ARCHITECTURE more than almost any other art reflects the
history and culture of the people and region to which it is
related. The architecture of New Mexico based on forms and
materials indigenous to the State is particularly representative, modifica-
tions having occurred with successive invasions and subsequent changes
in social conditions.
Broadly speaking, the history of New Mexico divides itself into
three great periods, accompanied by major cultural changes. The first
of these is the prehistoric, or pre-Columbian, era extending from the
dim horizons of antiquity to the invasion by Coronado in 1540. This
was followed by the Spanish era which began with the conquest and
extended through three centuries of Latin influence, including the period
under Mexican administration, until the American occupation in 1846.
The last period, beginning with this date and extending to the present,
may be subdivided into two parts: the Territorial, which lasted more
or less until the advent of the railroads, and the modern, reflecting the
vast cultural changes due to improved technology.
The buildings discovered by the first Spanish explorers were evolved
by inhabitants who had lived in this country for unknown centuries.
Built of materials found in the desert and adjoining mountain regions,
the plans and shapes of those structures resulted from adaptation of
materials to the needs of the builders. Since there was no influence
present extraneous to the American continent, these edifices may be said
to be truly American, and as their influence can still be felt in contem-
porary New Mexican architecture, the latter possesses a unique heritage
in the United States.
As the Indians of the Southwest were a sedentary agricultural
people instead of nomadic, they were, more or less, permanently attached
to definite sites near their fields. Archeologists find that probably the
earliest habitations were caves, and that later, although sometimes
concurrently, houses large enough to care for the whole community
were erected. These would correspond to modern apartment houses
and were occupied by groups rather than by individuals due to the neces-
sity for defense against enemies tempted by the corn stored in them.
The necessity for defense was one of the principal factors in the plan-
ning and form of the buildings.