When Americans first began to enter into and explore New Mexico in the nineteenth century they believed that American Indians were primitive peoples who were incapable of building great cities and monumental architecture. When they encountered ancient ruins in the Southwest, they assumed that these must have been made by people unrelated to the local Indians. A common misconception was to credit the construction of these ruins to the ancient Mexican civilizations. Thus an ancient pueblo north of Salmon Pueblo was named Aztec Pueblo. The pueblo has no association with the Aztec, but was constructed by the Anasazi.
The Anasazi began construction of Aztec Pueblo in 1106. As with other Anasazi pueblos, the complex was designed before it was built. The three-story D-shaped pueblo had 405 rooms with a 161,000 square foot living area. The Great Kiva was 41 feet in diameter. Aztec is the largest pueblo associated with Chaco Canyon outside of Chaco Canyon.
Aztec Pueblo included many smaller kivas, some of which are tri-walled in that the inner room was within three concentric walls.
The Anasazi at Aztec diverted water from the Animus River to irrigate their fields. They raised crops of corn, beans, squash, and cotton. They probably sent surplus crops to help feed those in Chaco Canyon. The cotton which they raised was woven into blankets, breech cloths, robes, and sashes.
Sometime in the 1200s, population in Aztec decreased. During this time, many of the rooms were filled with trash and/or were used for human burials.