The foundations of Tyuonyi in the bottom of Frijoles Canyon
The foundations of Tyuonyi
Ladders were used to enter the kivas and to get to the upper dwellings
A kiva ladder to an upper door

Beginning in the 1200's, the areas that are now included in Bandelier National Monument became an increasingly popular refuge for Ancestral Puebloans, Chacoans and other northern San Juan people fleeing the drought devastating their homelands in the Four Corners region.

A perenially wet canyon located in the high, forested lands of the Pajarito Plateau, Frijoles Canyon was an oasis to them. Between about 1200 CE and 1500 CE they built pueblos up the faces of the volcanic rock cliffs and, in other areas, in the open along the stream beds. For many years the land was good to them, then the weather changed and we don't know if it got drier or if the people outgrew the ability of the land to sustain them all.

By the time the Spaniards arrived in the mid 1500's, the area had been abandoned and the folks had moved downstream to build pueblos closer to the Rio Grande. This is where we find most of their descendants today. The people of Cochiti, Santo Domingo, San Felipe and even Zuni trace some part of their lineage back to Frijoles Canyon.

The people of San Ildefonso trace their lineage to the Tsankawi area (Tsankawi is an undeveloped, non-contiguous piece of Bandelier National Monument located about 11 miles to the north of Frijoles Canyon). The people of Santa Clara trace their migration from the area of Yucca House to Puye to Sant Clara. For all these pueblos, the slopes and canyons of the Jemez Mountains is sacred land.

Looking down on Frijoles Canypon from the canyon rim
Frijoles Canyon

The Tsankawi area is bounded by San Ildefonso Pueblo to the east and south and by Los Alamos National Lab to the north and west. Tsankawi is essentially undeveloped and has never been excavated. There is a parking area along the side of NM Route 4 at the trailhead. The trail is a loop about 1.5 miles long and it leads past many cliff dwellings, a large unexcavated village and a lot of petroglyphs. That said, the trail has been rerouted over the years and on my last hike of it, there was virtually nothing to see of any note.

Ancient dwellings were carved into the cliff wall
The remains of ancient dwellings carved into the cliff wall
Preserved rock art on the cliff wall
Rock art preserved on the cliff wall

Sites of the Ancients and approximate dates of occupation: