Canyons as Homes
Erosion profoundly influenced the lives of the Anasazi here. The shelters in which they built their homes were formed by water seeping through the sandstone cliffs. When the water met an impermeable layer of rock, it moved sideways, eroding alcoves in the cliffs. These alcoves were good living spaces. They usually had springs, and if they faced south, they were fairly warm in winter.
A more harmful form of erosion helped deplete the soil in the canyon bottom. In the mid-1200s, arroyo-cutting, caused perhaps by climate changes and removal of ground cover, lowered the water table. Farming became impossible, and the Anasazi left. Soil slowly refilled the canyon. But about 1890, arroyo-cutting picked up again, probably caused this time by overgrazing. Conditions in the canyon today are like those that led to abandonment 700 years ago.
Keet Seel, the largest Anasazi village in Tsegi Canyon, flourished during the last half of the 13th century. The ruins of this village and others were discovered by migrating Navajos long after, hence the park's name.
- The doors in this block of rooms opened onto a "street" that ran the length of the village
- Sheltered by overhanging cliffs, these ruins are among the best preserved in the Southwest
- Granaries had grooved door jambs. The Anasazi placed rock slabs in these openings to keep out rodents.
- Think of these rooms as the home of a family. At night fires flickered in the windows and figures stirred in the dim light.
- Pencil-sized cores taken from ancient timbers told archeologists when rooms were built or remodeled.
- Kayenta masonry was not as well dressed as Chaco's or Mesa Verde's. Rocks were given a rough shape and then set in mud mortar with the smoothest side out.
- These vertical poles may have been used to hang things on or as perches for captured ceremonial birds.
The strata in Navajo National Monument record Upper Triassic through Lower Jurassic time, but rocks on the adjacent Black Mesa span the entire Mesozoic Era. The Mesozoic Era followed the most extensive mass extinction preserved in the geologic record . . . read more
Navajo National Monument is part of the Colorado Plateau Physiographic Province, an uplifted area that encompasses portions of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. Uplift and subsequent erosion have carved deeply incised canyons into relatively horizontal layers of sandstone and exposed colorful . . . read more
Geologic Features & Processes
The primary geologic features of interest at Navajo National Monument are the alcoves that formed due to groundwater flow, dissolution of carbonate cement, gravity, and wind erosion . . . read more
The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.
A geology photo album has not been prepared for this park.For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.
Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.
Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout
The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!
Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.
For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.
The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.
A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.
NPS Geology and Soils PartnersAssociation of American State Geologists
Geological Society of America
Natural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
U.S. Geological Survey
General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.