More about the Anasazi Heritage Center

Anasazi Heritage Center

Puebloan mugs, ca. AD 1150-1280

 

 

 

 

 

The Anasazi Heritage Center (AHC) displays the culture and history of the Ancestral Pueblo people, and the methods that modern archaeologists use to reveal the past. The museum preserves artifacts and records from excavations in the Four Corners area, one of the richest archaeological regions in the United States, and is also the headquarters for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Our goal is to increase public awareness of archaeology and cultural resources in the Four Corners.


The museum is 7000 feet (2150 m) above sea level at the foot of the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado, and about 17 miles by road from Mesa Verde National Park. The grounds overlook McPhee Reservoir and the Montezuma Valley.   

Many of our exhibits are hands-on and interactive: You can weave on a loom, grind corn meal on a metate, examine the past through microscopes, and handle real artifacts.  Many artifacts are displayed in the museum; over three million other objects and records are available for study and research.  Special Exhibits & Events feature topics of regional history and other Native American cultures.

Anasazi is the Navajo name for the people who lived in the Four Corners between AD 1 and AD 1300. The population size varied over time, but at its peak many thousands of families occupied the southwest corner of Colorado. Their modern descendants, the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona, prefer the term Ancestral Pueblo rather than "Anasazi." Pueblo also refers to the unitary apartment house architecture of traditional Pueblo villages.

Our pueblo-style building was created during the McPhee Dam and Reservoir project, which included the Dolores Archaeological Program (DAP), the largest single archaeological project in the history of the United States. Between 1978 and 1984 researchers mapped about 1600 archaeological sites - including hunting camps, shrines, granaries, households and villages - along the Dolores River in the reservoir area, and excavated about 120 sites to preserve their information value and research data.


Yucca sandal, ca. AD 500

On the museum grounds are two 12th century settlements, the Dominguez and Escalante Pueblos, named after Spanish friars who explored this area in 1776 and became the first to record archaeological sites in Colorado. These sites were excavated and stabilized 200 years later. 

 



Aerial view of Museum, Escalante Pueblo, and McPhee Rservoir

Museum Main Gallery

 Escalante Pueblo, ca. 1100 AD


hands pictograph

  Real archaeology is much more than digging up artifacts.... in the words of David Hurst Thomas:

"It's not what you find, it's what you find out!" 


Teachers: Find out about Educational Resources available for use in the classroom or at the museum.

Kids who visit can participate in our Junior Explorer program !

Student internships are periodically available in Curation, Exhibits, and Visitor Services.

Find out about volunteer opportunities at the museum or in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. (For access to all federal volunteering opportunities, go to Volunteer.gov .)


 "Duck Pot" ca. AD 1200INSIDE:

  • LEARN about Four Corners archaeology and prehistory through interactive computer-based permanent exhibits.  
  • WEAVE on a Pueblo-style loom  
  • GRIND corn into meal using stone tools called a mano and a metate  
  • EXAMINE pottery, stone, bone and plant samples under microscopes to learn about microanalysis in archaeology  
  • TOUCH real artifacts- bone drills, stone points, pottery, etc.- excavated from Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) sites  
  • DISCOVER the age of a wood sample by matching it to a tree-ring chart like archaeologists use.  
  • SEE how an early Pueblo household was furnished in a replica pithouse.  
  • FIND a cross-section of the replica pithouse in an archaeologist's test trench.  
  • RIVER OF SORROWS , our hallway exhibit, recalls the last century of history in the Dolores River Valley.  
  • WATCH our movies The Cultural Heritage of the Great Sage Plain (19 min) and Visit With Respect (9 min) to see Four Corners history through the eyes of both archaeologists and Native Americans.  
  • EXPLORE our museum shop, operated by Canyonlands Natural History Association (CNHA). Besides posters, replicas, videos, and music, CNHA offers children's literature and books on specialized topics such as Native American philosophy, crafts, archaeology, Southwest history, cookbooks and nature guides.

 Kids at Escalante PuebloOUTSIDE:

  • ENJOY our picnic area with six tables at the beginning of the trail to Escalante Pueblo.

     

  • TRAVEL the Escalante Trail-- One-half mile long, paved, uphill, wheelchair-accessible. Excellent 360° view of area. Signs along the trail illuminate history and the local environment.  

 

  • DISCOVER the Escalante Pueblo, a compact village of the mid-1100s. Its style reflects the Chaco culture that was centered in northwestern New Mexico.

 

  • LEARN about Dominguez Pueblo, right in front of the museum. This four-room structure probably was home to one or two families.