How is an Archaeological Site Formed?

How did Puzzle House become an archaeological site?

The artifacts and tree-ring dates from Puzzle House pueblo indicate that it was not used after AD 1250. The people that lived at Puzzle House likely moved to another pueblo about a mile away that was closer to water sources. Over time, Puzzle House pueblo eventually came apart and collapsed onto the ground. Pieces of the pueblo may have been used to build other villages in the area. When archaeologists began excavations at Puzzle House pueblo in 1992 it looked like stage four.

Stage 1: The plaster wears off of the walls and roof, exposing sandstone blocks and roof materials.


Stage 2: The roof gets holes and begins to fall in; dirt and garbage begin to fill rooms.


Stage 3: Roof collapses onto floor and chunks of sandstone walls tumble down on top of the dirt and garbage that has partially filled the rooms.

Stage Four
Stage 4: Sandstone walls continued to collapse to less than half their height, and stones tumbled into rooms on top of roof material and outside onto ground surface creating what looks like a mound of rubble.

How was the Puzzle House pueblo built?

From Investigating the Puzzle House Pueblo, Part Three: Archaeology

The Ancestral Puebloan People living at the Puzzle House Pueblo built the rooms in the pueblo from sandstone rocks covered with adobe. They chipped the sandstone into rectangular shaped blocks and used adobe mortar to cement the blocks in place and cover the walls. They built roofs out of large and small wooden beams.

The Puzzle House Pueblo had connected rooms and was only one story high. Sometimes, pueblos were two or more stories high and looked a lot like our apartment buildings. These buildings we call pueblos.
Another type of house was the kiva. These round buildings were most often built underground. Kiva walls were made of stone, dirt, and adobe. The roofs of the kiva were made out of wood and covered with a layer of earth. There was often an opening in the roof of the kiva where a ladder would be placed to climb down into the kiva.

Ladders were very important for reaching the rooftops of pueblos and for entering the underground kivas. Ladders were generally made from sturdy wood, such as oak or juniper. Because the ancestral Puebloans had no nails, they had to tie the rungs of the ladders to the posts or wedge them between two upright posts.

As you can imagine, building a house the ancestral Puebloan way was a lot of work!

Foundation trenches were dug and lined with large stones.


Stage 2: Sandstone blocks were layered and adobe was used as mortar to keep the stones in place.

Stage 3: The walls were covered with plaster on the inside and outside to protect them.


Stage 4: Large logs were cut and laid across the top of the walls to form a flat roof, and then smaller pieces of wood were laid across the beams. The top of the roof was then covered with clay plaster.


Stage 5: A hole is made in the flat roof and a ladder is placed inside for entry to below-ground rooms, such as kivas.

Learn more about Investigating the Puzzle House Pueblo