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Anasazi Flute/Pueblo Flute

Far more challenging to play than the Plains Flute or Woodlands Flute, the instrument termed the Anasazi Flute dates back in the archaeological record to the 7th century. Still made today by modern Pueblo cultures as well as non-Native flutemakers, this Ancestral Pueblo Flute will reward the diligent student with an incomparable sound. This article contains photos, videos, maps, detailed information, a flutemaker comparison chart, and more to improve your education about and increase your appreciation of the Anasazi Flute.

 

Anasazi Flute

 

This original illustration depicts the black flute (A-14450) found in 1931 at Broken Flute Cave, Arizona. It has a dull black finish and wear marks indicate that it was played with the right hand above the left.

 
 

ANASAZI FLUTE PHOTOS

Click Images for Enlarged View

 
Anasazi Flute Photo

Source: Excavation of a Burial-Room in Pueblo Bonito, New Mexico, George H. Pepper

 

This illustration depicts the two flutes found by George H. Pepper in Room 33 at Pueblo Bonito.


Anasazi Flute Photo

Source: Chuck "Caveman" Coker

 

This photo depicts an exquisite inlaid design of crushed turquoise on a modern Anasazi flute.


Anasazi Flute Photo

Source: YouTube

 

Celebrated Anasazi flute player, Scott August, performing a piece called 'Quiet Journey' in 2009.

 

ANASAZI FLUTE VIDEOS

 

Jemez Pueblo Flutemaker, Aluaki, Playing For Ancestors

 

Scott August playing Anasazi Flute

 

Demonstration of scale of an Anasazi-type flute

 

One Man Anasazi Flute Duet

 

Man Improvising on Anasazi Flute

HISTORY OF THE PUEBLO/ANASAZI FLUTE

Zuni Governor, Lutakawi, Photographed by Edward S. Curtis
 

Zuni Governor, Lutakawi,
Photographed by Edward S. Curtis before 1925

Confronting The Term 'Anasazi'
If you are considering purchasing an Anasazi flute, it is relevant to understand that this term is something of a misnomer. 'Anasazi' it a term historically applied by archaeologists to a culture which inhabited the Four Corners Region of the American Southwest, including major sites just as Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde and Canyon de Chelly. The word 'Anasazi' is a Dine (Navajo) word meaning something along the lines of 'ancient enemy' - not a flattering term, in other words, and certainly not the name used by these ancestral Four Corners people to describe themselves. The 'disappearance' of the Anasazi culture from their elaborate townsites was long termed one of the greatest mysteries of the archaeological world, but many modern Southwestern tribes assert that they are the direct descendents of these lost people who simply moved away from the big towns into smaller settlements. Happily, this view, long held by Indigenous Peoples, is beginning to be better understood by non-Indigenous researchers.

 

Native flute makers like Marlon Magdalena suggest that a more appropriate term for the Anasazi flute would be the Ancestral Pueblo Flute and Native Flutes Walking recommends reading Mr. Magdalena's forthright article on the difficulties with the term 'Anasazi'. We would applaud seeing 'Ancestral Pueblo Flute' being used more regularly to describe this type of ancient instrument, but for the most part, convention dictates that the Internet searchers will find these woodwinds listed as 'Anasazi Flutes'. Here, we will use the terms co-jointly.

The arid climate of the Southwest has uniquely preserved both large structures and small, intimate artifacts. Archaeologists are consistently placing earlier and earlier dates for the very first inhabitation of this special region - no one really knows how long people have lived here, but is has certainly been for many thousands of years. Everything from small ancient farming communities to tremendous cities with vast systems of roads and waterways are hallmarks of the Southwest, and the historic and modern Peoples of this region include:

Acoma Pueblo, Ak Chin, Aranama, Cochiti Pueblo, Cotoname, Comecrudo, Cocopa, Chiricahua Apache, Cochimi, Coahuiltecan, Genízaro, Hohokam, Hopi, Havasupai, Hano, Hualapai, Halchidhoma, Isleta Pueblo, Jemez Pueblo, Jicarilla Apache, Jumano, Kavelchadhom, Keres, Karankawa, Lipan Apache, Los Luceros, Laguna Pueblo, Maricopa, Mojave, Mamulique, Mescalero Apache, Manso, Navajo, Nambé Pueblo, Ohkay Owingeh, Pojoaque Pueblo, Pima Bajo, Pima, Pueblo, Piro, Picuris Pueblo, Quems, Qahatika, Quechan, San Carlos Apache, Solano, San Ildefonso Pueblo, Suma, Santa Clara Pueblo, Southern Athabaskan, San Felipe Pueblo, Santo Domingo Pueblo, Santa Ana Pueblo, Sandia Pueblo, Taos Pueblo, Tamique, Towa, Tiwa, Tesuque Pueblo, Toboso, Tonto Apache, Tohono O'odham, Tewa, Ubate, Walapai, White Mountain Apache, Western Apache, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Yaqui, Yavapai, Zuni and Zia Pueblo.

 

Whether you have deep Indigenous roots in the Southwest, or none at all, Native Flutes Walking encourages you to learn all you can about the original inhabitants of this part of the continent. From the heartbreaking Long Walk of the Dine to Bosque Redondo, to the breathtaking art of the Zuni, to the spiritual guidance of the Hopi, here are cultures of immense richness and value that deserve to be honored and preserved.

Map of the American Southwest
 

Map of the American Southwest

Archaeologist Earl H. Morris of the Carnegie Institute
 

Archaeologist Earl H. Morris
of the Carnegie Institute

Historic Documentation of the Pueblo/Anasazi Flute
The oldest known Ancient Pueblo/Anasazi flutes were uncovered in the Prayer Rock District of Arizona in 1931 by Earl H. Morris of the Carnegie Institute at a site later to become known as Broken Flute Cave. Morris was one of the foremost Southwestern archaeologists of his time, with his most famous work being conducted at the Great Kiva near Aztec, Arizona. Of most interest to musicians is Morris' excavation of 16 caves in North-Eastern Arizona and the finding of some truly ancient flutes.

 

The illustration of the black flute, above, is one of the six flutes found during this dig. Archaeologists date the findings at Broken Flute Cave from 1620 - 1670 AD. Two of the flutes were tied together with yucca fiber, one was stuffed with a corn cob, and others with yucca fiber. All of the flutes were made of box elder. Some bore decorations of the feathers of Stellar's Jays, Pinyon Jays and Sapsuckers. Though two of the flutes were broken, the others could still be played and their notes were subsequently determined by researchers. Each of the flutes had six holes and were rim blown.

Unlike the more commonly known Native American Flutes (the Plains flute and Woodlands flute) which are termed 'fipple' flutes because of their whistle mechanism which enables very easy playing, the Ancestral Pueblo/Anasazi flute requires the player to develop an embouchure with the muscles of the mouth to get a good sound from the instrument. By blowing air across the rim of the flute, a tone is created.

 

Some 40 years before the famous Prayer Rock District expedition, another archaeologist, George Pepper, was studying the Pueblo Bonito site in Chaco Canyon in New Mexico as part of the Hyde Exploring Expedition. In a very small room at Pueblo Bonito, designated room 33, a discovery was made of several beautiful end-blown flutes, one of which was magnificently decorated with an orange and green design, and another suggesting the squash blossom design so typical of Southwestern Indigenous art. Two other flutes bore animal fetishes, possibly a bear and a lizard. Read George Pepper's complete field notes on his findings.

The Prayer Rock district, site of Broken Flute Cave
 

The Prayer Rock district, site of Broken Flute Cave

Pueblo Bonito is the largest dwelling in the Chaco Complex and, from tree ring dating and other forms of research, archaeologists conclude that this amazing abode was inhabited between AD 828 and 1126. These dates help us to estimate the antiquity of the flutes found in room 33.

Aerial view of Pueblo Bonito
 

Aerial view of Pueblo Bonito,
Bob Adams, Albuquerque, NM

It is from flutes like those found at Pueblo Bonito and Broken Flute Cave that many modern Native American-style flute makers draw their inspiration today, and it is important to reiterate here that many Indigenous People of the region continue to make flutes in the styles of their ancestors such as the Hopi 5 hole flute and the Jemez 4 hole flute. While archaeological findings have much to teach the public, more is still to be learned from the stories and wisdom of Indigenous Peoples, themselves.

 

Historic Documentation of the Ancestral Pueblo/Anasazi Flute
There is a sad irony in the fact that research into early Native American flutes is often dependent upon the written records of the Europeans who brought disease and violence to the American Continents and eventually usurped most of the land. Unfortunately, these documents frequently display the ignorance and prejudice of their writers and their times. Nonetheless, these accounts are important to researchers looking for earliest mentions of the use of the flute.

Researchers may run into confusion in the erratic terminology used to describe Native American Flutes in the earliest written documentation of them. Europeans use the terms flute, flageolet, fife, pipes and whistle interchangeably in these reports.

 

Pedro de Castanada, chronicler of the violent Coronado expedition, made these two observations while traveling in the Southwest in the 1540's:

"Five days from here he came to Cicuye, a very strong village four stories high. The people came out from the village with signs of joy to welcome Hernando de Alvardo and their captain, and brought with them into the town with drums and pipes something like flutes, of which they have a great many... A man sits at the door playing on a fife while they grind, moving the stones to the music and singing together." (Page 146, The Journey of Coronado, 1540-1542, George Parker Winship)

In a Report from the American Ethnology Bureau, this information is given about the sacred Hopi Flute Ceremony:

"The Lenya or Flute ceremony is one of the most complicated in the Hopi ritual, and one of the most important in the calendar. It occurs in five pueblos, not being celebrated at Sichumovi or at Hano. The ceremony was first described by the author in an article in which the public rites or "dance" at Walpiwere briefly noted and their relation to the Snake dance was first recognized. When this paper was published the author was unaware that the Flute ceremony was of nine days' duration, for in 1890, when the description was written, the existence of nine days ceremonies among the Hopi was unknown. A more extended study of the Hopi ritual in the following year (1891) revealed the fact that a Flute ceremony, similar to that at Walpi, occurred likewise in the four other Hopi pueblos which celebrate the complete ritual, and in 1892 the author described the last two days of the Flute rite at Shipaulovi. In the course of these studies it was recognized that this ceremony lasted nine days, that it was performed by two divisions of Flute priests, and that each division had an elaborate altar about which secret rites were performed."
(United States. American Ethnology Bureau, Annual Reports, Volume 19, Part 2, 1900)

Flute player petroglyph near Embudo, NM
 

Flute player petroglyph near Embudo, NM

Happily, in the case of the Southwest, we need not rely solely on European accounts. The petroglyph art of this region testifies to the importance of the flute in countless examples, such as the one shown above right. Recently, a Hopi deity referred to as 'Kokopelli' has become an internationally familiar symbol, embellishing everything from garden sculpture to textiles. This now-widely-recognized character resembles the familiar humpbacked flute player pecked into rock faces throughout the Southwest, some of very ancient origin.

THE ANASAZI FLUTE IN MODERN TIMES
Marlon Magdalena playing Ancestral Pueblo Flute
 

Marlon Magdalena playing Ancestral Pueblo Flute
in Room 33 at Pueblo Bonito
Source: YouTube

Flutemaker Michael Graham Allen is widely credited with making some of the first Anasazi-style reproduction flutes, based upon the findings of archaeology. Allen's work inspired other flutemakers to try their hand at these somewhat challenging instruments, and several wonderful options are available to anyone who would like to own a Ancestral Pueblo/Anasazi-style flute. These craftsmen are using numerous materials - everything from cedar to PVC pipe to make flutes for sale.

 

Notes on Tuning of the Anasazi Flute
Historic Pueblo flutes were hollow - quite different from the two-chambered-duct Native American flute - and it has been noted by researchers that most of the flutes found in the Four Corners Region of the Southwest are tuned to the same scale. In other words, the sound chamber and holes were arranged to produce like sets of notes. It is conjectured from this that early Pueblo flutes may have been played in a call-and-response setting, or perhaps, in concert, but no one knows for certain. Today, flutemakers can base the tones of their flutes on the traditional scale, or can craft them to fit Western scales or other musical patterns. For further information about the tuning of the Anasazi Flute, we recommend Mark Purtill's Guide.

How Hard Is It To Play The Ancestral Pueblo/Anasazi Flute?
Beginners may be discouraged by the fact that some flute players and makers warn it may take days or weeks to get a good sound from this type of flute. Unlike the Plains flute or Woodlands flute which simply requires blowing into the mouthpiece and covering the tone holes, the Anasazi style flute requires you to develop a specific manner of holding your mouth (embouchure) to correctly play the instrument. Once you have developed this skill, however, you will be able to enjoy the uniquely warm and satisfying tones of this majestic woodwind. If this seems too challenging, you might like to investigate the EZ Anasazi Flute, created by Steve DeRuby. It features a special fipple flute construction common to the Plains/Woodlands flute, but is supposed to have a tone similar to that of the Anasazi flute.

GUIDE TO CHOOSING YOUR NATIVE AMERICAN ANASAZI FLUTE
Company Native Made? Flutemaker Price Range Materials Special Features Additional Offerings Additional Notes
Butch Hall Flutes Non-Native-made Butch Hall $195 Walnut, Cherry, Exotic Woods Exact reproductions of the Broken Flute Cave flutes CDs, flute bags, books Beautiful and authentic construction. Butch hall is a recording artist.
Visit Site »
Aluaki Native-made Marlon Magdalena $50 Oak, Poplar, Bamboo, PVC Beautiful painting and carving Custom flutes Inspired by Pueblo Bonito flutes. Beautifully crafted by a Jemez flute maker.
Visit Site »
Coyote Old Man Unknown Michael Graham Allen Request Quote at mgallen@me.com Various Credited with energetically promoting the Anasazi-style flute Workshops, performances, recordings Michael Graham Allen has been hand-crafting Native American-style flutes since the 1970's.
Visit Site »
Earth Tone Flutes Non-Native-made Geoffrey Ellis $175 - $285 Black Walnut, Curly Maple, Many Exotic Woods Offering two lines of Anasazi-style flutes Many styles of flutes Endorsed by Anasazi flute master player Scott August.
Visit Site »
BEFORE YOU PURCHASE YOUR ANASAZI FLUTE...

There are many types of Native Flutes from North, Central and South America. In order to ensure that your purchase of a Native Flute is truly satisfying, answer the following 3 questions:

 

Question 1. What Are Your Needs In A Flute?
Are you a beginner who will be happy with the most economical, student flute or a serious musician with more specific requirements? Is the flute for a man, woman or child? This is important to identify, as the size of flutes varies so much. Most modern Anasazi-style flutes are quite long, and may even need to be played standing up. If you are short of stature or have small hands, you may be better off choosing a different type of Native Flute. Contact Anasazi flutemakers directly to inquire about their measurements. Additionally, be prepared to spend time practicing before getting a good sound from an Anasazi-style flute.

 

Question 2. What Is Your Budget For A Flute?
You can spend anywhere from $50 to hundreds of dollars for an Anasazi-style flute. Identify how much you can afford to spend, and do a lot of looking around to find the best quality for your money. Remember, there are many poor quality Native-style flutes out there that may look fancy with a lot of beads and feathers or other adornments, but that do not play well. Buy from trusted, endorsed flutemakers, only, even if you are only buying the least expensive good flute on the market.

 

Question 3. Who Will You Buy Your Flute From?
This brings up the somewhat controversial question of Native-made versus Non-Native-made flutes and deserves clarification. While searching on the Internet, you will find many websites selling Native-American-style flutes which are not crafted by Native American people. This is not automatically a bad thing. The negative aspect of this is that some flute sellers illegally attempt to pass their flutes off as Native-made when they are, in fact, not. They may be manufactured by non-Native U.S. residents, or they may come from China or another foreign country. There is nothing wrong with non-Natives making and selling flutes, but it is illegal for anyone to sell a flute falsely listed as being Native-made. Such makers are legally obligated to describe their flutes as Native American-Style Flutes rather than Native American Flutes. Do not trust any website that does not make it clear whether the flute maker is Native or not. You have the right to know, and Indigenous Peoples have the right to avoid exploitation of their heritage.

 

In searching for an Anasazi Flute, you will likely soon discover that there are very few Native Americans flutemakers who have websites. Only a handful will show up for most searches, whereas there are many more non-Native-American flutemakers offering instruments for sale. Again, there is nothing wrong with purchasing your flute from the latter category of craftsmen, and in fact, many famous Indigenous musicians endorse and celebrate the work of these instrument makers, but just be sure any non-Native flutemaker is disclosing that he is not of Indigenous origins before you do business with him.

 
THE SPIRITUAL VALUE OF THE ANASAZI FLUTE TODAY RESOURCES FOR FURTHER LEARNING

Many Native Americans across the country look to the Southwest for spiritual inspiration and guidance. The Hopi People are especially beloved for their wisdom and prophecy. The United States is currently experiencing a time of change and upheaval, and many people from all walks of life are seeking new attitudes towards their fellow beings and the Earth.

 

Native Flutes Walking strongly recommends the following five-part video series in which Native American elders speak out about the changing times and the need for a fundamental change in American society.

 

Video 1
Video 2
Video 3
Video 4
Video 5

 

If you watch these videos, you will hear elders calling you to slow down, to quiet down and connect with the Earth. Music offers a wonderful medium through which you can become more reflective, calm and aware of yourself and your surroundings. The Ancestral Pueblo/Anasazi flute may enable you to express yourself, and also to begin to better discern your place on the planet.

 

Take your Anasazi flute to a woodland, beach, desert canyon or out under the stars. Spend time with your flute regularly, being sensitive to the sights and sounds around you. For many people, the Native American Flute has become an instrument of meditation and prayer, just as it has always been for Indigenous Peoples.

 

Consider sharing the gift of your music with others. There may be lonely people in your community who would love to hear you play. You might also volunteer to visit classrooms or community centers. Music can both heal and bring people together for fun and friendship.

 

Nearly all Native American flutemakers encourage their customers to view time with the flute as personal time. This is not a time to strive to be perfect, exact, or regimented. It's just you and your flute - a moment to enjoy. You can't go wrong making music on the Anasazi Flute because what you play is all about you. If you express what is in your heart, your tune will always be true.

Recommended Books and Films on Native American History

  • The People: Indians of the American Southwest, Stephen Trimble
  • 1491, Charles C. Mann
  • House of Rain, Craig Childs
  • Video Documentary: How The West Was Lost

Recommended Books on the Native American Flute

  • The Art of the Native American Flute, R. Carlos Nakai
  • Love Flute, Paul Goble
  • Flute Magic: An Introduction to the Native American Flute, Tim R. Crawford

Recommended Websites about the Native American Flute

 
 

The Anasazi Flute May Be Right For You If...

  • You have Southwestern indigenous ancestry
  • You respect and admire Southwestern cultures
  • You are looking for a challenging instrument to play
  • You want an instrument on which you can improve with practice
  • You enjoy warm, deep tones
  • You appreciate natural materials and fine workmanship
  • You feel you have music inside you waiting to come out
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Native Flutes Walking wishes you joy through music, and a good journey along the Native flute path.