The Ruins The most accessible features of the monument are the ruins in Frijoles Canyon. The ancients chose well the location of their dwellings. The deep gorge, cut by a stream rising high in the mountains, is still a veritable oasis in the dry country of New Mexico. Translated, the name of this stream, "Rito de los Frijoles," means simply Bean Creek. Cliff ruins, or talus villages, extend along the base of the northern wall of the canyon for approximately 2 miles. These houses of masonry were irregularly terraced, from 1 to 3 stories high, and had many cave rooms gouged out of the solid cliff. The cliff of compressed volcanic ash, or tuff, was worked with tools of harder stone. Tree-ring chronology and correlations of pottery types indicate that most of Bandelier's ruins belong to the late pre-Spanish period, although a few small ruins date back to the l2th Century. The large pueblos of Tyuonyi and Tsankawi evidently were occupied until about A.D. 1550, although their decline had probahly set in before Coronado visited the region in 1540. No specific mention of Pajarito villages is made in the chronicles of Coronado's expedition. The Frijoles inhabitants, like other early pueblo dwellers, were farmers. They grew corn, beans, and squash. They used cotton cloth, which has been found in the caves, and this suggests that they had the loom. Since the growing season on the plateau is short, however, they might have had to obtain the cotton by trade. They made pottery with decorations in black and white, color, and, later, glazed. Exact cause of abandonment of the dwellings is unknown. For centuries the Indian farmers lived in the Pajarito canyons, built villages, honeycombed the cliffs with artificial caves, and tilled the soil of valley and mesa top. With the passing years, such influences as drought, soil-eroding flash floods, soil depletion, raiding Indians, famine, and diseaseÑ singly or in combinationÑforced the canyon dwellers again to seek new homes. Oral traditions link several present-day Rio Grande pueblos with the prehistoric inhabitants of the Pajarito (little bird) Plateau. [from the monument brochure,National Park Service]

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