What are some of the accomplishments that the Anasazi people are most well-known for?
The Ancestral Pueblo peoples of the Colorado plateau, previously referred to as the Anasazi, are best known for their dramatic cliff dwellings that may still be seen in such places as Mesa Verde, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, and Canyon de Chelly. These homes represent very sophisticated adaptations to the desert environment. The cliff dwellings themselves are a fairly late innovation in architecture, perhaps developed in response to the need for defense as Athabaskan peoples swept south. Even earlier pit houses and kivas had taken advantage of earth sheltering to keep people and stored food cool in hot summers. Cliff dwellings were also naturally shaded and protected from weather.
Another major group of innovations were in farming. Ancestral Pueblo peoples discovered an especially effective method of planting corn first followed by planting squash and beans in the shade of young corn plants, providing well-balanced nutrition as well as an efficient growing method. They also developed sophisticated irrigation systems and extensive road networks for trade and domesticated dogs and turkeys.
Another important development was pottery; many beautiful examples can be found in museums throughout the southwest. Other sophisticated craft items include jewelry and weaving.
The Anasazi were best known for their pueblo dwellings that one can still see at Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde National Parks. By using adobe instead of scarce wood as their building materials, the Anasazi demonstrated ingenuity. Also, as builders are realizing currently, adobe structures also quite comfortable. This is important, as temperatures where the Anasazi lived could get well over one hundred degrees. The Anasazi were also great builders of irrigation systems and practiced selective breeding in order to get the most drought resistant crops available. Anasazi pottery is still a very valuable archaeological find because of its usefulness and beauty. The Anasazi civilization existed for over one thousand years and was also known for its religious rites, which were tied to astronomy.
The Anasazi are well-known first for their architecture, which consisted of complex pueblo villages with buildings arranged around central plazas, and also the more famous structures, including entire villages, that some Anasazi peoples built into cliff walls. They were also skilled astronomers, constructing observatories atop cliffs and exhibiting a great deal of astronomical knowledge. The same engineering skills were used to construct canals, dams, and ditches used to irrigate their fields, which at the height of Anasazi civilization were quite productive considering the relatively dry conditions in which most Anasazi lived.