Southwestern Monuments Monthly Report


By Katherine Bartlett

(Ed. note: This paper was presented at the Social Science Section, A.A.A.S. Albuquerque, N. M., April 26, 1938)

Perhaps a discussion of museums is out of place on a scientific program, but I do not believe it is for there is hardly a Southwestern anthropologist who is not connected with a museum of some kind--university, state, national park, or private.

A museum is a place where the finds of anthropology should be interpreted to the public. A museum should be like the conclusion of a scientific book where the results of research are summed up and not, as in the body of the book, where all the evidence is presented. The evidence must be known, of course, and placed where it may be seen by any person who wishes. There are very few museums like this.

Anthropological museums are divided into two groups: those that present anthropology as art; and those that present anthropology as science. The first group exhibits archaeology and ethnology as art, and in that they seem to be much more successful, as museums, than the second group. Only the best and finest objects are exhibited, usually in tastefully chosen settings that enhance their beauty and interest. The scientific museums, on the other hand, tend to show all their material, good and bad alike, poorly arranged and with uninteresting backgrounds.

It is scientific anthropological exhibits for the public that we are particularly concerned with here. Museums of anthropology, one of the oldest classes of museums, have been excessively slow to profit by new museum methods, especially in the United States. In recent years, art museums, natural history museums, and science and industry museums have outdistanced anthropology and history museums in pleasing and instructive presentation of material. They are employing the most up-to-date methods.

A good museum exhibit of any kind, whether one case or a gallery, should tell a story, or, in other words, present a few definite and clearly expressed ideas, and only a few. It is impossible for a museum visitor to absorb in the short time at his disposal very much information, but if he goes away enriched with a few clearly defined ideas, then he has not wasted his time.

As I was going around in a large eastern museum where there were endless cases full of objects, I noticed an ordinary man and woman. The woman was obviously bored, but her husband was intently studying every case. Finally said she, "Henry, if you stop to look at everything, we'll never get out of here!" This sentiment expresses perfectly the spirit of most archaeology and ethnology exhibits--a multiplicity of objects.

Let us take the Southwest as an example. Of course, it is needless to remark that Southwestern archaeology has made great strides and we now have a sequence of well defined cultural periods, practically all dated. Even a few museums realize this, and they exhibit in sequence the objects of material culture from Basket Maker through Pueblo IV, or Pioneer through Classic Hohokam. Unfortunately, to the general public, these objects all look about the same, except perhaps the pottery which looks different from period to period. Take Pueblo III for example. To a Southwestern archaeologist it immediately brings up ideas like this: "1100 to 1300 A.D.; large Pueblos--Wupatki, Betatakin, Aztec, Pueblo Bonito, Cliff Palace; finely made pottery with great local variation; distribution less extensive than in Pueblo II; kivas and development of religion; beginning of complex social organization; abrupt ending caused by great drought of 1275 to 1299." We forget that the public does not know all that this period designation means to us and consequently any intended time sequence is lost and the exhibit appears flat and lacking in perspective. Dwellings, religious life, social evolution and other intangible evidence, etc. are not there. It is this lack of time perspective that makes archaeological exhibits so dull from the visitors' point of view, yet is the very thing archeologists are striving to bring out.

I represent the general public in search of knowledge when I look at exhibits of the archaeology of Middle and South America, Europe, Greece, Egypt, and the East, and China. One knows from the literature that a great deal of research has been undertaken, and chronologies and sequences of cultural periods have been established in many parts of the world, but it is practically impossible to find a museum where such finds are interpreted intelligently, if at all. One of the best examples, is the new National Museum in Copenhagen. Here the prehistory and history of Denmark is set forth from the end of the Old Stone Age through Maglemosian, Kitchen Midden, Neolithic, Bronze, Celtic Iron, Roman Iron, Migration, Viking, German, and Historic Periods to the 19th Century. After looking at this splendid exhibit, one can understand the present day culture of Denmark, even though all labels are in Danish.

Another fine museum which, though devoted only to history, is worth of emulation, is the Hause den Rheinishchen Heimat in Cologne. Here the history of the Rhine Valley is excellently treated according to various objects--the historical and political development of the Rhineland, the Church and Church estates, the Rhenish city and its people, the Rhenish peasantry, and Commerce and Industry.

The third example is the new Hall of the Natural History of Man, at the American Museum of Natural History, which depicts in a very simple but comprehensive manner the physical evolution of man. This exhibit is somewhat like the Deutsches Hygiene Museum in Dresden which is devoted to Human Physiology.

In the museums which are the most interesting and instructive one finds simple, well thought-out exhibits, carefully labeled, extensively amplified with charts, maps, diagrams, and models, used in connection with carefully selected material. In showing a sequence of objects or cultures, it is the differences, and not the likenesses, which are the most significant.

One eastern university museum maintains that it is not faced with the same problems as ordinary public museums, and that it is proper for them to exhibit all their material so that the students can study it. If carefully prepared exhibits, no matter on what minute detail of anthropology, were available, I believe students as well as public would profit by it. Such exhibits should, of course, be augmented with easily available study collections.

In fact, a university museum is an opportunity for an anthropology department. By encouraging advanced students to prepare synoptic exhibits on any phase of the subject, the museum might build up a fine series of exhibits on its research problems. Many good students, who from lack of opportunity will never be able to be field archaeologists, can find positions in the vast number of museums springing up in the country--every city, town, county, and state must have them. Many of these local museums are being run by people who have not the slightest conception of what a good exhibit should be. Certainly a good exhibit would be worth as much as a term paper from a student, and requires as much research. Also a museologist with good anthropological knowledge is better than a jobless anthropologist.

In concluding, I wish to say that as anthropologists we should take the trouble to interpret to the layman what we learn through the dark and devious ways of research. By means of very simple, clear exhibits carefully labeled and augmented with charts and diagrams, the most intricate problems can be successfully "put over", remembering all the while that the differences are more important than the obvious likenesses. We should make and effort to present the anthropology of the Southwest as a predigested subject in three dimensions rather than as a mass of undigested material that satiates the public mind, and in so doing train our students to prepare such exhibits. We cannot expect a museum visitor--even the most interested--to expand much gray matter upon what he sees, and therefore we must do this thinking for him, in advance.


By The Boss

There has been some discussion concerning the name of the portion of cliff which threatens to fall on Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon. Neil M. Judd, of the U. S. National Museum, notably dislikes our name now in use, "Threatening Rock". We agree with Mr. Judd that there is no need to change a local name which is in wide usage by the Navajos of the region. On a recent trip to Chaco Canyon, Park Naturalist Dale S. King interviewed several Navajos to get the Navajo name and the references, calling the rock, "Tse oi' hania" (Rock braced). Therefore, it seems that we should change the name we use to "Braced Rock" or "Propped Rock". What do Mr. Judd and the men in the field think of this suggestion?


By C.G. Harkins

On the morning of June 27, 1938, Temporary Park Rangers Tommy Onstett and James Spuhler made a trip to the Otowi Section of Bandelier National Monument to recover a skeleton that had been reported by a visitor to the monument on June 25, 1938. The report was substantiated on the 26th by Custodian Harkins and, as the upper portion of the skeleton was fully exposed to the elements, the Custodian directed that the bones be removed and preserved.

Excavation revealed that the body had not been inhumed, but that the man had met an accidental death when caught in a small landslide. A tuffaceous boulder, some 75 cubic feet in volume, had apparently struck down the Indian at a point about 65 feet down the talus from the southernmost extension of the mesa just west of Otowi ruin and north of the Los Alamos Ranch School's Camp Hamilton. The position of the bones indicate that the Indian had, upon analyzing his predicament, turned to face the falling boulder, and arms outstretched to ward off its course, had been crushed to death. A smaller tuffaceous boulder checked the downward path of the killing rock and held it stationed directly over the body.

Death probably resulted from shock resulting from a back broken in the lumbar region, a crushed thorasic cavity (nine of the left ribs were broken), smashed frontal and facial region and two broken ulnae.

Although the volcanic ash surrounding the body was carefully screened, a number of the smaller bones were not recovered. All the mandibular incisors, the lower right third molar, and the maxillary central incisors are missing. Other missing parts include all the bones of both right and left hands and wrists, the left clavicle, six cervical vertebrae, and the bones of the left foot excepting the calcanium. Probably some of the missing bones could have been recovered by removing more ash from beneath the larger boulder of tuff. However, this procedure would have endangered the balance of the rock. The loss of a number of smaller bones may be attributed to pack rats as numerous signs of these animals were observed.

No material of a cultural nature was associated with the skeleton, but the general appearance of the remains indicate no very great passage of time.

The skeleton has been sized, packed, and is being preserved at the Bandelier Museum.

Note: After the above had been written, Dr. E. B. Renaud of the University of Denver Anthropology Department examined the skull of this skeleton and sexed it as a male about 40 years old.


By Paul Beaubien

(Ed. Note: Park Naturalist Arthur Stupka of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is accumulating information on nature trails. Junior Archaeologist Beaubien's replies to Stupka's questionnaire may be of interest to the field as Beaubien probably has had more experience with such trails than any other Southwestern Monuments man. Since Beaubien has developed nature trails at both Walnut Canyon and Saguaro, his replies will be segregated: 1. Walnut Canyon; and 2. Saguaro)


1. October, 1934
2. December, 1935


1. In Walnut Canyon where there are many small cliff dwellings and plants of three life zones.

2. Besides the ranger station where there are many desert plants.


1. Archeology and ethnobotany
2. Botany only


1. About five eighths of a mile.

2. The trail was really an outdoor museum. About 200 yards.


1. About 25 at first.
2. Thirty.


1. About 75 percent of the visitors to the cliff ruins read the signs. About half of these gave enthusiastic approval.

2. It met with interest and approval.


1. Informative signs were placed along the trail to the cliff dwellings because it was impossible for one part-time ranger to give adequate guide service. Impetus was given to the project by the timely visit of Dr. Frank E. Lutz.

2. With the aid of Mr. J. J. Thornber of the University of Arizona, and of Dr. Forrest Shreve, Director of the Desert Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution, the nature trail at Saguaro was established as much to help the newly arrived ranger as to inform the public. Its use was continued because there were many times when the ranger unavoidably absent and guide service thereby unavailable.


1. Just one.
2. Only one.


1. Hand-lettered cardboard labels and metal labels obtained from the Western Museum Laboratories at Berkeley.

2. Informal shipping tags at first; formal aluminum labels later.


1. Four words minimum, about 50 words maximum.

2. Common name, scientific name, and one brief statement regarding some interesting or unusual characteristic.


1. Each type is mounted on a half inch pine board which in turn is nailed to a short standard or log.

2. The metal labels were obtained from the Western Museum Laboratories, the others were prepared and lettered by the ranger.


1. Very few disappear, but it sometimes happens.
2. No.


1. There seems to be less vandalism since the labels were placed.

2. Some damage to plants has occurred.


1. No.
2. No.


1. and 2. I believe that the metal labels are made with C.C.C. labor.


1. No deliberate attempt. However, the behavior of several thousand visitors per year is observed by the ranger as about one third of the trail is in view from the canyon rim where the ranger is stationed several hours each day of the heavy traffic period. Further, the ranger contacts about 50 percent of the visitors and can tell from their questions how much use has been made of the signs.

2. There is a register at the beginning.


1. People come to see the cliff dwellings. If they visit the dwellings, they are routed over the nature trail.

2. When the ranger is at the monument, people are conducted over the trail. At other times they have to find it for themselves. It is located beside the road and begins at the register.


1. and 2. Yes. I believe that educated people, who are accustomed to securing knowledge from reading, will retain facts longer if the information is gained ocularly instead of orally. Deaf people are not embarrassed on a nature trail. The labels can tell the same story day after day without being compared to a phonograph. A nature trail saves guiding time at any undermanned monument by separating those who are interested from those who only wish to say that they have been there. The labels are helpful when a party is personally conducted along the trail, as some wish to take notes, and many wish to both see and hear. I believe the information has a tendency to be more accurate as a ranger would never print anything he could not prove. I have heard many compliments on nature trails elsewhere, and have never heard any disparaging remarks. The old may go slow and the young may go fast on a nature trail.


1. and 2. More signs and less trail, even if some plants had to be transplanted short distances. More labels, more words per label, broadening of subject matter. At first, shipping tags were used for labels, but were found to be too small and inconspicuous. Most of the trail here is on the ledges of a deep canyon and visitors watch their path closely. Thus, it was necessary to place the labels close to the ground. This demanded that the lettering be of sufficient size to be read ten feet from the eyes. The wording has become more simple. "Farmers" is preferred to "agriculturists"; "salt water fossils" is more effective than "marine fossils"; "400 years before Columbus" commands more attention than 1092; etc. At first I tried to divide a story into several statements placed on consecutive labels. Later I came to believe that the story could be told on one label with better results. Vandalism is more effectively checked by calling attention to the thoughtlessness of others, instead of threatening punishment. Because visitors are attracted to Walnut Canyon by the cliff dwellings, the information given at first was concerned only with archeology and ethnobotany. But so many visitors asked questions about other subjects, I began to label everything that seemed to be of interest.


1. and 2. The most important need when installing or maintaining a nature trail is development of a technique whereby an ordinary ranger may quickly and cheaply make attractive labels. Then it would be possible to experiment more with phraseology, and additional labels could be secured as needed without having to wait for preparation at a distance. The wording from a few labels at Walnut Canyon follows:

HOPTREE, SHRUBBY TREFOIL, or WAFER ASH (Ptela crenulata) The bark, leaves, and roots have bitter-tonic properties are were used in medicine. Indians still come many miles for this plant.

LEMONADE SUMMAC OR SQUAW BUSH (Rhus trilobata) The berries were used as food while the twigs were used in coarse basketry and for ceremonial purposes. Some Indians powder the dried berries to make a lotion for smallpox. Of the four woods burned in Hopi kivas, this is one.

PINYON PINE (Pinus edulus) In good years the seeds were important as food. Pitch from Pinyon trees was used for medicinal purposes, for waterproofing pottery and baskets, for attaching arrow points to shafts, etc. The scars on this Pinyon Pine were caused by a porcupine.

BROAD LEAF YUCCA (Yucca baecata) The leaves were shredded and the fibres made into baskets, sandals, cordage, etc. A strip of leaf with end chewed was a brush for painting pottery. Fruits and seeds were eaten, and the latterused as beads. Roots were used as soap.

The plant hanging from the ledge overhead is a DRY FERN (Cheilanthes feei).

The women plastered all these dwellings by hand. Note finger impressions that were here centuries before Columbus discovered America. Every year thousands of people wish to see them, so please do not touch or deface. The tar-like soot on the ceilings resulted from burning pitch pine. The smoke-blackened rocks in this well indicate that it was built from the remains of an earlier one.

During warm weather household activities probably were carried on outside--dwellings used for storage and sleeping. At other times a small fire would serve for warmth, light, and cooking. The small doors would be easier to close or defend.

The dwellings are between lodges of Kaibab Limestone. The same formation forms the rim of Grand Canyon. It contains salt water fossils such as sponges, trilobites, brachiopods, etc. Below is the Coconino Sandstone, containing no fossils. From its cross-bedding, geologists consider it a sand dune formation.


entrance to ruin with interpretive label

By the Boss

Here I come to work Monday morning after a week-end in the field with a Brass Hat from Washington and before I can get the mail read Natt puts his head in and says: "We are ready for those Ruminations as soon as you can write them." So I pull myself out of the middle of an interesting report from Bill Leicht and prepare to help Vic and Natt keep the press rolling. I don't know whether you have caught it or not, but the Supplement goes to press before the Report, so we are finishing the Supplement today just as the first batch of reports are arriving from the field.

It is pleasant to know that my veracity, which was under fire on this recent field trip, came through practically unscathed. While we were looking over the Saguaro National Monument, where we own a patch of timber (about as big as some of those quart-size New England states) across the top of the mountains, and the State owns the finest single stand of Saguaros in the world inside the boundaries of our Monument, I told a little episode about the good old days when cactuses had the real pioneer spirit. The story ran to the effect that I had seen a Bisnaga, which is the so-called Barrel, or Devil's Nail Keg type of cactus, uprooted on the desert; lie there for three months with its roots in the air and then bloom. Hugh and the Brass Hat were very nice about it; they didn't call me a liar; they just said they didn't believe it and I couldn't even get them to take 45 days apeice of the three months. They just rejected the story in tote.

I was already in the dog house because I had put Hugh and the Brass Hat on the correct road and then, being busy in the mental dream of developing the Saguaro National Monument these next ten or eleven years, and being in the back seat with the luggage and not much of a back seat driver, I paid them no further mind, as we Texans say, until they fell on me with cries of anguish because their road had quit on them. Of course their trouble was that they had forked off the road I had put them on while my attention was elsewhere.

Well, that evening, in the soft luxuriance of the lobby of the Pioneer Hotel, we were talking to a man who is a real big shot in his line which has to do with the great outdoors. As we were about to part for the night I asked the big shot to back me up a little on this cactus story about the cactus blooming after its roots had been away from the soil for six months. I know that is twice as long as I said the first time, but I just figured that if they didn't believe me when I pulled my punches, I might just as well tell the truth.

Well, Sir, he sure gave me a noble backing. He told about Dr. MacDougald, out at the Carnegie Desert Laboratory, or one of his experts, who pulled up a Bisnaga, dusted off its roots, put it down on the cement floor of his cellar for THREE YEARS and then set it out in the round at it went right on doing business and bloomed the next season! I guess that held them! They each of them swallowed that whole three years where they had balked on even a half of may three months!

It just shows you that Hugh and the Brass Hat were shy of an old timer in the Park Service but would believe a big shot right off the bat. And here I have been sending my perfectly honest, well meaning reports and alibis to that Brass Hat these eighteen or twenty years, and I suppose, from this experience, he hasn't believed even the half of them!

The first time I met that big shot was about 14 years ago when, coming over the old Florence road along in the night, I found him with a burned bearing, and pulled him some twenty miles into Florence. Fourteen years before he got a chance to help me out of a jam, but he was there when I gave the sign as though it were yesterday.

And now, probably both Hugh and the Brass Hat will think we are both liars, Nick, instead of believing my story because you raised the ante from three months to three years. Anyway, you helped me back into a state of grace for the time being at least and the Brass Hat accepted my facts and figures pretty much all day Sunday, except just here and there. Thanks, Old Timer.

The Boss

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Date: 01-May-2007