Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I recently had the pleasure of heading West - Southwest, to be exact - to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The city is charming, with Adobe architecture, welcoming people and amazing historic sites. The town has a lot of similarities to St. Augustine in it's Spanish colonial heritage - but also lots of differences, especially in its climate and environment.

Photo Credit: Travel See Write
Santa Fe has a long and rich history (and archaeological record!) of inhabitants dating back thousands of years. By at least 900 AD, the Pueblo Ancestors had numerous settlements in the area - some of which are still occupied today. The nearby Acoma Pueblo is the oldest communities in the United States, dating back to the 13th century! Today, 19 federally recognized Pueblos are in New Mexico, where their people continue their cultural traditions.

I visited Bandelier National Monument to check out a few Pueblo Ancestor sites. People built large village structures, up to 4 floors tall, on both mesas (mountain tops) and down in valleys. Others built houses next to the cliffs and carved cavates (small human-carved alcoves) into the cliff facings to be used for storage, living space and spiritual places. The Cavates were plastered half-way up and had ceilings cured with smoke and soot.
View from a cavates of the Tyuonyi (Qu-weh-nee) pueblo on the Main Loop Trail.
I can't help myself - I love all the little sherds! Even more, I love to see people have respected the NPS motto to "Take only photos, leave only footprints!" From the Tsankawi Trail at Bandelier.
The exact dates of the establishment of the Spanish colonial settlement of Santa Fe seems to be in dispute. Some put the date as early as 1598, others 1604, but it's agreed it was firmly in place by 1610. It's the oldest capitol in the United States, serving as the Spanish colonial capitol, the Mexican territorial capitol and long before the state capitol.
San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe - the oldest extant church in the US, dating back to at least 1628 - stands as a great reminder of the colonial history of the city.
Santa Fe has recognized it's unique history and archaeology, and ensured it's protection through local ordinances. It's one of few cities in the United States with a local archaeological ordinance that protect sites throughout the city on land of any type of ownership (others include St. Augustine, Boston and Alexandria, VA). While I was there, I caught a great exhibit about the archaeology in the city at the Palace of the Governors (yet another outstanding example of Spanish colonial architecture - built in 1610!)
Exhibit Title: "Santa Fe Found: Fragments of Time"
Great pottery sorting activity - fun for kids and non-Southwest archaeologists!
The exhibit even featured ultra-realistic collections - banker's boxes and all!
Displays featured site maps from excavations at several sites around town, including right under your feet at the Palace of the Governors.
Pottery sherds showing the cultural ties that developed between the local native peoples and the Spanish. A local Pueblo potter began using designs reminiscent of Pueblo Polychrome, a majolica made in Pueblo, Mexico.
I can't wait to go back to learn more about the city's Spanish Colonial past and to explore some of the modern Pueblos to see the vibrate native cultures that continue on today!

Text and Images by Emily Jane Murray, FPAN Staff, unless otherwise noted.

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