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In south-west North America, the Anasazi people, whose name means 'the ancient ones', irrigated the desert to grow maize and squash. They were based in the 'four corners' area where four states, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, join. Major sites included Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, and the Canyon de Chelly. Crafts workers made pottery and other beautiful objects from precious stones, including turquoise. Anasazi women made pottery by hand, as the potter's wheel was not known in North America at this time. They coiled ropes of clay on top of each other to form bowls, mugs, and other utensils.

The Anasazi started building houses above ground around 700. The villages gradually grew in size as farming improved and the Anasazi started to build kivas or sunken ceremonial chambers. The kivas had fitted benches that ran right around the inside walls, and were painted with murals. These rooms were for men only, and were used for local assemblies, prayer meetings, and even as classrooms for students. The Anasazi used stone and adobe to build pueblos, rather like apartment blocks, which evolved from a type of dwelling they had developed, made up of interconnecting mud-brick rooms stacked in layers on top of each other. By 1100 some of these were three or four storeys high and housed up to 250 people. Around this time the Anasazi moved into the hills, possibly for protection from enemies and also from the harsh climate conditions, and began to build stone pueblos in the shelter of overhanging cliffs. On the cliff tops they grew maize in irrigated fields. A notable building, the ruins of which remain today, is the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, Colorado. It housed about 250 people and the cliff sheltered it in bad weather. The cliff houses had keyhole-shaped entrances, some of which were accessible by ladders which could be pulled up for defence purposes.

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