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Earthwatch volunteers excavating the rooms in Feature 3.

A parting shot… Karl and Morgan shade the site with a tarp while John photographs the completed excavation.


Our Earthwatch team spent the week working in three different areas of the Montoya site. While there are still many questions left unanswered, we know many more things about this site than we did when we arrived on October 20.

In Feature 3, what looked like a jumble of rocks last week is now identifiable as a fairly shallow surface room. The room is defined by a rectangle of upright slabs that were carefully excavated around. In the same room block, but in a different room, an upright post, a large amount of charcoal, and a deep pit were found. The pit is still a mystery. It might have been made by rats or by some larger animal. But the post gives us the potential of a tree-ring date, as well as the location of a structural post. The charcoal was probably a structural beam; other pieces of post that were burned on both ends were found in the room, too. So we know that the structure burned down.

Two stone tools, an arrowhead and a bi-face, were found by a roasting pit outside this room. Both are old enough to suggest an early pithouse occupation. This feature had several grinding stones within it, but they were not the kind that would have been used to grind corn. In fact, no evidence of corn was found. Perhaps the people who lived here did not farm.

Two rooms have been excavated in Feature 4, which started out as a pile of masonry rubble. Earthwatch volunteers have found the floor and walls of the rooms, and found a lot of potsherds inside. Most of the pottery is from the 11th century, but some is from an earlier time and some later. Hammerstones, beads, and a mother-of-pearl pendant were found on the floor, as well as lots of ash and charcoal that indicate burning. We can tell that the roof came down shortly after, or at the time that the rooms were abandoned.

So far, there hasn't been a great number of artifacts found on the floor level. Karl says that this will be a clue to how the people abandoned the site. If there aren't old materials on the floor, it suggests that people had time to pick things up and take them with them, or that maybe they moved somewhere nearby and could come back and pick up the things they found useful. When you find a lot of items in a room, it could mean that the occupants left in a hurry or that they were going far away and couldn't carry many things. It's possible that the people at the Montoya site took what they needed, moved across the valley and then burned the structure down, which is often done when a pueblo is abandoned.

Next year, new Earthwatch teams will pick up where my team left off. They will use the information that we found to guide their research and will begin to look for answers to the new questions raised by my team. As you can see, archaeologists must be very patient — it takes a long time to piece together 1,000 years of history!

Credits: Courtesy of Shayne Russell