Chaco Canyon isn’t the only heavy concentration of Ancestral Puebloan ruins in New Mexico. There are numerous ancient pueblos hidden in the canyons and mesas of western New Mexico, with a dense cluster on the New Mexico/Arizona border outside of Gallup. The Manuelito Canyon Historic District is a complex of archaeological sites located in and around Manuelito Canyon, about halfway in between Gallup, New Mexico and Lupton, Arizona. Occupied between 700-1350 A.D., the area was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.
Though the area has been surveyed numerous times, it has never been thoroughly studied or excavated; however, the major period of occupation was the Pueblo III Period, from 1150-1300 A.D. This period saw an increase in residential construction rather than ceremonial construction. This coincides with the decline of Chaco Canyon and increased migration. Numerous major outlier communities experienced growth during this period. The “Big House” is one of the complex’s larger features, a 500-room multi-story stone compound. Archaeologists estimate occupation from 1200-1325. In contrast, the ruins of “Atsee Nitsa,” a small, 150-room site, submerged in sand and stone.