Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
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Acoma, New Mexico Views on the way to Acoma. Huge forest fires in Arizona account for the hazy atmosphere.

Many Indian pueblos were set in good defensive positions but few are as spectacular as Acoma, located atop a 300-foot mesa.

Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, the "sky city" is perched on this mesa. It is one of the claimants to the titled of oldest settlement in the U.S. (Oraibi in Arizona and Taos also claim to be oldest). All are about 1000 years old. Put another way, people have been living here since the Crusades or the Battle of Hastings.

I had wanted to see this place ever since I first heard about it when I was stationed in Albuquerque in 1971. I hope it lasts another thousand years.

Acoma, New Mexico The guidebook gave us inaccurate information about tour hours but the people at the visitor center generously hooked us up with the last tour of the day.

Acoma is one of a number of pueblos that charge a fee for photography. It's well worth it.

Most people now live off the mesa and only a few people live here full time, but the village is maintained and used during the day and for special occasions.

Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico 
Acoma, New Mexico An oven.
Acoma, New Mexico 
Acoma, New Mexico Remains of water cisterns.
Acoma, New Mexico 
Acoma, New Mexico A grinding hole.
Acoma, New Mexico 
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico The tour guide said this window was made of mica, causing me to wonder where anyone would find a large sheet of mica in this sea of sandstone.

The straight diagonal cleavage cracks show something even more interesting and much more geologically likely: it's a thin sheet of gypsum.

Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Views east and south from the mesa.
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico 
Acoma, New Mexico Left: Looking down at the only road onto the mesa.

Below: Views north and west from the mesa.

Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Left and below: views of Acoma from the north.
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Acoma, New Mexico
Acoma, New Mexico Tradition holds that this mesa, a few kilometers northeast of Acoma, was the original home of the pueblo, but a rockfall while most of the tribe was at work in the fields cut off access, leaving a few people stranded on top where they died of starvation.

I can't see these people abandoning loved ones to starve, however hard it might be to climb the mesa. But I can see people dying of dehydration before rescue can get to them.


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Created 19 November 2005, Last Update 01 July 2012

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