Taos Pueblo is one of the most interesting sites in our unique state. It is an ancient pueblo, or town, belonging to the Taos-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people. Just 1 mile north of Taos, its modern counterpart, the pueblos are thought to be one of the oldest continuously occupied communities in the United States. In 1966, it was put on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and in 1992, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Most archeologists believe that the Taos and Pueblo peoples settled along the Rio Grande after migrating south to escape a long drought in the Four Corners region. Since its inception, Taos Pueblo has been a central point of trade between indigenous populations along the Rio Grande, hosting a trade fair each fall after the harvest. This pre-Columbian history and knowledge establishes the region as one of the oldest inhabited in the nation—archeologists have discovered artifacts from the late 13th century, but habitation is believed to extend back by 5,000 years. Many of the current adobe dwellings were constructed around 1,000 AD.
The first European visitors, members of the Francisco Vásquez de Coronado expedition, arrived at Taos Pueblo in 1540 seeking the Seven Cities of Gold. They spread Catholicism quickly through the region, and Spanish Jesuits erected the first Catholic Church in 1620. However, cultural tensions escalated in the following decades, resulting in the killing of the resident priest by the native residents. Several revolts followed and extend into the 19th century.
During the Spaniards’ initial contact, the pueblo was described as many adobe houses built very close together and stacked—sometimes five or six stories high. The homes became narrower with the raising height, the roof levels of each level providing the floors for the terraces above. The northside Pueblo is one of the most photographed and painted buildings in North America. The largest multistoried Pueblo structure in existence, it is made of adobe walls layered several feet thick. This side’s primary purpose was defense. The homes themselves most often contain two rooms—one for general living and sleeping, the other for cooking and storage.
If you would like to visit Taos Pueblo, the visitor center is open every day until 4:30PM with tours running every twenty minutes.