Northeast Arizona Experience


Who Were the Cliff Dwellers in Northeast Arizona?

The first inhabitants of the canyons arrived more than 2,000 years ago—anthropologists call them the basket makers, because baskets were the predominant artifacts they left behind. By AD 750, however, the basket makers had disappeared—their reason for leaving the region is unknown, but some speculate they were forced to leave because of encroaching cultures or climatic changes—and they were replaced by Pueblo tribes who constructed stone cliff dwellings. The departure of the Pueblo people around AD 1300 is widely believed to have resulted from changing climatic conditions, soil erosion, dwindling local resources, disease, and internal conflict. Present-day Hopi see these people as their ancestors. Beginning around AD 780, Hopi farmers settled here, followed by the Navajo around 1300. Evidence indicates that the Navajo migrated from far northern Canada, although the timing of their initial voyage south isn't clear. Despite evidence to the contrary, most Navajos hold that their people have always lived here and that the Diné passed through three previous underworlds before emerging into this, the fourth or Glittering World.

Updated: 11-2012

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