Canada Alamosa Project Research Design




Karl W. Laumbach



       The overall research goals of the Cañada Alamosa Project are to answer questions about human habitation and migration in a cultural borderland, the drainage of the Rio Alamosa, and to place those findings in the broader context of researchers’ and the public’s understanding of the evolution of human cultures through interaction with the environment and each other over time.

       This research design outlines the geophysical parameters as well as the principal themes, goals, and questions of the Cañada Alamosa Project. It also includes sections on the research methodologies and strategies to be followed, the modes of dissemination and education to be employed, progress reports on research and education activities and findings to date, and a list of references cited.



       The focus of this research project is the Rio Alamosa drainage system in southwestern New Mexico (figure 1). The study area includes the entirety of the drainage from its headwaters at the Plains of San Agustin to its mouth on the Rio Grande, and includes all tributary drainages.  The largest concentration of archaeological sites (and available water) in this system is located at the Ojo Caliente proper and on the adjacent Monticello Box Ranch.
       Drainage systems are often used to define a research area. The Alamosa drainage  encompasses approximately 725 square miles and ranges in elevation from 4400 to 10,334 feet above sea level.  The drainage is unique in that the Alamosa is the only Rio Grande tributary that drains the southeastern corner of the Plains of San Agustin and the west slope of the San Mateos.  Because the Alamosa runs from north to south before turning east and flowing towards the Rio Grande, it offers a natural pathway from the Plains of San Agustin and the Anasazi pueblo communities that lie to the north to the valley of the Rio Grande.  Likewise, the modern road from Winston and Beaverhead to the Ojo Caliente follows an open tributary to the Alamosa that provides a corridor to the headwaters of the Gila River and the center of the Mogollon pueblo cultural area to the south.

 By strict topographic definition, the boundaries of the proposed research area are
defined by the headwaters of all the tributaries that flow into the Rio Alamosa (figure 2).  This boundary is described as follows:

 Beginning at the confluence of the Rio Alamosa and the Rio Grande (now defined by the shoreline of the Elephant Butte Reservoir), then north to North Monticello Point, then westward parallel to and averaging 1.5 miles from the Alamosa drainage to the ridge east of Questa Blanca Canyon, then northward east of Jose Maria Canyon and past its head following the ridge line between Red Rock Arroyo and Aragon Draw. Continuing northward on the ridge between Rock Springs Canyon and the headwaters of Lumber Canyon and San Jose Arroyo up to the southern crest of the San Mateo Range on the highest point east of Vicks Peak, then, following the crest of the San Mateo Range across San Mateo Peak, Cyclone Saddle, Blue Mountain down through the divide that separates West Red and East Red Canyons, and then up to Grassy Lookout and north along the crest to Mount Withington.
       From Mount Withington, the boundary proceeds westerly along a ridgeline that separates the north trending from the south trending drainages to the saddle that separates Sargent Canyon from Baney Canyon. From that point, the boundary proceeds southwesterly along a subtle saddle that separates the Plains of San Agustin from the Rio Alamosa to the top of Lost Mines Hill.  From Lost Mines Hill, the boundary proceeds in a lazy S shape between the drainage heads to the top of Patterson Peak, thence 2 miles west to the head of Patterson Canyon and then south to follow the Continental Divide along the northern crest of the Black Range to the ridgeline that separates Straight Canyon on the south and west from Wildhorse Canyon on east.  From that point, the boundary proceeds easterly between the tributary arroyos to Wildhorse Canyon on the north and Poverty Creek on the east to the crest of Iron Mountain in the Cuchillo Negro Range. 
       From Iron Mountain the boundary follows the crest of the Cuchillo Negro Range south to Bootlegger Gap.  From Bootlegger Gap the boundary proceeds southeasterly along the ridge that separates the tributaries of Roque Ramos Canyon from those of Willow Spring Draw to a point on the mesa approximately one mile south of the Rio Alamosa.  From this point the boundary proceeds east-southeast to South Monticello Point located one-half mile south of the confluence of the Rio Alamosa and the Rio Grande at the point of beginning.

 The defined boundary includes privately held lands as well as lands administered by the United States Forest Service (Cibola and Gila National Forests), the State of New Mexico (New Mexico State Land Office), and the Bureau of Land Management, Las Cruces District (Socorro and Caballo Resource Areas). It also includes portions of Sierra, Socorro, Grant, and Catron Counties.

 The Rio Alamosa study area includes three major biotic zones (Brown and Lowe, 1980). At the lowest elevations is the Chihuahuan Desert zone. From the mouth of the Rio Grande to approximately the community of Monticello, this zone is dominated by mesquite in the sandy areas and creosote on the mesa tops that are graveled with a desert pavement left long ago by the ancestral Rio Grande.  Desert grasses, forbs, and other shrubs complete the scene. At the highest elevation is the Upland zone in the San Mateo and Wahoo Ranges.  These rugged uplands are forested with Ponderosa pine, aspen, and spruce.  Northwest of Monticello, the Transitional zone, an ecotone between the Chihuahuan Desert and the forested uplands is host to a pinyon-juniper grassland.



The Cañada Alamosa Project focuses on the recognition and interpretation of frontiers and migrations in the archaeological record. Frontiers have been defined as “the leading edges of contact and change between cultures” (Rice 1998) and as “zones of interaction” (Lightfoot and Martinez 1995:473-474;Herr 2001:12). Frontiers and boundaries are important because they recognize that social systems are open and provide perspective on the more intensely studied central places, (e.g. Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, and the Mimbres River) (Green and Perlman 1985:9). Frontiers are also zones, removed from the strictures of the central places, which allow for the creation and recreation of social identity (Herr 2001:12).  Too often frontiers are interpreted from the perspective of the core area rather than as dynamic places where new norms are often established (Herr 2001:12; Lightfoot and Martinez 1995: 476). Recently, Duff (2002) has used patterns of demography, settlement size, exchange and population density to trace interaction and the formation of new group identities in eastern Arizona. Preliminary studies suggest that the pueblo populations of the Cañada Alamosa were at times strongly linked to a central place(s) and at other times were reorganizing in an independent effort to adapt and survive. As a result, the Cañada Alamosa study area provides an opportunity to study “microscale issues on the order of individuals or segmentary groups in specific frontier contexts” as called for by Lightfoot and Martinez (1995:487).  A related phenomena, migrations, whether of a single community or a mass movement of family units, creates frontiers when they extend past established cultural boundaries. Long out of favor in the mainstream of archaeological inquiry (Anthony 1988), migrations have recently found new life in the American Southwest and elsewhere (Clark 2001; Herr 2001). Lekson et al (2002) have made a strong case that the Cañada Alamosa was the destination for a migrant community from the Mesa Verde culture area

 Another significant and related aspect of the research is the question of settlement permanency in this perennially watered, spring-fed drainage. Pueblo settlement in many southwestern valleys is interpreted as having been constant, proceeding without interruption from one phase to the next. Although alternate models exist (Nelson and Anyon 1996), repeated episodes of abandonment and resettlement within the boundaries of an area of homogenous material culture are difficult to track. This is because the succession of material cultural is predictable and standardized among the drainages adjacent to the central place and chronometric dating is rarely sufficiently precise as to ascertain short periods of abandonment. Because the Rio Alamosa is consistently located on the fringes of two or more central places through time, abandonment and resettlement becomes much more visible due to the increased variation of regional affiliations reflected in the material culture.
 Cultural Areas

 Centers of culture develop for a variety of reasons.  Most often environmental factors are key to their definition. For hunter-gatherers, the boundaries of a culture area can be defined by the distribution of key resources.  Where agriculture is practiced, a cultural area is often defined by a fertile river valley or a change in elevation that make the difference in crop production given the available agricultural technology and local rainfall.  In other cases, cultural boundaries are mandated by the presence of a different and often hostile group that restricts land use.

 When dealing with the historical record, it is often possible to enumerate exactly the reasons why a particular cultural group had distinct boundaries.  The Spanish in New Mexico, for example, had a limited population and strong agricultural and religious motivations.  For safety, they tended to concentrate their small populations. The Spanish also settled near pueblos, whose labor they sought to exploit and souls convert.  Outside the areas of pueblo settlement, the Apaches, Navajos, and Comanches were a major force in the process of boundary definition.

 Archaeologists, unlike historians, rarely have the luxury of written records or even oral tradition to explain why cultural areas appear as they do. Instead, archaeologists are required to define cultural areas by the presence of similar types of artifacts and architecture.  This practice is based on ethnographic analogy; contemporary New Mexico pueblos still maintain traditional styles of ceramics that reflect a specific tradition. Present day pueblos, however, occupy much smaller and more discrete areas than do many of the prehistoric cultural areas defined by archaeologists.  When we talk about the Chaco System or the Mimbres culture area, we are talking about areas of literally thousands of square miles, where the material culture (pottery, architecture, etc.) looks the same during a specific time period that is often more than 100 years in length.

 What were the relationships between and among the prehistoric peoples that occupied those areas?  Were they truly part of extended and related systems, something approaching nation states?  Or were the relationships looser and less defined than suggested by the pottery types and architecture that archaeologist so love to categorize and debate? In short, do sites and areas deemed similar reflect a biological relationship, a cultural relationship, both, or neither?  By what processes and according to what factors do populations “change their clothes” and adopt the cultural practices and symbols of another group?  When and how can the intrusion of a band of newcomers, of a culturally distinct group, be determined? And how are these questions best answered through the discipline of archaeology?

 Cultural relationships are difficult enough to interpret with prehistoric agriculturists.  When we attempt to ask the same questions of a set of Archaic hunter-gatherer sites, we are faced with projectile point styles and lithic reduction methods as the primary cultural indicators and with sites that are, for the most part, shallow, short lived, poorly dated, and contain only limited information.  The time periods are longer (often at least 1000 years), and finding a set of sites within an area that clearly reflect the seasonal round of a specific Archaic group is a major accomplishment.

 In contrast, prehistoric agricultural sites offer a wide variety of material culture. The most prevalent and determinative are the ceramic assemblages. Ceramics from the pueblo sites on the Rio Alamosa exhibit radical changes in ceramic traditions in a relatively short period of time.  The Alamosa’s ceramic sequence is not as easy to grasp as that, for instance, in the northern Rio Grande/Chama areas, where the ceramic sequence of Santa Fe Black-on-white to Wiyo Black-on-white to Biscuit A to Biscuit B to Tewa Polychrome have all been attributed to a group of Tewa speaking pueblos based on common elements of ceramic technology.  Instead, on the Rio Alamosa, the pueblo period ceramic sequence is Mimbres Black-on-white to Socorro Black-on-white to Tularosa Black-on-white to Magdalena Black-on-white to Glaze ware.  Other than the White Mountain Red Ware sequence (St. John’s Polychrome to Glaze ware), the ceramic trajectory simply does not follow the progressive sequence that would be expected in the absence of intrusive contact.

  The architectural sequence is as radical, but architecture, we know, is less tradition bound than ceramic production.  The architecture begins with pit structures (shape and size currently unknown), is followed by jacal or rough laid stone associated with the Mimbres Black-on-white, then more rough laid stone and carefully selected dry laid stone masonry with the Socorro and Tularosa Black-on-white and Saint John’s Polychrome, and finally with shaped slabs of compound and (mortared) masonry with the Magdalena Black-on-white/Glaze ware ceramics.


 The cores of cultural areas, because their material culture is relatively unmixed with that of adjacent culture areas, are much easier to define than their boundaries. Cultural boundaries, or margins, are defined by the spatial limits of material culture. Thus, sites on boundaries tend to include greater amounts of material culture from adjacent areas or the marginal zone will feature sites representative of the overlapping areas.  Boundaries are more or less definable depending on the time period that is being discussed.  In general, the older the material, the less clearly boundaries can be defined.

The Archaic (ca. 5500 B.C. - A.D 1) 

 For the Archaic, boundary definition is almost impossible for several reasons.  To begin with, Archaic culture areas are based almost exclusively on projectile point styles, environmental parameters, and limited work in stratified site. Thus all that can really be said is that a particular broad environmental area (e.g. the San Juan Plateau or the northern Chihuahuan Desert) contains a sequence of Archaic materials of which most appear to have been made in the same stylistic sequence. Archaic populations were highly mobile, covering and often overlapping adjacent territory. Again, we are dealing with poorly dated sites and periods that can easily span one thousand years.  A lot can happen in one thousand years.

 So far very little Archaic material has been found in the Rio Alamosa drainage.    Spatially, the Rio Alamosa is located between three Archaic culture areas, each of which is defined on the basis of limited excavation (figure 3).  To the northwest is the  stratified sequence from Bat Cave (Dick 1965), which is duplicated on open sites in the Plains of San Agustin. It is included, perhaps erroneously, in the Oshara Archaic Tradition, the ancestors of the Anasazi pueblos (Irwin-Williams 1972).  To the southeast is the Chihuahua Tradition of the northern Chihuahuan Desert, which is defined primarily by excavations in the Las Cruces area (MacNeish and Becket 1987).  To the southwest is the Cochise Culture, an Archaic sequence defined in southeastern Arizona and applied to southwestern New Mexico.  The Cochise Culture is one of the earliest and therefore the most venerable of the archaeologically defined Archaic cultures (Sayles and Antevs 1941). 
 All of these Archaic sequences have at least some projectile point styles and other attributes that are similar if not identical to each other.  The major distinction is one of environmental and resource parameters. In short, named Archaic cultural areas probably don’t mean very much in terms of actual culture.  Or if they do, the data are not yet available to support these distinctions with any certainty.  It is much more profitable, and wiser, to view the Archaic in terms of adaptation to specific environments with a weather eye to the distribution and movement of specific lithic materials and tool types, including projectile points.  This is, of course, what most modern researchers do. But that doesn’t help much when the research topic is boundaries and frontiers.  However, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that certain styles of lithic tools appear to be restricted to or at least more prevalent in certain areas.

Pithouse Period (A.D. 1 - A.D. 950)

      The introduction of ceramics around A.D. 1 allowed archaeologists to divide ceramic sites in New Mexico into two basic groups.  A combination of gray ware ceramics and round pithouses in the northern section of the state distinguished the Anasazi from the Mogollon in the south, who constructed brown ware ceramics and square pithouses.  Sites of the pithouse period in the Rio Alamosa are clearly Mogollon rather than Anasazi. This is based on the highly polished red and brown wares found at the earliest sites and the Mogollon red-on-brown at slightly later sites. 

 The nearest Anasazi pithouse villages are on the Rio Puerco north of Socorro and on the Rio Grande east of Socorro (Wimberly and Eidenbach 1980;Marshall and Walt 1984). Clearly, the pithouse period cultural boundary lies somewhere between the Rio Alamosa and the Rio Puerco (figure 4).  The earliest pithouse sites on the Rio Alamosa are some of the northernmost containing Mogollon cultural materials with no admixture of Anasazi materials. Sites on the Rio Salado, located between the Rio Alamosa and the Rio Puerco, contain mixed assemblages over a lengthy time period suggesting a local population with contacts to the north and the south (Wimberly and Eidenbach 1980).

 Wilson (1995) discusses a perceived northerly movement of Mogollon brown ware sites at about A.D. 600 that reached as far as Chaco Canyon. There is a corresponding string of early (ca. A.D. 700) brown ware pithouse sites found all the way up the Rio Grande to present day Albuquerque.  An Anasazi painted white ware, San Marcial black-on-white, finds its way down the Rio Grande as a tradeware on pithouse sites dating to ca. A.D. 700 (Laumbach 1974). Numerous sherds of San Marcial Black-on-white have been identified on the pithouse component of the Victorio Site and Herbert Yeo lists San Marcial Black-on-white as present on pithouse sites in the lower Alamosa drainage. A pithouse village dating to roughly the same time period was recently excavated on the Cuchillo Negro drainage near the town of Cuchillo, one drainage south of the Alamosa (Schutt et. al. 1991). 

 Only two pithouse sites are currently known in the core study area.  Field survey has identified several pithouse components immediately down canyon. Late Pithouse sites dating from A.D. 750-950 and containing assemblages of Mimbres Boldface Black-on-white have not yet been located, although a few sherds of Mimbres Boldface Black-on-white have been found.  By this later pithouse period the boundaries between the Mogollon and Anasazi are more clearly defined (figure 5).

Pueblo Period (A.D. 950 - A.D 1450) 

 The pueblo era in southwestern New Mexico begins at about A.D. 950 when surface architecture first appears (LeBlanc 1983).  Up to this time the material culture of the Mogollon culture was reasonably consistent throughout the area, with the late pithouse phase characterized by Mimbres Boldface Black-on-white.  Then the material culture of the northern portion of the Mogollon area takes on a decidedly Anasazi look (figure 6).  In the west, along the San Francisco River, Mimbres Boldface Black-on-white is replaced by Reserve Black-on-white, instead of its natural technological descendants, Mimbres Transitional and Mimbres Classic Black-on-white.  Temper, application of paint and polish, and design style of Reserve Black-on-white is a major diversion from established Mogollon ceramic technology.  This has been interpreted as everything from “Anasazi influence” to an outright migration from the north (Bussey 1982; Oakes 1999: 35-42). Socorro Black-on-white, a contemporary type very similar to Reserve Black-on-white, intrudes into the Mogollon culture area on the Cañada Alamosa.  This intrusion of Anasazi ceramic styles is the first observable, significant change in material culture along the boundary of the Mogollon and Anasazi cultural areas.  Although still defined by archaeologists as Mogollon, the northern edge of the Mogollon area is designated as the Cibola Branch, whereas the core area to the south, where the Mimbres technological sequence proceeds uninterrupted to its zenith, is referred to as the Mimbres Branch (Wheat 1955).

Mimbres Phase/Reserve Phase (A.D. 950-AD. 1150)

 Sites with Mimbres assemblages (e.g. the Montoya Site), including Mimbres Classic Black-on-white, Mimbres Corrugated, and red washed wares, are present along the Rio Alamosa from at least as far west as the Ojo Caliente to the mouth of the Rio Alamosa at the Rio Grande (Laumbach 1992).  None of the sites yet recorded, which date from this period, are equal in size to the 100 room sites located farther south. However, their ceramic assemblages are clearly Mimbres with only a few intrusive sherds.  Based on current knowledge, these are the most northerly examples of Mimbres sites and clearly represent the boundary of Mimbres material culture at A.D. 1100 (figure 6; Lekson 1985). Further to the south in the Black Range, Nelson makes a case for a post classic Mimbres occupation lasting well into the 12th century (Nelson 1999; Nelson et al 1999). It is possible that sites with Mimbres white ware on the Alamosa may be part of this phenomena.

 Assuming that the sequence is unbroken from the early Mogollon pithouse sites through the Mimbres Phase, a ceramic type called Mimbres Transitional Black-on-white should be present on some of the early pueblo sites.  At this time, only a few examples of that type have been identified on survey.

 Contemporary with the Mimbres sites on the Rio Alamosa are sites that were defined as Cibola Branch, Reserve Phase (Laumbach 1992). Additional survey and excavation have revealed that the dominant ceramic type on these sites is actually the stylistically similar Socorro Black-on-white (e.g. Kelly Canyon Site). Architecturally, these Socorro Phase sites follow the Anasazi pattern of linear room blocks associated with a pithouse or kiva and are the most southerly known such sites by at least 60 miles. Socorro Black-on-white is the dominant painted ware on contemporary Anasazi sites found on the Rio Salado and in the Gallinas Mountains near Magdalena.

 It should be noted that sherds of Reserve Black-on-white are associated with both the Mimbres and the Socorro Phase sites.  The center of production for Reserve Black-on-white is approximately 90 miles west along the New Mexico-Arizona border.

       Thus the Rio Alamosa is the northern boundary for the Mimbres Phase, the southern boundary for the Socorro Phase, and is on the fringes of the eastern boundary for the distribution of Reserve Black-on-white (figure 6), although, so far, no “pure” Reserve Black-on-white sites have been located. These distributions show the Rio Alamosa to have been a meeting point for three early pueblo cultural areas, with the possibility of two sets of material cultures existing side by side.  Both the Socorro Phase and Mimbres Phase are represented by extensive field house systems that are common for the time period.

Tularosa Phase (A.D. 1150 - A.D. 1275)

 The Tularosa Phase is represented by several sites found on the Rio Alamosa.  Pueblo sites range from 30 to 60 masonry rooms up to the Victorio Site’s 447 rooms (Laumbach and Wakeman 1999).  The ceramics and architecture of the Tularosa Phase are the technological descendants of those from the Reserve and Socorro Phases. This phase’s pottery types are dominated by Tularosa Black-on-white and St. John’s Polychrome, but include Chupadero Black-on-white and the series of Tularosa corrugated wares.

 The Tularosa Phase sites are the easternmost known of their type.  Tularosa Phase sites are also found on the two Black Range drainages immediately south of the Alamosa, the Cuchillo Negro and the Palomas Creeks (Nelson 1986; Laumbach and Kirkpatrick 1983). 

 To the south and east along the Rio Grande and its tributaries, sites contemporaneous with Tularosa Phase sites are Early El Paso Phase sites constructed of adobe and containing the early direct-rimmed version of El Paso Polychrome as well as Chupadero Black-on-white and Playas Red Incised.  Tularosa Black-on-white and St. John’s Polychrome are present in limited quantities (Laumbach and Kirkpatrick 1983).  On the Rio Mimbres and southern Black Range, the same type of sites are called Black Mountain Phase (LeBlanc 1983; Nelson et al 1999:158-162)

 Directly to the north, across the Plains of San Agustin, sites in the Gallinas Mountains and along the Rio Salado are thought to have been deserted from about A.D. 1150 until the late 1200’s and early 1300’s when the large, 300 to 500 room Gallinas Springs pueblo was occupied (Wilson 1995). However, the presence of Socorro Black-on-white, Tularosa Black-on-white and St. John’s Polychrome at Gallinas Springs suggests a continuous occupation of that site from the 1100’s through the late 1200’s (Knight 1981). 
 The Gallinas Springs site is something of an enigma. The presence of a Mesa Verde/McElmo-like carbon paint ceramic called Magdalena Black-on-white has led to speculation about a migration from Mesa Verde to this locale (Davis 1964).  Limited excavations have recovered assemblages reminiscent of the Reserve and Tularosa Phases while approximately 15% of the total assemblage is Magdalena Black-on-white (Knight 1981; Gomolak and Knight 1990).  Lekson et al (2002) have made a strong case that the Pinnacle Ruin is an outlying emigrant community associated with Gallinas Springs Pueblo.

 Along the Rio Grande north of the confluence of the Rio Alamosa, the area is largely deserted until 10-15 miles south of Socorro where the first of a series of Late Elmendorf phase sites is located (Marshall and Walt 1984). Thus the Tularosa Phase sites on the Rio Alamosa and the two southern drainages form a eastern extension of the Cibola Branch with frontiers on the east and south (figure 7).

Magdalena Phase/Glaze Ware Sites (A.D. 1300 - 1450)

 The latest of the pueblo periods on the Rio Alamosa is represented by three (or more) masonry pueblos containing a late ceramic assemblage which includes both Magdalena Black-on-white and early Glaze wares associated with both the western and the Rio Grande glaze ware traditions. Limited excavation at Pinnacle Ruin suggests there may be a temporal hiatus between the carbon paint and glaze components. Glaze wares include Heshotauthla Glaze Polychrome, Kwakina Polychrome, Pinnawa Polychrome, Pinedale Polychrome and  Agua Fria Glaze-on-red. Other types include the late version of El Paso Polychrome with an everted rim and Seco Corrugated.  An adobe Late El Paso Phase site is located at the mouth of the Rio Alamosa about a mile from the Rio Grande (Lekson 1985).  All of these sites contain very similar ceramic assemblages. However the cobble masonry construction of the two sites near the Monticello Box and the compound masonry at Pinnacle Ruin distinguish these sites from the El Paso Phase adobe built sites found further south in the Black Range or along the Rio Grande.  The nearest known Glaze A site on the Rio Grande is located at the mouth of Milligan Gulch near the north end of the Fra Cristobal range (Marshall and Walt 1984).  Others are located in the Bear Mountains and on the Rio Salado north of Magdalena (Wimberly and Eidenbach 1980).

 The sites near the Ojo Caliente appear to be true early glaze ware sites. As such, they and Pinnacle Ruin are the southernmost. Like Pinnacle Ruin, they both appear to have an underlying Magdalena Black-on-white component. The nearest known similar, contemporary sites to the west are Salado sites near Glenwood on the San Francisco drainage. To the north, a similar glaze ware assemblage is present at Gallina Springs. Once again, it appears, the Rio Alamosa was a borderland (figure 8), although by this point in time, the ceramic assemblages on sites over a wide area of south central and southwestern New Mexico look remarkably alike (Schaafsma 1980; Lekson 1992b).

The Apache (A.D. 1500? -1879)

      The Tchine (Chi-en-day) Apache, or Red Paint People, also known as the Mimbres, Eastern Chiricahua, or Warm Springs Apaches, claimed the Ojo Caliente and the Rio Alamosa as their homeland.  Historically, the Rio Alamosa is in the northeastern corner of the hunting ground utilized by the Eastern Chiricahua Apache (Basehart 1959).  Bordering the Apache to the north was Navajo territory. It is recorded that the groups intermarried and regularly asked permission to enter each other’s territory to hunt game (figure 9).

 To the east was the territory of the Mescalero Apache (Basehart 1959). According to oral sources the boundary was the Rio Grande.  However, Salinas Peak in the San Andres Mountain range is named as a peak sacred to the Warm Springs Apache. It is likely that the San Andres range is a more accurate boundary.

The Hispanic/Apache Frontier (1581-1846)

 Spanish explorers first moved up the Rio Grande in 1581.  By 1621, the Spanish were aware of “Apaches de Gila” living west of the Rio Grande (Wilson 1975).  Apache raids on pueblos and Spanish settlements led to Spanish military expeditions into the region beginning in the mid-1600’s; they continued until the late 1700’s (Thomas 1969).  By the 1790’s, the Spanish had installed a reservation-like system that provided a reasonably stable period until 1821, when Mexico separated from Spain.  After that, relations with the Apache deteriorated. By the late 1830’s, massive raids involving as many as 200 Apache warriors were being launched out of the Gila into Chihuahua and Sonora.

 No attempts at Spanish settlement are known for the Rio Alamosa during this period (Wilson 1985).  Significantly, the Spanish name for the Cañada Alamosa and the Monticello Box area was Salsipuedes (go if you can).

The Hispanic-American Frontier, North vs. South (1859 - present)

 For much of the early historic period, the area from El Paso del Norte to Socorro was not settled, serving only as a corridor for travel between northern New Mexico and Mexico from the time of the first Spanish colonization in 1598. This was primarily due to the Apache threat and to the fact that the Rio Grande flooded unpredictably, destroying fields and buildings. 

        In 1859, the arrival of United States troops and the construction of Fort Craig provided a market for agricultural goods. A party of Hispanic colonists from Socorro, Belen and Los Lunas settled the Rio Grande floodplain south of Socorro (Wilson 1988). By 1863, a second fort, Fort McCrae, was built near Elephant Butte. When flooding became a problem, the farmers moved up the Rio Alamosa and later the Rio Cuchillo Negro drainages to create the communities of Cañada Alamosa (Monticello), Cuchillo Negro, and Chise.  In doing so, the colonists, whose ancestors had been relatively isolated from mainstream Mexico for 260 years, became the southernmost extension of the northern New Mexico Hispanic culture (figure 10).  All the areas to the south were later (after 1870) settled by colonists from modern day northern Mexico. At first blush, this may not seem like a major difference. But, as a result of this settlement pattern, the local Spanish dialect and traditions are clearly those of northern New Mexico rather than those of Mexico.

 Relationships with the Apache during this period were tenuous.  Actually, many of the early problems were with Navajo rather than Apache raiders, although conflicts with the Apache through the 1860’s are documented (Wilson 1985).  However when the impetus for a reservation at Ojo Caliente was born circa 1870, the Hispanic farmers welcomed it as a market for their products and relationships with the Apache became quite strong.  At the time of the Victorio War in 1879, the local Hispanics were routinely accused of sheltering the Apache and providing them with guns and ammunition. 

 When Ft. Craig and, later, Ft. McCrae were established, the Anglo population was primarily limited to soldiers and a few trappers and traders.  By the 1870’s, miners, ranchers, farmers, and shopkeepers had been added to the mix.  This created a tri-cultural frontier which mirrored others throughout New Mexico, but which was unique in that the Warm Springs Apache were one member of the triad.  Anglo men, in the absence of Anglo women, married Hispanics and, in many cases, adopted that culture as their own.  While intermarriage with Apaches was less frequent and Anglos tended to be less amenable to relationships with the Apache than were the Hispanics, relationships did occur.  The friendship between Andrew Kelly (from whom Kelly Canyon derives its name) and Victorio was a prime example (Thrapp 1980).

 Political pressure to move the Warm Springs Apache off their reservation resulted in the tragic Victorio War of 1879 and 1880.  With the Victorio War and subsequent departure of the Warm Springs Apache, only the Hispanic and Anglo interface was left and it remains to this day.



 Frontiers are dynamic. They change over time. Thus they can be categorized according to their relative flexibility and susceptibility to change.  Frontiers can be zones of constant interaction and free trade (the NAFTA concept) wherein people and goods move back and forth across the boundary with relative ease.  Zones of interaction are reflected in the material culture by a wide band of archaeological sites wherein trade goods from adjacent cultural areas are frequent.  Frontiers can also be exclusive (the Iron Curtain concept) where little in the way of material culture is exchanged and the possibility of conflict is high.  Exclusive boundaries are reflected in the archaeological record by a dearth of trade items from the adjacent areas and sites, which suggests defensive concerns.

 Both exclusive and interactive frontiers can be either static, with little movement of the boundary over time, or fluid, wherein the boundary expands and contracts frequently, usually in response to migration, war, population growth, environmental stress, or assimilation of a neighboring group.

 The following discussion provides a preliminary assessment of frontiers through time on the Rio Alamosa.

 The Archaic Period is characterized by relatively small, mobile populations supporting themselves by either following herds of game animals (early) and/or exploiting or nurturing seasonally available resources (late).  The nature of the Rio Alamosa frontier during the Archaic can be assessed by the frequency of contemporary projectile point styles and source location of specific lithic material types.

 It is probable that boundaries will appear interactive in Archaic sites, due largely to the small, mobile populations of the period.  If a particularly desirable and spatially limited seasonal resource can be identified, the level of actual group interaction might be assessed, provided, of course, that contemporaneity of occupation can be established.

 Based on very limited available data, the Early Pithouse Period (A.D. 200-500) seems to be characteristically Mogollon.  Use of landscape during this period should be similar to that of the preceding Archaic groups.  Structural sites should be shallow, circular pithouses on low terraces. 

 Assessment of the Rio Alamosa frontier during this period would be based on similar data as the Archaic. The exception is that a limited number of ceramics are added to the assemblage, allowing petrographic analysis to provide source areas for clays and tempering materials.   The expectation is that boundaries tended to be static.

 The Pithouse Period (A.D. 500-750) is marked by a series of apparently fortified sites along the Rio Alamosa and the distribution of brownware ceramics north into the Anasazi cultural area along a broad front. While fortified pithouse sites are located across the southwest during this time period, the concentration of them in the Rio Alamosa and adjacent areas is noteworthy. 
      Herbert Yeo first commented on these sites, calling them “F” sites (Lekson 1990).  “F” sites are found along the Rio Grande from San Marcial to Truth or Consequences and up the Alamosa and Cuchillo Negro drainages.  These sites are contemporary with a series of brownware sites up the Rio Grande to Albuquerque and across the Plains to San Agustin all the way to Chaco Canyon.  An early Anasazi painted ware, San Marcial Black-on-white, finds its way south to appear in Mogollon pithouse sites of the period (Laumbach 1974; Wilson 1995).  This ceramic type was found originally on the Rio Grande by Mera, but Wilson has identified a number of sites containing San Marcial Black-on-white west of Magdalena. Given the indications of both movement of material culture and defensive locations, it seems likely that cultural boundaries were both exclusive and fluid during this period. 

 The Late Pithouse Period (A.D. 750-950) is not well documented on the Rio Alamosa. Data from other areas suggest that boundaries were static and somewhat exclusive with little trade ware from the north.  Interaction is to the east, across the Rio Grande, as indicated by the frequency of Mimbres Boldface Black-on-white as a trade ware in that direction. Sites are not fortified and are found on low terraces, often beneath later pueblo sites. However, the situation on the Rio Alamosa may be very different.
 Unlike the preceding late pithouse period, boundaries during the Mimbres/Socorro/Reserve Phase (A.D. 950-1150) are not static but remain interactive. As discussed above, the material culture of the Socorro/Reserve Phases is a marked departure from the underlying Late Pithouse material and can be viewed as an intrusion either of Anasazi population, material culture, or both. Reserve Black-on-white dominates the intrusive ceramic assemblage in the west. In the east (Cañada Alamosa), where the Late Pithouse period is not represented, it is Socorro Black-on-white that fills the cultural void.  For the Mimbres Phase, interaction remains focused to the east and the Jornada Mogollon area although limited trade ware is found on Reserve and Socorro Phase sites. 
 The settlement pattern during this period is extensive and is characterized by numerous small sites. As sites of either phase are not fortified or particularly defensive in nature, it stands to reason that, if contemporary, assemblages of both phases should reflect high numbers of trade wares, the result of material culture interaction rather than group intrusions.  Given that the Rio Alamosa boasts both Socorro and Mimbres Phase sites, investigations should focus on their contemporaniety during this 200-year period and the degree of visible exchange in material culture.

 The Anasazi intrusion appears to continue unchecked as the Tularosa Phase (A.D. 1175-1275) material culture becomes dominant along the upstream flows of the Rio Alamosa and the Cuchillo Negro. The size and structure of the Victorio Site are suggestive of large post-Chaco sites found in the Zuni area (Anyon et. al. 1980; Reed et. al. 1992) and suggest the possibility of migration. An alternative explanation is that the extensive settlement pattern of the Socorro Phase shifted to one of aggregation during the Tularosa Phase.  Ceramic assemblages also indicate significant amounts of interaction with the Early El Paso Phase occupation to the south and east.  However, the fact that the Alamosa’s Tularosa Phase sites are either in defensive positions, with enclosed plazas, or in apparently aggregated situations leaves one to wonder if all was not peaceful. Conversely, Early El Paso Phase sites for the same period have open, non-defensive ground plans and locations. Their ceramic assemblages also indicate a fair amount of interaction with their Tularosa Phase neighbors. 

 The Magdalena Phase/Early Glaze period (A.D. 1300-1450) begins an era of truly defensive pueblo sites in the Cañada Alamosa coinciding with the arrival/introduction of carbon paint ceramics in the Mesa Verde style. In contrast to previous periods, all the sites of this period are either on defensive locations or/and built around central plazas, suggesting fortification. In like manner, the late El Paso Phase sites south and east of the Rio Alamosa are built around interior plazas. As asserted by Killey (1996) in his treatise on primitive warfare, walls are more than just symbols of exclusion. This combination of material cultural interchange and site defensiveness is paradoxical. Most scholars agree that the Apache arrived on the scene after this period. For whatever reasons, these last pueblo sites on the Rio Alamosa were abandoned before the arrival of the intrusion of the Spanish inaugurates the Historical Period.

 The Historical Period (A.D. 1540-1880) begins with Coronado’s expedition into northern New Spain in 1540. Although Coronado’s reconnaissance in force failed in its immediate objectives, it proved to be the first concrete step in the establishment of the Spanish colony of New Mexico amidst the pueblos in the upper Rio Grande valley. The Spanish intrusion and the cultural exchange it triggered eventually transformed the Pueblo communities it conquered and produced Hispanic communities marked by a distinctive blend of Old and New World ways.
 The Apache of New Mexico were, in a sense, another product of the Spanish intrusion (Taylor: 2001). Through trade and raiding of Hispanic and Pueblo settlements, the congeries of Athabascan-speaking bands of hunter-gatherers, called Apache by the Spanish (using the Zuni word for enemy), obtained the horses and, eventually, the guns that transformed their culture and equipped them to prey effectively upon and defend themselves against the Pueblo and Hispanic towns and villages of New Mexico.       
 Bands of Apaches certainly controlled the Alamosa area from the 17th century until their defeat in the late 19th century. Culturally, Apaches left even less at their sites than their nomadic precursors, the Archaic groups. As a result, evaluating Apache material culture on a site-by-site basis is problematical. Metal and ceramic objects, gotten through trade and raiding of Hispanic and Pueblo communities, were useful and valuable items to the Apache, and, along with their wikkiup rings, provide the most common clues to their presence. The total absence of contemporaneous pueblo sites within Apache territory is a sobering indication of just how exclusive Apache boundaries were. 

 Even during the late Spanish period, when a reservation-like system was in place, only the establishment of the village of Santa Rita at the copper mines west of the Mimbres River intruded on Apache territory in southern New Mexico.  The next settlements to so impose themselves were the farmers who came south to supply Ft. McCrae.

 Significantly, the Hispanic towns all shared a common trait with the latest of the pueblo sites.  They were all built around a central plaza and appear fortified. Historical records make it clear that they were used as forts.

 With the end of the Apache threat, Hispanic and Anglo settlers increasingly  intermingled, both spatially and through intermarriage.  It is expected that a site-by-site inventory of material culture coupled with an examination of land ownership records and oral histories would reveal changing patterns of Anglo and Hispanic exclusion and interaction as industrialization intrudes, world wars are fought, and a new world economy is created.


 A key research question of the Cañada Alamosa Project is whether or not the same biological population inhabited the sequence of prehistoric archaeological sites found on the Rio Alamosa.  Did the local population have a real talent for “changing the clothes” of material culture or did new populations either push out or join the existing ones?
 In other areas of the southwest, researchers are constantly making assumptions about whether or not local populations remained local or abandoned their home areas. Researchers often base a number of subsequent arguments on the assumption that there is biological continuity even when there are radical changes in the material culture attributed to a specific population.  In southwestern New Mexico, answering this question will, for instance, provide strong direction in determining the fate of the Mimbres people, whose distinctive material culture vanished without a trace to be replaced within a few years by very different forms of ceramic and architectural technology. 

       We should approach with caution both the assumption that the Mimbres “changed clothes” and the long-held assumption that they abandoned their centuries-old homeland.  Before we pursue the reasons why a group abandons a well-developed material culture and adopts another, it seems reasonable to make sure that this is, in fact, what happened.  The best way to do that is to establish a biological continuity or lack thereof between populations resident on the Alamosa.  Furthermore, because the Rio Alamosa has been a frontier over centuries and even millennia, this question is raised by the several instances of observed radical change in material culture in the study area.

 Given the availability of DNA analysis, this is, at first blush, not a problem.  All one would need to do is obtain samples of human bone from dated contexts throughout the cultural sequence and scientifically determine the degree to which the populations were biologically related. However, most Native Americans believe that such an analysis performed on the remains of their ancestors would be sacrilegious.  Anyone pursuing such a goal would be the target of considerable criticism.

 Other ways are available for determining biological continuity or discontinuity. Physical measurement and non-distructive examination of skeletal remains can help answer these kinds of questions but require an extensive data base from all periods. Less direct but contributing analyses include:

1) Inclusive petrographic and neutron activation analyses of the local ceramic sequence in an effort to demonstrate a continual use of local clay and temper sources.

2) Phytolith analysis of corn associated with the local sequences to determine if a single strain is maintained through time or if new strains appear during a particular time period.

3) Analyses of faunal and macrofloral remains that demonstrate either a continuum of conditions or periods of rejuvenation and replenishment of resources between occupations.

 Phil Shelley of Eastern New Mexico University has suggested that, instead of performing DNA analysis on human remains, the analysis should be performed on the canine remains associated with the human populations in question. As packs of dogs tend to stay with groups of people, this appears to be a non-controversial if untested approach to determining biological continuity. 




 Environmental change and human responses to it are, we propose, key factors in explaining the sequence of interaction, exclusion, and intrusion on the Rio Alamosa. Much of the available environmental data we have come from adjacent areas.  In general, we know that the climate has been growing progressively warmer over the past 10,000 years.  However, during the past 3000 years, wet and dry cycles have had profound effects on hunters and gatherers, agriculturists, and ranchers alike.  Conversely, human activities have altered the environment in equally profound ways.

 Archaeologists obtain environmental data from five main sources.  These are geomorphological, palynological, dendroclimatological, macrobotanical, and faunal sources. Each of these sources has its strengths and its limitations. 

 Geomorphological information is derived from documentation of arroyo cutting and filling and by relating those processes to climate change.  The basic premise that arroyos will fill during periods of regular rainfall and cut during drier periods, however, does not allow fully for the complexity of factors affecting cutting and filling. These factors include vegetation type, the morphology of soils in the drainage basin, and the intensity of the rainfall.  Dating these geomorphic episodes with radiocarbon or temporally diagnostic artifacts can render more fine-grained sequences of rainfall patterns.

 Palynological information is derived from fossil plant pollen preserved in datable contexts. Fluctuations in the count of particular plant pollens can be a sensitive indicator of environmental change. However, because pollen is airborne and can also be introduced by human activity, one must be very careful with interpreting local environments based on pollen data.

 Dendroclimatology, or the study of climate change through tree-rings, is an excellent source of both chronometric and climatic data.  Once a chronology for a particular area has been established by coring live trees and recovering beams from archaeological sites, patterns of annual rainfall can be correlated with absolute dates, providing the archaeologist very specific information. 

 Macrobotanical data is obtained from plant fragments preserved in packrat nests and in the hearths or features of prehistoric sites.  Packrats, because they gather all local plants within a few hundred feet of their den, create an environmental sequence in their nests.  Plant materials identified in the preserved charcoal of human-made hearths likewise produce an environmental time capsule, although all botanical elements of the environment are rarely if ever represented.  Plant fragments from both packrat nests and hearths can be identified by a botanist and then dated using radiocarbon techniques.

 Faunal material (bone) is common in archaeological sites and can also be collected from packrat middens.  They provide a great deal of environmental information as well as  clues to the nature and focus of human subsistence.

 The climatic patterns of the Rio Alamosa in prehistoric times are not specifically known.  Much of what we think we know about the climatic sequence in the Rio Alamosa study area is based on research done in adjacent regions. While the broad patterns of environmental change are clear, data to elucidate changes during one hundred year periods are difficult to obtain in the absence of a local tree-ring sequence. And environmental data from adjacent areas, including tree ring sequences, should be viewed with caution, since micro-regional variations in moisture patterns may have been a significant factor in culture change from valley to valley. 

        Our current knowledge from adjacent areas comes from tree-ring data in the Mimbres Valley fifty miles to the south and the San Francisco Valley seventy miles to the west.  While the dry desert mountains to the east of Cañada Alamosa have not yielded a lengthy tree-ring sequence, studies of packrat middens in those ranges have been fruitful. Perhaps the most relevant tree-ring sequence to the study area has been taken from the Magdalena Mountains and the northern portion of the San Mateo Range located 30 to 50 miles north of the project area (Grissino-Mayer et al. 1997:27-28). The San Mateo Mountains is considered to be one of the most promising tree-ring sites in the Southwest due to its extensive range and steep talus slopes.  Data from the San Mateos was included in a 1373 year general reconstruction of annual precipitation in the Rio Grande Basin (Grissino-Mayer et al. 1997).

 The seminal works on the climate of southwestern New Mexico were based upon geomorphological studies (Antevs 1955) and upon pollen studies (Martin 1963).  While both studies are problematic, they provide a broad view of climatic change for the last 10,000 years, a view that has been refined with macrobotanical data from packrat middens (Van Devender et. al. 1983).  The data reflect a cool, humid climate during the late glacial period of 14,000 to 11,000 B.P.  At that time, the desert mountains supported a mixed conifer forest, including Douglas Fir, while the lower elevations supported a juniper-oak woodland. 

        This was followed by a 3000-year period of warm, dry weather that resulted in a shift at lower elevations to desert grasslands.  The succeeding 4000-year interval was somewhat wetter, but saw a continued decrease in woodlands and an increase in desert plant species. By 4000 B.P. (2000 B.C), the Chihuahuan Desert had completed its move north and the local environment approximated its current condition. 

        Thus the broad perspective shows a constantly drying climate with periodic episodes of increased moisture.  The last 3000 years have been relatively stable if viewed holistically, but every 100-year period has seen significant fluctuations in moisture patterns that could have drastically affected a population growing increasingly dependent upon agriculture.  An important objective of the Cañada Alamosa project will be to develop a refined environmental sequence for the past 3000 years.

 The Cañada Alamosa project has the opportunity to develop this local climatic sequence with improved techniques and to compare it to the sequences from adjacent areas. The goal of such a study will be to develop a refined paleoclimatic sequence with which to interpret culture change in the Rio Alamosa drainage.  Evidence from the sites should also provide a record of human impacts on the environment.  Initially these data will be used to test the general model of climatic and culture change found in the preceding text. As the data are refined, the paradigms will almost certainly shift, to be retested with the next available data. 


 The overall research goals of the Cañada Alamosa Project are to answer questions about human habitation and migration in a cultural borderland and to place those findings in the broader context of researchers’ and the public’s understanding of the evolution of human cultures through interaction with the environment and each other over time.
        When focused on prehistoric populations living in the Alamosa drainage, project researchers will endeavor to answer these specific questions:

 _ Where were human settlements long the Rio Alamosa located,
     and what were the dates and sequences of their occupation and abandonment?

 _ What were the environmental, demographic, and socio/political
     factors that caused people to abandon these prehistoric sites?

 _ Were the populations living along the Alamosa biologically and/or
     culturally continuous or discontinuous?

 _ What sort of contact did the prehistoric peoples of the Rio
     Alamosa have with each other and with other, more distant communities?
  _ If migration did occur, what were the sizes and composition of
     groups migrating in and out of the canyon?
  _ Where did migrants into the area come from? How were they received
     by local groups?

                _   What were the common features and patterns of daily life along the
     Alamosa, and how did ceremonial and residential activities interrelate?

        Researchers dealing with historic period populations will attempt to answer these questions:

           _  How did 19th-century Hispanic and Anglo settlers in Alamosa Canyon adjust to and alter the local environment?

           _  How were the traditional cultures of Apache, Hispanic, and
      Anglo populations in the Alamosa drainage altered through interaction?

           _  How did economic and community patterns evolve during the late 19th and 20th
      centuries, and what were the most important factors--local, regional, national
      and international--in causing change? 



 In addition to serving as a cultural frontier, the Alamosa drainage is also a research frontier.  Very little site inventorying and virtually no formal excavation of archaeological sites have occurred in the area.  The very fact that the 447 room Victorio site was not known or recorded by professional archaeologists until 1992 speaks to the paucity of research pertaining to the area.  The outlines of culture history on the Rio Alamosa expressed in this document are chiefly based upon limited survey data and what is known from surrounding areas.

 As the boundary of the Alamosa drainage basin is extremely irregular, the  Archaeological Records Management System (ARMS) was queried through the 18 USGS quadrangle maps that overlay the drainage system.  Some of them extend beyond the boundaries of the project area, therefore the resulting site count is somewhat higher than it otherwise would be.  The USGS quadrangles and their current respective site counts are as follows:

Black Bluffs  23
Huerfano Hill  7
Priest Tank  3
Chise 41
Winston 44
Monticello  28
Jaralosa Mountain  27
Iron Mountain  27
Oak Peak  6
Vicks Peak  19
Montoya Butte  62  (where Monticello Box Ranch is located)
Wahoo Ranch  11
Wahoo Peak 14
Welty Hill  31
Dusty  36
Paddy’s Hole  15
Bay Buck Peaks  13
Blue Mountain  2 
 Currently ARMS has data on 409 sites within or near the boundaries of the Alamosa system. Of these, the majority is comprised of pithouse or pueblo period sites. A few of the sites are Archaic, a few are Paleoindian, and the remainder is made up of historic or unspecified prehistoric sites. Most of these sites were either recorded by Herbert Yeo and others in the early days or have been recorded since 1974 by contract work in support of an earth disturbing activity.

Constructing Databases

 An initial task of the project will be to query the ARMS database and compile a detailed list of all sites recorded and all reports generated within the study area.  The ARMS site data will be down loaded into an Excel database, which can then be amended with data drawn from the written forms. The database can then be entered into a Geographic Information System (GIS), allowing site locations for each temporal period to be assessed. These site location data coupled with defined environmental parameters will provide the basis for developing a sample survey strategy for the Canada Alamosa study area.

 Archaeological sites are located on private land, as well as on land administered by the State of New Mexico, the Bureau of Land Management (Caballo and Socorro Areas) and the United States Force Service (Gila and Cibola National Forests).  In order to implement a sample survey of sites, permission and/or permits must be obtained from the appropriate landowner.

 Archival sources for archaeological, historical, and environmental data will be identified, reviewed, and utilized in support of the Cañada Alamosa Project.

 In addition to the ARMS database, archaeological reports and site data are available at the area offices of the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, and the New Mexico State Land Office.  Each of these offices has an archaeologist who will be contacted concerning the scope and nature of the Cañada Alamosa Project. 
 Each of the land managing agencies will also have specialists in most of the environmental categories as well as an environmental reference library.  Another important source of environmental data is the New Mexico Institute of Technology at Socorro.  Its archives and specialists have considerable applicable information, particularly in the fields of geology, hydrology, and soils.

 Several institutions and individuals have specific interests that can be applied to the project. The University of Arizona Tree Ring Laboratory is constantly trying to expand its database and occasionally has graduate students interested in a new thesis topic.  Tom Swetnam and Jeff Dean should be contacted regarding the status of current data and future possibilities. As packrat middens can provide a unique look at local sequences, Julio Betancourt should also be informed of the project goals.  Curtis Monger, a soil scientist at New Mexico State University, has completed several geomorphological studies in support of archaeological projects.

 Other repositories of archival data will be identified and a working bibliography for archaeology, history, and environmental studies developed.  Archives include the Rio Grande Historical Collections at New Mexico State University, the old map collection at New Mexico Institute of Technology, the Southwest Collection at Zimmerman Library, the University of New Mexico, and the New Mexico State Archives in Santa Fe.  Museums that contain both archival material and applicable artifact collections include the Geronimo Springs Museum in Truth or Consequences, the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces, the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, and the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe.

 Maps will be obtained from both agency and archival sources. A file of non-scaled historic maps will be developed and maintained.  The file will include maps from the Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo periods that illustrate or otherwise provide significant data on the Rio Alamosa study area.  Scaled maps will also be acquired and these will also be scanned and placed in a Geographic Information System (GIS) for the Cañada Alamosa project.  Human Systems currently owns the set of digitized USGS maps for the project area. Data from non-scaled historic maps will be interpolated and placed on the GIS data base.  Scaled environmental maps including geology, hydrology, vegetation, and soils will also be placed on the GIS data base as will satellite imagery that is now in the public domain.  The latter information will be of great value in selecting a sample of the drainage basin for archaeological survey.

Archaeological Survey

 Archaeological survey and excavation provide complementary levels of information. While survey provides a regional perspective, excavation answers the specific questions posed by survey data.  Given the size of the research area, the variety of sites present, and the size of at least some of those sites, it is necessary to sample both the area and sites.

 Archaeological survey will have two foci: the core area of Monticello Box Ranch and the larger Rio Alamosa drainage system.  The initial survey effort will focus on Monticello Box Ranch as a model for implementation of the much larger and complex survey of the drainage system.  Because the Monticello Box Ranch area is readily accessible and the survey data will relate immediately to sites being excavated, the primary survey effort will be there.  The survey of the ranch should include a 100 % survey of the terraces and ridges that are likely to contain structural remains, a reconnaissance survey of the major tributary drainages, and a sample survey of the environmental zones within the ranch boundaries.

 The previous surveys of the Ojo Caliente and Monticello Box Ranch areas (Lekson et al. 1988; Laumbach 1992) were reconnaissance surveys which focused on obvious site locations, primarily the terraces immediately above the streambed.  An inventory survey of the drainage proper should be much more extensive, reaching to the ridge tops within 1/2 mile of the drainage bottom. Such ridge tops can easily contain sites, particularly those from the early pithouse period. The survey boundaries can be drawn on a USGS map to guide the survey crews.  All sites encountered will be recorded using the New Mexico Cultural Resource Inventory Survey (NMCRIS) forms.

 The second phase of the ranch survey should be a reconnaissance of the tributary canyons (Kelly Canyon, etc.).  This survey will simply follow the narrow side canyons to their highest elevation within the ranch boundaries.  All sites found will be recorded as will environmental variability within the ranch boundaries.  Environmental variables would include soils, geology, vegetation, elevation, and hydrology.
 The last phase of the ranch survey should be a sample based on knowledge gained from the first two surveys. Once the applicable environmental data have been gathered, the environmental zones within the ranch boundaries should be stratified by those parameters.  It is likely that most of the ranch is within the Transition Zone, which is the ecotone between the Chihuahuan Desert and the Uplands.  Stratification of the ranch for a sample survey may best be accomplished through the variables of elevation, geology, soils, and hydrology.  As the ranch is comprised of 5000 acres, a 20 % sample would not be unreasonable.  Because much of the ranch is vertical in character, much of the sample area will not actually be traversed, although considerable walking and climbing will be required to access the areas that can be surveyed.

 A sample survey of the Alamosa drainage system will be far more complex and take several years and the cooperation of a variety of landowners and land managing agencies to complete.  The survey should have three foci:

1)  A reconnaissance survey of terraces and ridges within 1/2 mile of the drainage bottom from its head to its mouth.  This survey will provide a complete picture of the variability in material culture present in the study area.

2)  A reconnaissance survey of tributary canyons outside the boundaries of Monticello Box Ranch.  This survey will augment data from the first phase survey and provide data to refine environmental stratification for the last phase of the survey.

3)  A sample survey of the 725 square mile Rio Alamosa drainage system.  Whereas the first two surveys will focus on better-watered areas with a high percentage of structural sites, this sample survey will provide the project with data on the variability of site types present in the drainage system.  In many cases these will be hunter-gatherer sites or sites that were utilized in support of the habitation sites found on the drainages.

 The first task will be to use the collected environmental data from the previous surveys and the applicable archives to define the environment parameters within the sample area.  The environmental and cultural layers developed on the Geographic Information System will be evaluated and refined based on the collected data.  A strategy to sample the system will be devised.  As even a 10% sample will involve a survey of 70 square miles, the sample will necessarily incorporate data from areas already surveyed.  The sample from each environmental zone should be surveyed in two stages, the first stage providing data to refine the second.  As this survey will be concurrent with the final stages of excavation at several major sites, the samples will also have the benefit of theory and fact evolving from both the excavated data and all previous surveys.


 Like surveys, the primary focus of excavation will be the sites in the core area at Monticello Box Ranch.  Based on current data, these sites provide a reasonably unbroken sequence from the early pithouse period through the 14th century.  As the known pithouse sites are either on State of New Mexico land or are components within complex pueblo sites, the pueblo period sites dating from circa A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1400 will be the first to be explored through excavation. The first year of excavation will be directed at verifying conclusions made based on survey data and determining the nature and depth of cultural deposits at four sequential sites.

 The earliest of the four pueblo ruins to be tested is the Montoya Site located behind the main residence on the ranch. This site has been identified as a Mimbres period site dating to about A.D. 1100 based on the occurrence of Mimbres Classic Black-on-white ceramics and associated Mimbres corrugated ware. Initially, several test pits will be placed in an area of disturbed fill to obtain an adequate analytical sample of the ceramics from this site.  The foundations of a badly eroded jacal structure may also be tested.  The long-term goal is to excavate at least one undisturbed room and place sufficient test pits to define the depth and nature of the deposits and the extent of the site. In the process, the excavated data should be sufficient to verify or refute that this site is a single component Mimbres Phase site.  With luck, a datable tree-ring sample can be obtained from the deeper, undisturbed deposits.

 Excavation at the 447-room Victorio Site is problematical simply because of its size.  Surface ceramics indicate that the site was occupied from about A.D. 1100 to A.D. 1250. There also appears to be a pithouse component dating from c. 700 A.D. The first important question to be answered is one of contemporaniety. Do all the room blocks date to the same basic period or are they occupied and abandoned over a 150- year period of occupation? How many of the room blocks were occupied at the same time? Data to answer this basic question will be obtained from use of a survey/sample excavations technique spanning the 30-some room blocks.

        After a single large room, located in the middle of a large room block appearing to date from the later stages of the site’s occupation, is excavated and all available information is obtained, the mapping of the entire site will be completed using extremely accurate Global Positioning System instruments. The site will then be excavated using one-meter grids. The data will be placed in a Geographical Information System and made to appear in the context of the overall site map. As data are added to the GIS database, a comprehensive interpretation of the complex Victorio site will become possible.  

 The latest of the four sites to be tested is the Pinnacle Ruin. It dates from A.D. 1300 to 1400 based on the surface ceramics.  The Pinnacle Ruin is a masonry pueblo built on a rock promontory that juts out into the valley forcing the stream to form an ox bow.  Its position appears to be defensive; its rooms were built on terraces formed on the steep slope of the promontory.  Like the Montoya Site, the primary goal of the initial excavations was to obtain a viable sample of the ceramics. This was accomplished by digging test pits in the backfill from a potted room and, perhaps, exposing the floor and wall of the room. Long-term goals will be to excavate several rooms at the site in an attempt to obtain construction and abandonment dates. The opportunity to obtain tree-ring samples from this site is excellent.

      The fourth site to be excavated is the Kelley Canyon Site. Situated on a bench overlooking the river bottom, and opposite the Victorio Site on the north side of the mouth of Kelly Canyon, the Kelley Canyon Site consists of linear room blocks, a pithouse/kiva depression, and a midden. This architecture and potsherds found on the surface indicate at least partial contemporaneity with the Montoya Site and an Anasazi-like organization and origin. Excavations here will test these preliminary findings.

 Once excavation programs have been established at the four sites and at least some of the basic questions have been answered, test excavations can begin on other sites within the bounds of Monticello Box Ranch.  By that time the initial survey of the ranch will have been completed and we will have a better idea of the site variability within the ranch boundaries.

 Then, excavation should include smaller sites that are contemporary with the four large sites. Such smaller sites should provide additional chronological information in an uncluttered context and enable us to better describe the adaptive system operable at a particular time period.

 Excavations should also seek to establish a sequence of occupation from the pithouse sites and pithouse components to the construction of above ground structures on the larger sites. The same chronological questions of contemporaneity, construction, and abandonment must be answered for these early sites as well. 

 Attention will also be paid to Archaic and Apache sites should they be found.  Such sites typically are shallow and hold limited but significant information. If a dry cave or rock shelter can be found during the reconnaissance or sample surveys of the ranch, a concerted effort will be made to include it in the excavation program. The quality of preserved material culture and environmental data from one such stratified context could provide a significant database with which to compare data from other sites.

 Once basic data have been extracted from sites within the boundaries of  Monticello Box Ranch and a reconnaissance survey of the Rio Alamosa drainage has been completed, sites outside the ranch boundaries will have been identified for their potential to fill gaps the chronological sequence of sites available on the ranch.  At that time, the landowners and/or the relevant land agency will be approached about the possibility of excavating the sites in question.

Other Disciplines

  Tapping the oral traditions of Pueblo groups claiming descent from the prehistoric residents of Alamosa Canyon will provide an important supplement to and guide for researchers attempting to answer questions regarding ancient populations.
The published works of 19th and 20th century ethnographers will be consulted, and living descendants of the prehistoric peoples of the Alamosa will be queried.

 Obtaining oral histories of people currently residing in the canyon or related to individuals who once did will be essential to answering questions about the three peoples who made the 19th and 20th century history of the Alamosa. Both audio and video recordings will be made, raw footage stored, and the footage edited and indexed to insure easy access for researchers.

 Photographs and other images will be collected and consulted, as will copies of newspapers, documents, letters, and other materials essential to answering the research questions posed for the historic period. 

 The long-term research goal of the Cañada Alamosa Project is to develop a 3000-year sequence of environmental and cultural data from which the interaction between human populations and the local environment can be interpreted and understood.  In the process, if critical questions of biological and cultural continuity can be answered, the project will also provide a database from which questions of human and cultural interaction on a prehistoric and historic frontier can be described and debated.
In the process of developing this database, the Cañada Alamosa Project will also perform environmental studies and archaeological surveys that will help describe the prehistoric and historic environment in the Rio Alamosa drainage and the changes occurring within it. 

 These databases, along with the field notes and drawings, artifacts, faunal and botanical collections, survey maps, lab reports, oral history recordings and transcripts, and any photographs, images, documents, maps and the like derived from research will be deposited on the premises of Human Systems Research in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Once the cataloging of artifacts, lab work, and preliminary analysis and reporting of each year’s work is completed, the Cañada Alamosa Project collections and databases will be open to interested researchers on request and with permission.

 Because the Cañada Alamosa Project seeks not only to answer questions of interest to scholars but to inform and educate the general public as well, its research will be conducted in a collaborative manner, its findings will be shared through appropriate means with a broad range of interested audiences, and its work will be conducted in ways that most effectively educate both participating and non-participating audiences.
 The progress of the project will be reported on in monograph form no later than twelve months after the completion of each season in the field. Scholarly papers by participating researchers will be published in scholarly journals and/or delivered at conferences as opportunity permits.

 As certain goals are reached, sites excavated, or avenues of research exhausted, interpretive syntheses will be prepared for both scientific and popular audiences. These will be submitted to appropriate university presses and other publishers for publication. Opportunities to publish the project’s findings in newspapers, magazines, and broadcast media will be sought or seized. A project website will be created to introduce the project and its work to searchers.

 The project’s founders, Human Systems Research and Cañada Alamosa Institute, will, from time to time, sponsor or co-sponsor conferences on general topics directly related to the project’s goals. These conferences will be open to scholars and interested laypersons alike. A conference’s major presentations will be published in forms judged most likely to reach and appeal to the intended audiences.
 Interpretive displays of project artifacts will be mounted from time to time in spaces associated with the two founding organizations, at conferences, and in local museums and history centers. Artifacts will also be available for loan to museums preparing exhibitions on topics related to the project’s research and educational goals.

 Local audiences will be reached and served through the oral history project and the occasional public presentation of its growing corpus of recollections and accounts. While fieldwork is in progress, it will be the practice of the project’s leaders to invite residents of the canyon to attend evening lectures at Monticello Box Ranch, in Monticello, and at other local venues. Project leaders will also participate in such events as Ag Day at the Coil’s 74 Ranch, which serves a school audience, in the Monticello Harvest Festival, and in other community events as appropriate.

 The excavations themselves offer the project’s most powerful educational opportunity. Although the number of participants in an excavation is necessarily limited, the project plans to fill its field crews with students from colleges and universities, such as Eastern New Mexico University and the University of Colorado, and persons recruited through public educational programs such as those offered by Earthwatch Institute. A few excavated units will be kept open and protected for instructional purposes after digging is finished. Printed materials will be developed to help guide visitors to and around the project’s sites and facilities.

  Travelers and other drop-in visitors are the most challenging audience for the project to serve. Our strategy for serving this audience envisions a visitor center in Monticello, where visitors might view a small introductory exhibit and audio-visual program on the canyon and its history and the work of the Cañada Alamosa Project. On a seasonal, scheduled basis visitors willing to pay a fee would join small, escorted tour group for a tour of the canyon and a visit to Monticello Box Ranch, where these visitors would view and briefly take part in whatever archaeological work was in progress and learn something about the natural and human history of the place they were visiting.     

PROGRESS TO DATE  (Put this in Appendix)
August, 2004

The focus of the first field season (1999) was to excavate a single pueblo room at the 447-room Victorio Site. A large room located in the most extensive and massive masonry room block was selected. Based on the surface ceramics and architecture, it seemed likely that this room block represented the last occupation of the Victorio Site. Radiocarbon dates and cultural materials obtained from the floor and roof fall of the excavated room reflected the beginning of the Tularosa phase occupation in the late 1100s and its end about A.D. 1300 (Laumbach et al. 2000).

Survey data indicated that the occupation of the site spanned the period from at least A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. It was obvious that interpreting the Victorio Site would be a complex but rewarding task due to the many periods of use apparent on the site. Accordingly, the decision was made to first focus on the other three sites and on surveying the adjacent areas in the canyon in order to record and recognize “signature” assemblages and features that would aid the eventual field work and interpretation of the Victorio Site.

The focus of the second field season (2000) was to recover a similar set of data from the Pinnacle Ruin, which, based on surficial ceramics, postdates the Victorio site. Unlike the other three sites, the Pinnacle Ruin was constructed as a defensive site with artificial terraces built upon a steep, rocky uplift. The Pinnacle Ruin was intensively mapped and two test pits were excavated to determine depth and to recover cultural, temporal, and environmental information.  Excavations revealed an extensive, well-stratified midden and masonry walls over 5 feet in height.  Radiocarbon dates indicate that the site was first occupied in the 1200s and was not abandoned until the late 1300s or even the 1400s. Carbon painted ceramics and coursed architecture of shaped stone slabs suggest that the Pinnacle Ruin was the home of migrants from the Mesa Verde culture area in northwestern New Mexico (Laumbach et al. 2001; Lekson et al. 2002).

During the 2001 field season, crews continued the initial investigation of the sequence of puebloan periods by obtaining a body of cultural, temporal, and environmental data from the largest known Mimbres period component on the ranch.  Field research at the Montoya Site exposed a complex jacal (wattle and daub) structure and test pits revealed the floor and wall of a masonry room block.  A radiocarbon date from a roasting pit associated with the jacal feature indicated occupation in the latter half of the 11th century. A second date from the floor of the masonry room was ambiguous as it intercepted the calibration curve twice, allowing for either a late 11th-century date or the possibility of a second occupation in the latter half of the 12th century. The ceramic assemblage recovered from the test excavations was dominated by Mimbres Classic Black-on-white pottery but also contained a substantial amount of Socorro Black-on-white, a northern pueblo ceramic type. The assemblage was consistent throughout the site, suggesting that all features were contemporary (Laumbach et al. 2002).

During the 2002 field season, Earthwatch volunteers were involved in the initial excavations at the Kelly Canyon Site, a large Socorro Phase Site that appeared to be at least partially contemporary to the Montoya Site but whose architecture (linear room blocks and associated pit houses) and Socorro Tradition ceramic assemblage reflect an Anasazi-like organization and origin.  Initial excavations exposed portions of three rooms, a pithouse/kiva, and a midden area.  In contrast to the Montoya Site, the ceramic assemblage was dominated by Socorro Black-on-white and contained only a limited number of Mimbres white wares. Cross ceramic dating suggests that the Kelly Canyon Site was occupied just at the end of the Mimbres Classic period during the early 12th century. When the ceramics are combined with the architecture, data suggests that the site’s inhabitants were allied with the Anasazi world to the north during the latter years of Chacoan dominance (Laumbach and Laumbach 2002). The inhabitants of the Kelly Canyon site may have been migrants to the Cañada Alamosa 150 years before the arrival of the Pinnacle Ruin population. A single radiocarbon date from a room floor spanned the period from A.D. 1025 to 1220 at two standard deviations and did not support the effort to narrow the occupation date to the early end of that period.  A potential tree-ring sample did not contain sufficient rings to allow dating.

In 2003, Earthwatch volunteers continued work on the Kelly Canyon Site in an effort to determine the use date of the pit house/kiva, establish contemporaniety between room blocks and acquire more precise dates. In the fall of 2003, the hearth of the pit house/kiva was located and a sufficient sample of corn was recovered to allow submission of a radiocarbon date. The majority of the ceramics from the pit house/kiva floor are also of the Socorro Ceramic Tradition. However, a single sherd of Heshotauthla Glaze Polychrome was found directly on the floor of the pit house/kiva, leaving open the possibility that the pit house/kiva was in use almost 100 years after the termination of the Socorro Ceramic Tradition and almost 200 years after the postulated occupation of the Kelly Canyon Site. If the last use of the hearth was contemporary with the Socorro Ceramic Tradition, the date derived from the corn found in the hearth should mirror the earlier radiocarbon date. At two  standard deviations, the radiocarbon date mirrored that from the room floor (A.D. 1030-A.D. 1230). Thus the pit house /kiva appears to be contemporary with the dated room feature that contained a Socorro Tradition ceramic assemblage. An archaeomagnetic dating sample from the same hearth will be taken later in 2004.

Analysis of the Kelly Canyon Site assemblage and the resulting possibility of a post-Mimbres Socorro Tradition occupation in the valley, prompted the return to the Montoya Site in 2004. Work was focused on the masonry room that had produced the ambiguous date. Excavations revealed an unusual elongate room that appears to have been remodeled by wall extensions. Ceramics on the floor included late 12th or early 13th century sherds of Tularosa Black-on-white, thereby confirming that the later option from the ambiguous radiocarbon date taken in 2001 is probably correct. Discovery that the room has at least two stratified floors provides for the possibility of either a Mimbres or a Socorro Tradition component at a lower level in the room. If such a component is present, it may reflect continuity of occupation through the transition from use of a Socorro or Mimbres Tradition to a Tularosa (Cibola) Tradition. Excavation of the lower floor is scheduled for Fall 2004.

From 2002-2004, the University of Colorado field school led by Dr. Stephen Lekson, continued excavations at the Pinnacle Site. Their work has established that most if not all of the steep slope and crown of the uplift contains buried masonry walls, some of which are almost 2 meters in height. Some walls appear to have been razed, suggesting either a major rebuilding episode or the possibility of an occupational hiatus between carbon paint tradition population and a later group (but perhaps the same population) affiliated with the glaze paint tradition.

A second focus of the project has been to continue surveying in the canyon. This area is in private ownership and has never been intensively surveyed.  Herbert Yeo found and recorded most of the previously recorded sites in the 1930s.  Surveys in 2000, 2003, and 2004 have recorded 43 additional sites within two miles of the headquarters.  The sites include early pit house sites, a number of 12th-century pueblos related to the Montoya and Kelly Canyon Sites, a few Tularosa Phase sites located near the Victorio Site as well as Apache and historic European sites and components.

On another analytical front, environmental data from the four sites have yielded a thumbnail sketch of environmental change and human impact on that environment between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1400. Based on identification of macro-botanical remains floated from hearths and floors and from faunal remains recovered from rooms and middens, the observed variation in the presence and abundance of plant and animal species reflect changes in environment and the level of human impact on that environment. The environmental shifts appear to correlate with cycles of population growth and decline, settlement patterns and material culture as observed in the archaeological record.

Faunal data provide an initial perspective on environmental changes (Cain 2002; 2003). Specifically, during the 11th century, when the Montoya Site was one of several small habitation sites located along the Rio Alamosa, the ratio of rabbits to deer was 2:1 based on the minimum number of individuals (MNI) represented in the faunal assemblage. By the early 12th century when the Kelly Canyon site was in full swing and survey data suggests that that population in the canyon had increased, the ratio of rabbits to deer was 4:1. Then, in the early to mid 13th century, with the aggregation of population at the Victorio Site, the ratio skyrockets to 9:1, suggesting that large game was being hunted out and rabbits were prospering in the field areas. Significantly, the ratio of rabbits to deer at the Pinnacle Site is back to 2:1, suggesting that the allegedly migrant population had arrived in a empty valley where resources had recovered from the intensive human use of the earlier part of the 13th century.

Richard Holloway and Curtis Nepstad-Thornberry have analyzed the macrobotanical remains. The wood identified in the macro botanical remains includes all the usual suspects (pine, juniper, oak, walnut, cottonwood and willow) found in the canyon today. One surprise is the consistent presence of mesquite in all of the sites. The spread of mesquite has been attributed solely to the introduction of cattle in the 1800s (York and Dick-Peddie 1969). In fact, packrat middens have demonstrated that mesquite has a long history in the area (Van Devender and Toolin 1983,1990) and apparently had reached the altitude of 6000 feet by the 11th century if not before. Tellingly, the majority of the construction timbers recovered from the 14th-century Pinnacle Site are juniper, suggesting that suitable stands of pinyon and ponderosa pine had already been cut by the time that Pinnacle Ruin was under construction.

Preliminary Consideration of the Data

Traditional thought among archaeologists in the Southwest is that well-watered river valleys supported long sequences of cultural development by essentially the same biological population (Martin 1979). More recently, this view has been recognized as simplistic and theoretical perspectives acknowledging movement between fallow areas have been developed (Nelson and LeBlanc 1986; Nelson and Anyon 1996)). However, conventional wisdom held that if population movement occurred, it was only for comparatively short distances between neighboring river valleys or resource areas. In the northern pueblos, migrations are recognized but are seen as movements of small family groups and not entire communities (Duff and Wilshusen 2000:184). In contrast, the preliminary data from the Cañada Alamosa suggest that populations sometimes moved for distances in excess of 75 miles. Furthermore, data from both the 11th and the 13th centuries indicate that entire communities (e.g. Kelly Canyon Site and Pinnacle Ruin) were involved. Population movements in and out of the drainage may have been common on both a seasonal and long-term basis. The implication is that despite the steady spring-fed flow of the Rio Alamosa, the inhabitants were not impervious to the effects of drought or other drastic climate related changes.  No matter how much local water is available, it seems that an area cannot indefinitely support human populations in the face of severe drought or other ecological disasters, such as floods, that have a deleterious effect on the surrounding landscape and its resources.

In terms of affecting public policy, the Cañada Alamosa Project provides an extended record of both human development and the changing environmental conditions that shaped and altered that development. The lessons of land use and availability of water in an arid environment have direct application today. One lesson that can be drawn from the Cañada Alamosa Project data set is that locally available domestic water alone cannot provide long-term support for a human population in the face of the degeneration of all other resources and resource areas as a result of a lack of water for those areas. Currently, New Mexico’s planners are developing a water regime that will eventually minimize all water uses except for domestic and industrial. This policy will leave New Mexico (and many other western states) entirely dependent on agricultural products grown elsewhere. And it will give all other local resource zones (e.g. riparian areas, grasslands, forests, even deserts) only secondary consideration for water use. The 2000-year tree ring record shows that New Mexico has endured droughts that were two to three times the magnitude of any drought experienced in the last 100 years. If considered, research like that at the Cañada Alamosa will forestall the day when all water is diverted to domestic taps and industrial use.

Preliminary Synthesis and Projection

During the 11th century, the pueblo population in the Cañada Alamosa was spread out with small home sites on every terrace, making use of abundant rainfall. During the 12th century, the era of abundant rainfall ended, forcing abandonment and reorganization.  By the 13th century, groups had aggregated and intensive rather that extensive land use was allowed by improved horticultural technologies. Even these failed in the end (perhaps aided by the arrival of the Apache) and the area was abandoned by pueblo farmers. The Apaches made it their home for several centuries, but the Apache utilized a regional resource base that included all of southwestern New Mexico and much of northern Mexico. Their reign was ended by the population pressures created by the influx of settlers and miners of European origin in both New Mexico and Mexico. During the historic period, small farms and ranches dotted the canyon in much the same fashion as those 11th century pueblo settlements. Subsistence based, like their pueblo predecessors, this way of life lasted until the cash economy developed by an ever increasing population and an expanding world market took hold. Inexorably, debt and the attraction of the outside world eliminated the small farmer and rancher until only a few were left. The larger ranches formed by consolidation of the lesser properties were successful for most of the last 100 years. Today, the surviving ranchers are finding that the combination of drought, global economic realities, and the increased real estate prices created by a continually growing population have all but ended the ranching era in the desert southwest.

In sum, each group has found the Cañada Alamosa to be a well-watered oasis. Each has failed in the face of drought and/or population pressure. Today the canyon is still a well-watered oasis but unless conservation minded ownership prevails, the copious waters of the Rio Alamosa will be purchased to feed a myriad of home site taps in New Mexico’s deserts and the canyon will again be dotted with small home sites, only this time their economic support will be based elsewhere. We foresee that when all water is given over to domestic and industrial use and a major drought similar in scope to the worst of those documented for the last two millennia finally comes, then the Cañada Alamosa will be abandoned once again.

Project Continuation

Test excavations have provided significant assemblages of artifacts and environmental data from the Pinnacle, Montoya, and Kelly Canyon Sites. Modern survey data has been recorded from two miles down canyon and four miles up canyon from the investigated sites. What remains to be done in this phase of the project is an investigation at the Victorio Site and the acquisition of the additional site survey data needed to provide an adequate background for interpretation of this site and the other sites tested to date.















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1985 Between the River and the Mountains: A History of Early Settlement in Sierra County, New Mexico. John P. Wilson  Report No. 40

1995 “Prehistory of the Gallinas Mountains” In Of Pots and Rocks: Papers In Honor of A. Helene Warren, The Archaeological Society of New Mexico: No. 21

Wimberly, Mark, and Peter Eidenbach
1980 “Reconnaissance Study of the Archaeological and Related Resources of the Lower Puerco and Salado Drainages, Central New Mexico.” Human Systems Research, Inc., Tularosa

York, John C., and William A. Dick Peddie
1969 Vegetation Changes in Southern New Mexico During the Past Hundred Years. In Arid Lands in Perspective, edited by William G. McGinnies and Bram J. Goldman, pp. 155-166.