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Their Northern Remains
(This is taken from John D. Baldwin's Ancient America, originally published in 1871.)
Ruins and other vestiges revealing an ancient civilization are found throughout the whole southern section of North America, extending as far north as New Mexico and Arizona. But here the antiquities do not all belong to the same period in the past, nor exhibit unvarying likeness and unity of civilized life. They are somewhat less homogeneous, and do not constantly represent the same degree of civilization. In this region, the monuments suggest successive and varying periods in the civilized condition of the old inhabitants, some of the oldest and most mysterious monuments seeming to indicate the highest development.
In the northern part of this region we find ruins of great buildings similar in plan and arrangement to those still used by the Pueblos, but far superior as monuments of architecture, science, and skill, and much more unlike those farther south than is apparent in the principal structures of the Mound-Builders. They show that the old settlers in the Mississippi Valley did not belong to the Pueblo branch of the Mexican race. Farther south, in the central part of the region specified, development was more advanced. Here, in the last ages of American ancient history, was the seat of the Mexican or Aztec civilization, but the monuments in this part of the country are mostly older than the Aztec period. The most astonishing remains are found still farther south, in Chiapa, Tabasco, Oaxaca, Yucatan, Honduras, Tehuantepec, Guatemala, and other parts of Central America. In this southern region, mostly buried in heavy forests, are wonderful ruins of great cities and temples. Only a small part of modern Mexico is included in the region where these ruins are situated, and most of them, probably, were not much better understood by the ancient Mexicans than they are by us. Many of those explored in later times were unknown to that people, just as others, more in number, doubtless, than those already described, still remain unvisited and unknown in the great and almost impenetrable forests of the country.
THE NORTHERN REMAINS.
The ruins in Northern Mexico, including New Mexico and Arizona, consist chiefly, as already stated, of the remains of structures similar in general design and purpose to those of the Village Indians, the Pueblos. In the more ancient times, doubtless, as at present, a large proportion of the dwellings and other edifices, like those in the Mississippi Valley, were built of perishable materials which have left no trace. Many of them, however, were built of stone, and have left ruins which show their character. Stone ruins are common in this northern region, although wood and adobe seems to have been more commonly used as building material. Some of the ruined stone edifices were inhabited when the country was conquered by the Spaniards. The remains present every where the same characteristics. They represent a people who built always in the same way, with some variations in the forms of their structures, and had substantially the same condition of life; but the ruins are not all of the same age. Their character can be sufficiently shown by describing a few of them.
In New Mexico, west of the Rio Grande, between the head waters of the San Jose and Zuni rivers, a bluff or ridge rises in a valley two hundred feet high. The Spaniards named it “El Moro.” One side of this bluff is vertical, and shows yellowish-white sandstone rock, on the face of which are inscriptions; “Spanish inscriptions and Indian hieroglyphics.” It was carefully described in 1849 by Lieutenant Simpson, and was explored again four or five years later by Lieutenant A. W. Whipple, who described it in his report to the government, published in the third volume of “Explorations and Surveys for a Railroad Route to the Pacific.” On the summit of this height, which Lieutenant Simpson named “Inscription Rock,” are the ruins of an extensive Pueblo edifice built of stone. The walls were built “with considerable skill.” In some places they are still “perfect to the height of six or eight feet, vertical, straight, and smooth; and the masonry is well executed, the stones being of uniform size—about fourteen inches long and six wide.” The layers are horizontal, each successive layer breaking joints with that below it. Remains of cedar beams were discovered, and also obsidian arrow-heads, painted pottery, and other relics. Another ruin was seen on a height across the gorge. It was found to be similar to this, both in character and condition of decay.
Lieutenant Whipple went westward along the thirty-fifth parallel. We can not do better than follow the report of what he saw.
His next stopping-place, after leaving “El Moro,” was in the beautiful valley of Ojo Pescado. Here, close by a spring that showed artificial stone-work of ancient date, were two old Pueblo buildings in ruins, “so ancient that the traditions of present races do not reach them.” Not far away is a deserted town of later date. The two ancient structures were circular in form and equal in size, each being about eight hundred feet in circumference. They were built of stone, but the walls have crumbled and become chiefly heaps of rubbish. The pottery found here, like that at “El Moro,” is “painted with bright colors, in checks, bands, and wavy stripes; many fragments show a beautiful polish. A few pieces were discovered larger in size, inferior in color and quality, but indicating a more fanciful taste. United, they formed an urn with a curious handle; a frog painted on the outside and a butterfly within.” In the same neighborhood, on the summit of a cliff twenty feet high, was another old ruin “strongly walled around.” In the centre was a mound on which were traces of a circular edifice.
The next place of encampment was at Zuni, where can be seen one of these great Pueblo buildings inhabited by two thousand people (Lieutenant Whipple’s estimate). It has five stories, the walls of each receding from those below it. Looking from the top, he says it reminded him of a busy ant-hill, turkeys and tamed eagles constituting a portion of its inhabitants. Not more than a league away is an “old Zuni” which shows nothing but ruins. Its crumbling walls, worn away until they are only from two to twelve feet high, are “crowded together in confused heaps over several acres of ground.” This old town became a ruin in ancient times. After remaining long in a ruined condition it was again rebuilt, and again deserted after a considerable period of occupation. It is still easy to distinguish the differences in construction between the two periods. “The standing walls rest upon ruins of greater antiquity;” and while the primitive masonry is about six feet thick, that of the later period is only from a foot to a foot and a half thick. Small blocks of sandstone were used for the latter. Heaps of debris cover a considerable space, in which, among other things, are relics of pottery and of ornaments made of sea-shells. Pieces of quaintly-carved cedar posts were found here, and their condition of decay, compared with that of the cedar beams at “El Moro,” “indicated great antiquity.” The place of this ruin is now one of the consecrated places of the Village Indians; it has “a Zuni altar” which is constantly used and greatly venerated. On leaving the place, their guide blew a white powder toward the altar three times, and muttered a prayer. This, he explained, was “asking a blessing of Montezuma and the sun.” This altar seems to represent recollections of the ancient sun-worship.
At a place west of Zuni ancient relics were found, indicating that an extensive Pueblo town had formerly stood there, but “the structures were probably of adobes,” as there was no debris of stone walls, and only very faint traces of foundations. Near the Colorado Chiquito is an extensive ruin, on the summit of an isolated hill of sandstone, the faces of its walls being here and there visible above heaps of debris. It appears to be very old. As near as could be ascertained, the great rectangular Pueblo building was three hundred and sixty feet in extent on one side, and one hundred and twenty on the other. In some places the walls are ten feet thick, “with small rooms inserted in them.” Stone axes, painted pottery, and other articles are found in the debris: “The indented pottery, said to be so very ancient, is found here in many patterns.” On a ridge overlooking the valley of Pueblo Creek are traces of an old settlement of large extent, supposed to have been that heard of in 1539 by the friar Marco de Niça as “the kingdom of Totonteac.” Adobe seems to have been used here for building. Traces of other ruins were seen in various places, and springs along the route showing ancient stone-work are mentioned.
Ruins are abundant in the Rio Verde Valley down to the confluence of that river with the Rio Salinas. It is manifest that this whole region was anciently far more populous than it is now. Lieutenant Whipple says, “Large fields in the valley of the Rio Gila, and many spots among the Pinal Lena Mountains, are marked with the foundations of adobe houses.”
“In Cañon Chelly, near San Francisco Mountain, and upon Rio Verde, there are ruins of more permanent structures of stone, which in their day must have excelled the famed Pueblos of New Mexico.” There was a higher degree of civilization in the ancient times, so far as relates to architecture and skill in the arts and appliances of life, than has been shown by people of the same race dwelling there in our time; but the ancient condition of life seems to have been maintained from age to age without material change.
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