Ancient HistoryBandelier National Monument | Valles Caldera National Preserve | White Rock Canyon Overlook
GEOGRAPHICAL & ANCIENT HISTORY
About 1.6 million years ago, the first series of volcanic eruptions initiated the creation of today’s most scenic landmarks in Los Alamos. Most notably, the Pajarito Plateau’s mesas and canyons where Los Alamos communities eventually settled; and the Jemez Mountains that surround a 3,000-foot deep caldera, part of the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve.
Starting in approximately 1150 AD, Ancestral Pueblo people began to build permanent settlements on the Pajarito Plateau. Ancestors of current Native American tribes, commonly referred to as Anasazi, built communities and inhabited the Los Alamos, New Mexico area between 1150 AD and the 16th century.
For more than 400 years, they survived by harvesting crops planted on mesa-top fields and collecting a wide range of useful native plants. Changing conditions on the plateau provided the impetus for the people to move and begin constructing the pueblos along the Rio Grande, where many still exist today. Evidence of this early occupation and Anasazi ruins are found throughout Los Alamos County and, most notably, in the dwellings at Bandelier National Monument and in the downtown Los Alamos Historic District.
In the decades leading up to the turn of the 20th century, the Pajarito Plateau experienced the cultures and influences of a new generation of settlers—from Spanish land grant holders to homesteaders, merchants, farmers and ranchers.