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Hovenweep National Monument photo: Hovenweep House


Attention was first publicly called, about 40 years ago (1875-1877), by Messrs. Jackson, [1] Holmes, Morgan, and others, to some of the ruins here considered. It is difficult to identify all of the ruins mentioned or described by these pioneers. Their "Hovenweep Castle" is supposed to lie in about the center of the district here considered, possibly on Square Tower (Ruin) Canyon, although the large castellated building [2] in Holly Canyon would also fulfill conditions equally well. Their "Pueblo" may have been situated on the McElmo near the mouth of Yellow Jacket Canyon. Early writers rather vaguely refer to a cluster of castles and towers as situated some distance from the "Burial Place," which is readily identified on the promontory at the mouth of the McElmo, as probably those in Square Tower (Ruin) Canyon, but the cluster may be either at Square Tower or Holly Canyon, both of which are about the same distance from this site. As "Pueblo" is not indicated on the map accompanying the Hayden report, the sites of rock shelters "some 7 miles from 'Pueblo' and 3 miles from the McElmo" remain doubtful. The author retains the name "Hovenweep Castle" for the ruin in Square Tower Canyon.

1Ancient Ruins in Southwestern Colorado. Rept. U. S. Geol. Surv. Terr. (Hayden Survey) for 1874, Washington, 1876.
2The situation of a spring near Hovenweep Castle indicates that the Great House may he the Hovenweep Castle of early writers.

In his account of ruins in the region visited, Prof. W. H. Holmes [1] considers several other ruins, as "the triple-walled tower" (here called Mud Spring village, p. 20), ruins at Aztec Spring (p. 23), cliff-dwellings and towers of the San Juan and Mancos, the "slab cysts" or burial places on the Dolores, and the promontory at the junction of the Hovenweep and McElmo (p. 60). The best-preserved towers and castellated buildings which his article considers occur on the San Juan and Mancos Canyons, districts on the periphery of the region covered by this account.

1Report on the ancient ruins of Southwestern Colorado. Tenth Ann. Rept. U. S. Geol. Surv. Terr. (Hayden Survey) for 1876, Washington, 1879.

These pioneer reports of Jackson and Holmes not only called attention to a new archeological field, but also introduced to the archeologist several new types of prehistoric American architecture of which nothing was previously known. They have been repeatedly quoted and are still constantly referred to by writers on southwestern archeology.

Although Jackson made many photographs of the castles and towers of the Hovenweep, none of these were published in his reports, possibly because halftone methods of reproduction were then unknown. The illustrations that appear in the text of early reports are mainly reproductions of sketches. These reports, in which the discovery of the tower type of architecture and its adjacent cliff-dwellings were announced, should thus rightly rank as the first important steps in the scientific investigations of the stone-house builders of this district of our Southwest; although the allied "Casas Grandes" or great houses of the Chaco had been described a few years before by Gregg, Stimpson, and others.

We have, in addition to these pioneer reports, several magazine articles of about the same date, the material for which was largely drawn from them. One of the most important newspaper articles of that date was written by Mr. Ernest Ingersoll, published in the New York Tribune, and another, of anonymous authorship, is to be found in the Century Magazine for the year 1877. New forms of towers and castellated buildings were added in these accounts to those of the earlier authors.

One of the most important contributions to the antiquities of the region about Mesa Verde was made by the veteran ethnologist, Morgan, who published notes contributed by Mr. Mitchell on a cluster of mounds near his ranch. As no name was given this village it is here called the Mitchell Spring Village. Morgan likewise mentions the ruin at Mud Spring and a tower in the ruin near his spring. Professor Newberry was the first author to affix the name Surouaro to a ruin situated at the head of the Yellow Jacket Canyon.

Several of these ruins were described and figured by Mr. Warren K. Moorehead as "The Great Ruins of Upper McElmo Creek" in the Illustrated American for July 9, 1892, the sixth of a series of articles under a general title "In search of a Lost Race." He gives descriptions of a "cave shelter" found near Twin Towers, Square Tower in "Ruin Canyon," a building (Hovenweep Castle), and the tower at the junction of the North and South Forks of Ruin Canyon. This paper is accompanied by a map of Ruin Canyon by Mr. Cowen. In Moorehead's discussion of these remains, individual towers and other ruins are designated by capital letters, A—V, to some of which are also affixed the names "Hollow Boulder," "Twin Towers," "Square Tower," etc. Details of structure and measurements of the more striking buildings and a discussion of certain features of structure, some of which will be considered later under individual ruins, are likewise given.

The most important general article yet published on the prehistoric remains of the region here considered is by Dr. T. Mitchell Prudden, [1] who also mentions several of the ruins here treated. His most important contribution is a description of what he calls the "unit type," which he recognized as a fundamental structural feature in the pueblos of this region. He also showed that the kiva in Montezuma Valley villages is identical with that of cliff-dwellings in the Mesa Verde, and emphasized, as an important feature, the union of the tower and the pueblo, a characteristic of the highest form of pueblo architecture.

1The Prehistoric Ruins of the San Juan Watershed in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico., Amer. Anthrop., n. s. vol. v, no. 2, 1903.

Doctor Prudden has followed his comprehensive paper above mentioned with an account [2] of the excavation of one of the mounds at Mitchell Spring in which he adds to our knowledge of the structure of his "unit type."

2The Circular Kivas of Small Ruins in the San Juan Watershed. Amer. Anthrop., n. s. vol. xvi no. 1, 1914.

In "A Further Study of Prehistoric Small House Ruins in the San Juan Watershed," [3] Doctor Prudden has furnished important additional data which shows the uniformity of the unit type over a large area of the San Juan drainage.

3Memoirs Amer. Anthrop. Asso., vol. v, no. 1, 1918.

The following among other prehistoric remains in the district mentioned or described by Doctor Prudden are covered by the author's reconnoissance:

1. Ruins at Dolores Bend (Escalante Ruin).
2. Wolley Ranch Ruin.
3. Burkhardt Ruin (Mud Spring Village).
4. Goodman Point Ruin.
5. Unnamed ruin west of Goodman Lake.
6. Ruin at junction of McElmo and Yellow Jacket.
7. Group on Yellow Jacket nearly opposite mouth of Dawson Canyon (Davis or Littrell Tower).
8. Surouaro,
9. Cannonball Ruin.
10. Towers and buildings of Ruin and Bridge Canyons.
11. Pierson Spring Ruin.
12. Bug Spring Ruins.

The following towers can be identified from his figures: [1]

1. "Square building opposite mouth of Dawson Creek." Prudden, pl. xviii, fig. 2. (This, building is not square, but semicircular.)

2. Cannonball Ruin. Prudden, pl. xxi [xxii].

3. "Small tower-like structure . . . at the head of Ruin Canyon, in the Yellow Jacket group." Prudden, pl. xxiii, fig. 2. (This building is not in Ruin Canyon, but in Holly Canyon.)

4. "Tower . . . about the head of Ruin Canyon." Prudden, pl. xxiii, fig. 1. (This is the most eastern of the Twin Towers, but not about the head of the canyon.)

5. Sand Canyon Tower. Prudden, pl. xxiv, fig. 2.

1Amer. Anthrop., n. s. vol. v, no. 2, 1903.

Although mainly devoted to descriptions of the cliff-houses of the Mesa Verde, Baron G. Nordenskiöld's "Cliff Dwellers of the Mesa Verde" discusses in so broad a manner the relationship of pueblo ruins and cliff-houses that no student can overlook this epoch-making work. In fact, Nordenskiöld laid the foundations for subsequent students of pueblo morphology, although some of his comparisons and generalizations were premature because based on imperfect observations which have been superseded by later investigations.

The partial excavation of the excellent ruin at the head of Cannonball Canyon by S. G. Morley [2] sheds considerable light on the morphology of prehistoric buildings in the McElmo district. Unfortunately no attempt was made by him to repair the walls of this ruin for permanent preservation, but it is not too late still to prevent their further destruction and preserve them for future students and visitors. Morley's description of the buildings is accompanied by good photographs and a ground plan. He brought to light in this ruin examples of the characteristic unit-type kiva.

2The Excavation of the Cannonball Ruins in Southwestern Colorado. Amer. Anthrop., n. s. vol. x, no. 4, 1908.

The latest work on the McElmo Ruins, one part of which has already appeared, is a joint contribution by Morley and Kidder. [1] In this publication accurate dimensions and sites of ruins in the McElmo and Square Ruin Canyons are given, with other instructive data. Morley and Kidder have designated the ruins by Arabic numbers, and in a few instances by names. The author has preserved these numbers so far as possible in his account.

1The Archaeology of McElmo Canyon, Colorado. El Palacio, vol. iv, no. 4, Santa Fe, 1917.

The following ruins in Ruin Canyon and neighboring district covered by this reconnoissance are described by Morley and Kidder:

No. 1. Wickyup Canyon, Ruin 1 and Ruin 2, "Boulder Castle."

No. 2. Two towers in Ruin Canyon: 1a, near the mouth; 1b, Towers on or near forks, No. 1 [Hovenweep Pueblo], No. 2 [Hovenweep Castle.]

No. 3. [Square Tower.]

No. 4. [Oval Tower.]

No. 5. [Tower]

No. 6. [6.]

No. 7. [Boulder Cliff-house.]

No. 8. Twin Towers.

No. 9. [9.]

No. 10. [Unit-type House.]

No. 11. Gibraltar House and ruin. [Stronghold House.]

No. 12. [12.]

The pueblos and cave dwellings of the "Pivotal group" (those on or near the promontory at the junction of the McElmo and Yellow Jacket Canyons) were also studied by the authors.

Almost the whole article by Morley and Kidder, which the editor announces will be completed in a future number of "El Palacico" is devoted to descriptions of buildings [2] in Ruin and Road (Wickyup) Canyons and the ruins of the "Pivotal group" at the base of a promontory between the junction of the Yellow Jacket and McElmo.

2The dimensions of buildings and towers given in this article are welcome additions to our knowledge, but from lack of ground plans one can not fully determine the arrangement of rooms designated in individual ruins.

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