Excavations in the Chama Valley, New Mexico

Excavations in the Chama Valley, New Mexico

Excavations in the Chama Valley, New Mexico

Excavations in the Chama Valley, New Mexico


In presenting this paper on the excavations carried on during the summer of 1919 in the Chama Valley it is the intention to deal with certain phases of the pre-Columbian pueblo culture of the Rio Grande and Jemez Plateau which it is believed have not been presented before in full detail. This culture has been studied to a certain extent, but there remains a vast field of virgin territory to be opened up.

On the two sides of the Chama River, from its mouth to Abiquiu, a distance of about 25 miles, there are 10 or more ruins of which practically nothing is known. From Abiquiu west the country is still a closed book, not even a scientific reconnaissance having been made in a territory covering over a hundred miles in width, and of greater length. Surveyors, ranchmen, and others who have passed through this region tell of the large numbers of ruins and minor antiquities which abound there.

At a point about 22 1/2 miles above the confluence of the Chama River and the Rio Grande, on the south side of the Chama River, is located a ruin which was formerly known as the "Turquoise village." The name, when applied to this particular ruin, was not known to any of my Tewa informants, and I learned that the correct name for it is "Po-shu-ouinge," meaning Calabash at the end of the ridge village."

As a preliminary study of the farther western country this ruin was selected for excavation, with the hope that it might be a guide to further research. New material was found, outside influence noted, and problems presented which will be dealt with in part in this paper.

The immediate vicinity of the ruin is very beautiful and the land adjacent to it and the river bed must have presented a splendid opportunity for the fields of the village. At present the whole surface of what might have been their fields is taken up by Mexican dwellings and agriculture. No evidences of former irrigating ditches or other agricultural activities are to be found, unless we except the large "mother ditch" which is still used by the Mexicans and is said to be of Indian origin.

There are two good wells at a point about 500 feet below and away from the mesa on which the ruin is located. These may have been springs which furnished the water supply for the village when it was occupied by the Indians.

We were told that there are traces of a large ditch on the mesa proper, running from a spring to the village, and bringing the water directly into the pueblo, but we were unable to find anything resembling either a ditch or a spring.

The ruin itself is located several hundred feet above the river bottoms, on a mesa which joins still higher mesas on the south. Directly across, on the north side of the river, is the mountain known to the Tewa as the "T'umayo" or "Chief Piñon Mountain." Several other names have been applied to this mountain, such as Black Mountain (English), Cerro de los Burros (Spanish), and others. It is also called "Abiquiu Mountain." This mountain must have been of particular interest to the people of Po-shu, as it, and the country immediately around it, furnished them many kinds of material for tempering their pottery, stone for making stone artifacts, crystals, quartz, and other minerals for paint and ceremonial objects.

At the northwestern foot of the T'umayo are extensive mineral and quartz beds; there may also be fossil beds, although none were found. At a short distance west of the mountain is the beginning of a vast field of copper ore of fair grade.

An abundance of piñon and small cedars covers the country in all directions. The growth is especially thick on the mesas south of the ruin. The land upon which the ruin is located has been in possession of the Cordova family since early in the eighteenth . . .

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