Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Acoma Pueblo, or sky city

Acoma pueblo is a spectacular walled adobe village set atop a mesa 367 feet above the valley floor.  The pueblo (elevation over 7,000 feet) is said to have been inhabited since the 11th Century.  It's the longest continuously occupied community in the USA.  A few people still live here  but most of the 600 strong group now live in small communities nearby.

These people speak their own language, Keresan, and still follow many ancient traditions, including gathering in the sky city several times a year for ceremonial events. There is no electricity or running water in the village but about 45 people still live hear year round.  Some of them sell their traditional pots decorated with intricate black and brown designs.

We took a tour this afternoon; this is the only way to visit the pueblo.  Here are few photographic highlights. 

Looking across the valley to the mesa with the buildings of Acoma on the top.  You have to look closely, but they're there.

We went up to the top by bus and walked around the entire village.  The houses are made of rock, plastered with mud and straw, some more recent ones are adobe and some even have a cement finish.  But all are the colour of the earth, so everything is very natural and organic looking.

From everywhere in Acoma you are aware of height.  It doesn't feel anything like being in a town at ground level.  It really feels like you're up in the sky.

This is a round brick oven made of sandstone and lava rock, still used today to bake bread.  See the raven flying at around the same level?

The white ladder marks a kiva, a special building used by the men for their ceremonies.  The ladders always point toward the north.

At different points on our tour we were introduced to people selling their lovely pottery.  This young girl with a little puppy allowed me to take her photograph (for $1).  I don't think the puppy is more than about four weeks old.  There were a number of dogs in the village, just walking around doing dog things. 

Acoma feels so remote and isolated.  It's easy to sense that people have been living there for centuries.  And if you look closely, you can see that people still live there.  There's the front of a car poking out behind this building.


... and a burning barrel and some boards above.

And this is one of the three natural pools that collect rainwater.  The water is no longer used for drinking, just for cleaning.

This dog with pale blue eyes was so friendly.  She tagged along with us for quite a while.

Finally, this is a view from the top towards another smaller mesa, which has ruins of buildings on it that date from 600 AD.  Who knows how people got up and down from there!

The whole place had a magical feeling.  If you ever get a chance to visit, do so.

Tonight we are staying in the Sky City RV park, about 16 miles from Acoma Pueblo.  It's attached to the Sky City Casino, where we went for a very reasonable and tasty dinner.  The pueblo appears to be fairly  prosperous from the tours and the casino.  The villages we drove through were liveable and pleasant, unlike some other areas we've seen.

Sorry for posting so many photos here.  I just couldn't decide which ones to omit.


  1. Oh more photos please !
    I love your tour. I have wanted to visit this area but never have been able to.
    I love the little black and white dog, so cute. I would have wanted to take her/him home with me.

    I have two little Acoma Owls that my brother gave to me. I adore them.

    cheers, parsnip

    1. Their clay work is incredibly detailed in the painting. I wanted to get some but couldn't afford it. One thing I found out about Acoma that I think is fascinating is that the homes there are always passed on the youngest daughter of the family. The idea being that they would likely live the longest.

  2. Your photos really give a sense of place, Joanna. The town looks as though it could be deserted. I love the pic of the two ravens flying into the gray sky in front of the pueblo.

    1. Thanks Barb, I like that one too but the nose of the car poking out from behind the building changed the mood somewhat! There are 300 dwellings there but only 45 are occupied except at times of celebration. The houses are kept up though, which gives it that deserted look.

  3. I appreciate the photographs, a very interesting place.


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