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Los Alamos has gone down in history as the birthplace of the atomic bomb, and rightly so. However, people have chosen “the Hill” as their home since well before the arrival of Manhattan Project scientists in 1943. In fact, the town’s high mesas have attracted inhabitants for several hundred years.
Ruins discovered in Los Alamos’ downtown historic district date back to 1225. However, archaeologists believe the first American Indian tribes arrived on the Pajarito Plateau, the land on which Los Alamos is situated, as early as 1175.
Remains of primitive dwellings, natural caves containing as many as 20 rooms, can be found throughout the county, and members of pueblos near Los Alamos, such as Cochiti, continue to speak Keres, the language these first settlers are thought to have spoken.
Tewa speakers, archaeologists say, began to arrive soon after, in about 1300. Migrating from the Four Corners area northwest of Los Alamos, they began constructing more elaborate living quarters than the Keres speakers, creating upward of 600 rooms in a multiple-story community dwelling and even carving artificial caves in the canyon walls. Visitors to Bandelier National Monument can see evidence of these ancient cliff dwellings.
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