Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Pithouse

This pit house, built around 575 AD, was a first permanent home for the Ancestral Puebloans. Partially below ground, pit houses were built on top of the mesas. Here they developed agriculture and grew corn, beans and squash, the Southwestern staples.

The grinding stone and slab mano and metate symbolize the Anasazi's new ties to the mesa top. Grinding corn into meal was a constant chore. Dried corn could be stored in pottery vessels for years in the dry, Southwest climate. The stored corn enabled them to survive long, cold winters.

The smaller room's function is not readily apparent. Since these people were beginning to depend heavily on the annual harvest, the space may have been used for storage.

Fire-hardened bits of adobe and charcoal rubble on the floor are clues that the dwelling burned. Sifting the evidence, archeologists precisely dated this pithouse by analyzing tree rings of the original roof timbers preserved as charcoal.



Page last updated July 20, 2000.