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
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