Some of the structures made use of cavates in the cliff.


Long House Bandelier X5223
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Note the lines of Viga holes above and below the cavates. A Viga is a wooden beam used to support roofs and floors.


Long House Bandelier X5221
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By counting the lines of Viga holes, you can determine how many stories a particular section of Long House rose.


Talus House Bandelier X5463
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This multi-story structure called Talus House was reconstructed in 1920 to show people
what Talus House villages and Long House cliff dwellings looked like. Since then, it has been
determined that the construction was inaccurate in some respects (for instance, access to the
houses was via ladders and holes in the roof, rather than openings in the walls). Note the Viga
beams extending out from the structure. Vigas were adopted in Pueblo Revival architecture
which is seen throughout the Southwest, but modern vigas are ornamental, not functional.


Long House Bandelier X5445
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Long House in the late afternoon light. Long House is defined as a Communal Cavate Pueblo composed of both cavate and masonry rooms. The cavates acted as additional rooms or storage rooms for the cliff dwellings.


Long House Bandelier X5447
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Communal Cavate Pueblos do not have the large plazas or circular subterranean Kivas associated with the typical Pueblo communities. The Talus House area has a small plaza, and cavate Kivas are in both Talus House and Long House areas.


Long House Bandelier X5446
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A group of Cholla plants in the foreground between the Main Loop Trail and Long House.

Several of the Communal Cavate Pueblos overlook subterranean Kivas on the canyon floor.
Some of these may have been used by inhabitants of the Tyuonyi Village and Tyuonyi Annex,
but others were certainly used by the inhabitants of the Talus Houses and Long House pueblos.
Some of the Kivas on the canyon floor are adjacent to water reservoirs, and the canyon floor was
also used for agricultural fields in canyon bottomlands near Tyuonyi Village and the cavate pueblos.


Long House Bandelier X5449
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Cavate shelf and Viga holes above shaped and unshaped Tuff masonry walls at Long House.

Long House (Talus Village Group D) had 314 rooms, 216 on the first story. It was a continuous
group of dwellings extending along the base of the cliff wall, composed of cavate back rooms,
volcanic tuff masonry foundations and walls, and upper story rooms with viga-supported roofs.


Long House Bandelier X5454
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Ancestral Pueblo people (the Anasazi) moved to the Pajarito Plateau from their major cultural areas of Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon at the beginning of the Rio Grande Coalition period (1150-1350), during the middle of a 30-year part of the Great Drought which began in 1130. They brought their well developed culture with them and adapted it to the conditions in Frijoles Canyon. Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon cultures both used structures derived from Basketmaker-era pithouses called Kivas. Some were used as ceremonial structures, others were used as communal living areas when they were not in use as ceremonial areas. The location of the Communal Cavate Pueblos made it difficult or impossible to build the subterranean Kivas which both the Mesa Verde and Chaco people were used to, so they hollowed out large, D-shaped cavate structures and used them as Kivas.

The two large, D-shaped structures on the lower level of the image at left (two of the three shown in the landscape image below) are Cavate Kivas. These are from the Rio Grande Classic period (1325-1600), and unlike other Kivas, the small size restricted their use to smaller groups of people. Based on features found in some cavate Kivas, it seems likely that they were used for ceremonial purposes and as communal multipurpose rooms. Their function is probably similar to that of masonry ceremonial rooms found at Mesa Verde, Chaco and Hovenweep, and there very likely were some rooms of similar function in the Tyuonyi Village.

The cavate Kivas would have been used like the early small Kivas from the originating Pueblo cultures, acting as both living spaces and ceremonial spaces for small groups such as single families. Larger community-wide ceremonial activities of Cavate Pueblo people would have taken place in  subterranean Kivas on the canyon floor, in Plaza Kivas of Tyuonyi Village Pueblo, or the Great Kiva in Frijoles Canyon.


Long House Bandelier X5455
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Cavate Kivas and rooms in the Long House cliff dwelling of Frijoles Canyon.

The appearance of large aggregate Pueblos, large Plazas and Great Kivas
in the Rio Grande region all occurred at about the same time as the Kachina
(or Katsina) Cult. While Great Houses had been built in Chaco Canyon in the
9th to 10th centuries, including Plazas and Great Kivas, they were an isolated
phenomenon until the late 11th c., when they began appearing in other parts of
the Southwest including Aztec and Salmon (Chacoan outliers), Mesa Verde,
and elsewhere. The appearances of the Katsina Cult, aggregate pueblos,
plazas with very few entrances, and Great Kivas all seem to correspond
with a period of increased conflict during which many of the Southwest
cultures came down from the Mesa tops to establish large, defensible
communities. The Katsina Cult apparently appeared as a response
to the enormous influx of immigration into the pueblo communities.


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 14 Sections in the Photoshelter Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection

Direct Links to images from Bandelier National Monument:

New Mexico Pueblos & Bandelier

Indian Lands Select
(150 Selected images)


Kiva Alcove House Bandelier X5405
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Formerly known as Ceremonial Cave, Alcove House is located 140 feet above the floor
of Frijoles Canyon, and is accessed by four long wooden ladders and stone stairways.
It contains the niches and Viga holes of former residences and a reconstructed Kiva.


Kiva Alcove House Bandelier X5408 M
(628 KB)

Behind the reconstructed Kiva, you can see two of the cavates of former residences in the
Alcove and the Viga holes which supported roofs of the structures which were built in front.
20 or more rooms were present in the cave (17 first-story and several second-story rooms,
plus the three cavate-rooms). Patches of mud mortar which sealed second-story rooms to
the roof of the cave are still visible in some places, giving a clear outline of 2nd-story walls.


Kiva Alcove House Bandelier X5412
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The Kiva was reconstructed in 1910 by Jesse Nusbaum, who later was senior archaeologist of the National Park Service.


Kiva Alcove House Bandelier X5414
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In 1937 the National Park Service launched their stabilization program in the park, and the Kiva was reconstructed again.


Kiva Alcove House Bandelier X5419
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By 1937, the Kiva had disintegrated badly from impact of visitors and the method of
reconstruction used by Nusbaum in 1910. It was stripped to the bedrock and both the
ventilation shaft and the Kiva itself were rebuilt based upon knowledge gained from
excavations of Kivas by Jesse Fewkes in Mesa Verde and other researchers such
as Earl Morris at Aztec West and Edgar Hewitt and Neil Judd at Chaco Canyon.


Tyuonyi Ruins Bandelier X5215
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Tyuonyi Village stands on the floor of Frijoles Canyon. It is the primary feature at Bandelier.
Tyuonyi was a staggered pueblo of 400 single-story and two-to-three-story rooms, but while
it has been excavated, it has not been restored. Only five feet of the first-story walls survive.

The deepest section of the structure on the left side of the image was eight rooms deep, the
 shallowest section near the creek was four rooms deep. Note the Big Plaza Kiva (at center).
The Plaza contained three Kivas. Tyuonyi means “treaty” in Keres. Frijoles Canyon was the
dividing line between the Tewa-speakers to the North and the Keres-speakers to the South.
Tyuonyi was so named because in the distant past, it was the site of a treaty agreed upon
between the Keres, the Tewa and possibly the Jemez tribes defining territorial ranges.


Tyuonyi Ruins Bandelier X5203
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Much of Tyuonyi was built in the latter half of the 14th century. The structure was built of Tufa stone and mud mortar. The excavations of 1909-1912 left the structure exposed. By 1937 when the NPS stabilization program was initiated, the walls of the 242 excavated rooms were badly deteriorated. Mortar washed out from between unplastered stones and walls fell. Early in the stabilization process a sand mortar and Portland Cement mix was used to replace the washed-out mortar.


Tyuonyi Ruins Bandelier X5204
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The mix used during the stabilization caused some problems due to a different rate of expansion and contraction than the original materials, and the fact that it was harder than the Tufa blocks in the wall. When the Portland Cement mix expanded, it put pressure on and broke the Tufa stones. When this was discovered in the 1960s, archaeologists developed a mortar mix which did not include Portland Cement, and the mortar was gradually replaced with the new mix to preserve the site.


Tyuonyi Ruins Bandelier X5459
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The Northeast section of Tyuonyi Ruins from the cliff face near Long House.

Most first floor rooms at Tyuonyi were storage rooms, determined because many
did not have a fireplace, which would have rendered them very cold in winter months.
 Because the concept of fireplaces with chimneys had not yet been developed, first-floor
rooms in multi-story blocks were generally storage rooms to avoid suffocating the
people in the upper stories with smoke from the fires in the lower-story rooms.


Tyuonyi Ruins Bandelier X5206
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The Northeast section of Tyuonyi is the deepest room block in the Pueblo. It is eight rooms deep in some sections.


Tyuonyi Ruins Bandelier X5471
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Rooms at the outside of Tyuonyi were larger than rooms at the inside (Plaza side), and some inside rooms had curved walls.


Tyuonyi Ruins Bandelier X5467
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A Cholla plant is seen at the left of this image of Tyuonyi Ruins taken from the cliff face.


Tyuonyi Ruins Bandelier X5474
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A view from within the Tyuonyi Ruins looking towards the cliff face near sunset.


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 14 Sections in the Photoshelter Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection

Direct Links to images from Bandelier National Monument:

New Mexico Pueblos & Bandelier

Indian Lands Select
(150 Selected images)


Click the Display Composite above to return to the Anasazi Ancestral Pueblo Sites index page.