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GIS in Ruins and Historic Structures Preservation at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

Salinas Pueblo Missions NM
Andrew Waggener
GIS in Ruins and Historic Structures Preservation at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.


American Indian trade communities of Tiwa and Tompiro speaking peoples once thrived in the remote frontier country of central New Mexico. As early as 1630, Franciscan clergy accompanied Spanish explorers into the area to begin missionary efforts among the pueblos. By 1670, however, what became known as the Salinas District had begun to depopulate due to drought and famine conditions, and with the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, what remained of Spanish Colonials and their Indian allies moved south to El Paso to escape the warring Puebloans. What remains today of this rich history are austere, yet beautiful, reminders of early contact between Pueblo Indians and Spanish Colonials: the ruins of four missions at Abó, Gran Quivira and Quarai, in association with numerous excavated and unexcavated pueblos.


Stabilization and preservation efforts at Salinas have been on-going for decades. In the past couple of years, the Resource Management Division has developed within its Geographical Information Systems (GIS) detailed maps of pre-historic and historic features in order to automate and manage these resources.

Along with the GIS, Access databases are used to store vast amounts of associated attribute data as well as thousands of scanned photographs, some dating to the early 1900’s. Information from field assessment reports provide detailed documentation of conditions and applied treatments. Archaeologists and other professionals use the database to assess and evaluate stabilization techniques and mortar applications to continuously improve long-term preservation of these structures.

GIS projects illustrated in these maps involve digitized, scanned drawings of Pueblo and Mission complexes, GPS data collection locating historic and pre-historic features, and conversion of CAD Survey data sets. Creation of large-scale color aerial photography also aids park staff in research and preservation efforts.


The Abo Unit of Salinas National Monument has recently been the focus of numerous projects utilizing GIS. Examples of outputs are the maps included here. The first map (Abo-1.jpeg) shows a defined management region designated as a Visitor Interface Area. The area contains many pre-historic, historic and modern features.

Map two (Abo-2.jpeg) is a close-up of the area as seen on a geo-rectified aerial photograph. This large-scale ortho-photo mosaic has been useful in locating and mapping various features and sites at Abo.

The third map of the Abo Mission Complex (Abo-3.jpeg) illustrates feature details, which are designated on the maps. Assigned numbers of individual wall faces are used to join digital maps with attribute data contained in the database mentioned above.

At the Gran Quivira site unit, the excavated ruin of Mound 7 is currently under study for backfilling as a preservation method. Excavation conducted from 1965 – 70 have left fragile walls exposed to the elements, causing multiple problems for long-term stabilization and preservation. Each room has been surveyed and each wall has been assessed and documented. Archaeologists are studying this and previous documentation to design a proper course of action. Map four (GQ-1.jpeg.) illustrates a portion of this project. Map five (GQ-2.jpeg) contains four views of the Mound 7 site.
April 08, 2004