Petrified Forest has a long and fascinating history of human occupation. Groups of people have been living and working in Petrified Forest for thousands of years.
The park has archaeology sites ranging from small scatters of broken stone to large villages which housed dozens of families. The archaeological record of Petrified Forest shows how people supported themselves and their families as the environment of the Colorado Plateau changed throughout the last 10,000 years.
- People have been living, hunting, and farming in the Petrified Forest for over thirteen thousand years! The earliest sites in the park are camps left by prehistoric hunters at the end of the last Ice Age.
- Petrified Forest protects nearly a thousand known archaeological sites, but many more remain to be discovered. The National Park Service monitors the condition of the known sites in the park and is always searching for new sites.
- Hundreds of these sites are petroglyphs: images, shapes, and designs carved onto the surface of rocks dating back thousands of years. While it is difficult to understand what these designs meant to their creators, they do provide a record of the inhabitants of Petrified Forest and their history and beliefs.
- The Park has nine archaeological or historic sites that are on the National Register of Historic places including Puerco Pueblo, The Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs, Agate House, and the Painted Desert Petroglyph site.
- Puerco Pueblo has been partially excavated and stabilized for visitors to see, but it is just one of many masonry pueblos found throughout the park. Most of these are smaller in size, but a few are as large as or larger than Puerco Pueblo.
- The petrified wood is not only interesting to look at; it also provided the raw material for prehistoric tool production. Petrified wood was used to make arrowheads, spear points, scrapers, and knives. Petrified Wood was also traded throughout the southwest by prehistoric people.
The archaeology of Petrified Forest provides a tantalizing story of how past people used this landscape and the Colorado Plateau. For thousands of years families have hunted and farmed along the mesa tops, draw floors, and dunes, situating their homes on high points across the landscape.
The archaeological record provides us with an account of how people lived in the past. This includes how they dealt with their neighbors, secured enough to eat, and responded to the changes which happen in the environment around them.