Prehistory of El Rito de los Frijoles, Bandelier National Monument


It has been mentioned previously that during course of stabilization work in the Rito de Los Frijoles a great number of potsherds were found, totaling well over 17,000. At the large kiva site, more than 11,000 pot-sherds were found; in the Ceremonial Cave, 131; almost 4,000 at Tyuonyi; and over 2,000 at the Long House.

Since pottery is one of the most useful tools of the archaeologist in determining age, periods of activity, and cultural stage of the remains of a given area, an analysis of these potsherds will be used as a basis in approximate determination of occupation of ruined sites on the floor of Frijoles Canyon. (See ceramic correlation charts I, II, III, IV). It is well to point out that most of this material has been disturbed in the past, and only a small part of it was found in situ. It was accumulated over a period of approximately 600 years, being cast away by Indian women as it broke, It was used as fill, it may have been scattered and worked into the thick mud coats on the roofs of structures, or into the walls or even the turkey pens. Erosion of the talus slopes may have washed some of it into place, and part may have been distributed by vandals. In any case, all that can be done is to classify it and place it in its chronological position as learned from the excavation of other sites by various workers in the field. In this may certain generalities can be reached.

Earliest known pottery type found in the central and upper Rio Grande region is a kind manufactured in the first period of pottery-making in the northern Southwest, the Modified Basket Maker or Basket Maker III period. It has been suggested by Mera that this early pottery represented the scattered vanguard of an eastern drift from a posited center of origin in western New Mexico, a movement which is seen to have taken place more definitely a little later.81

81. Mera, H. P., 1935, p. 2.

The next type to drift into the Rio Grande was Chaco I Black-on-White (Robert's classification), and, although found in fewer sites than the Basket Maker III, it extends over a somewhat greater range.82

82. Mera, H. P., 1935, p. 3.

The Chaco II styles came next with the beginning of a great wave or territorial expansion, which, when ended, marked the farthest extent of Chaco influence and which exceeded the limit set by any other later Pueblo areal fluctuation.83 Chaco II Black-on-White is the earliest type so far found in the Rito. Two small pieces hardly constitute much evidence but they do suggest influence by some early development in the general area. This pottery seems to have been made in the tenth and early eleventh centuries.

83. Mera, H. P., 1935, p. 5.

Kwahe'e Black-on-White is the first decorated ware to appear in sufficient numbers to suggest even sporadic actual occupation. Kwahe'e pottery is a local development of the Chaco II style, showing a departure from type in general coarsening and deterioration due to inferior craftsmanship. Early incised and corrugated utility wares contemporaneous with the Chaco-Kwahe'e complex were found in such numbers as to suggest fairly early occupation in the Frijoles and local manufacture of pottery.

Mera points out that locations along or near alluvial margins of streams were generally preferred for the erection of dwellings, but that at times necessity seemed to have demanded a more defensible position resulting in "colony sites" formed by individual room groups collected together on some easily defended topographical feature.84 Such "colony sites" are found scattered over the Pajarito Plateau on the edges of mesas or on knolls overlooking the surrounding country, but the occupation of the canyon under discussion was different. No clusters of early rooms have been located. It may be, however, that they have been obliterated.

84. Mera, H. P., 1935, p. 7.

The theory has been advanced that caves in the high cliffs above the floor of the canyon were the first dwellings occupied, and from a theoretical standpoint this would be logical; but open house sites of much earlier date have been found in other localities. It is not as if these people had no knowledge of building rooms with poles to support the roof structure. They may, however, have at first hurriedly set up little lean-to's at the base of the cliff, using to advantage the north cliff as one wall of the structure and a protection against the elements. As for the caves, which for the most part were entered by going first through the little talus rooms, it may be suggested without actual proof that they were hollowed out sometime after the first rooms were constructed. Nobody knows what the first cliff houses looked like, whether they were thrown up in a hurry or whether they were carefully planned. I am inclined to believe that mere shelters were built at first, and were continually added to until a fairly sturdy structure resulted.

As an example I shall point out a series of dwellings between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico, on the side of the road where present-day Indians from Santo Domingo gather to sell their pottery to tourists. I watched this development for about four years. At first the Indian women sat on the side of the highway in the hot sun, with their pottery spread out before them. Presently, four forked poles were placed upright in the ground and a roof of crooked junipers was put on, with a covering of green foliage. A few white-headed old men have been seen working around the site and I presume they were largely responsible for this. These were so imperfectly constructed that the juniper foliage looked as if it might fall through any minute.

There arose the need for cooked food and so a place was scooped out of the ground and three little walls of mud, and perhaps stone, were built around it. The next step was to split junipers, or bring in odd pieces of wood, and crudely cover one side of the shelter, binding the lumber on with wire, or to lay up one low wall with stone. Later on, when it rained (for water is scarce there), they sealed up all of the cracks with adobe. In a short time another wall would appear, perhaps built of timbers placed in an upright position and covered with mud. Or, they may have used adobe blocks. In a little while there were four walls to the little house and the vigas were sticking through the wall. A crude door and window were put in one of the walls. Soon there was a small chimney above the roof. I recall when there was only one such crude structure but now, four years later, there are half a dozen little huts completed, apparently used only temporarily. Perhaps if there was water here there might be a few permanent residents.

This sort of thing is very possibly what happened in the Rito de Los Frijoles (of course without the wire and old finished lumber or doors on hinges and windows with glass). At any rate, an idea of the evolution in house types can be gained.

Analysis of potsherds recovered from perhaps the best section of the cliff-houses shows an occupation approximating the same period as that of the villages on the valley floor. It seems that population was not centered in the cliffs and that they were never as popular as the homes they overlooked. About the middle of the sixteenth century certain decorated wares suddenly became popular, but lasted only a short while, indicating a brief major occupation of the cliff homes at this time.

To return to the general historical picture: Santa Fe Black-on-White pottery is thought to have supplanted the Kwahe'e wares through a fusion of the Gallina and Kwahe'e Black-on-White types by the drifting southward of the Gallina people toward the Kwahe'e settlements on the Rio Puerco.85 This new type at first took on sunny peculiar characteristics in the Rio Puerco, but later resulted in a readily distinguishable, quite homogeneous black-on-white pottery. This type spread southward along the highlands to a point where the valley of the Rio Puerco becomes broadly open, then deflected a little to the southeast and followed the foothills of the Jemez Mountains down to the southernmost end of that range. It kept largely to the highlands, spreading north along the Rio Grande and then eastward, supplanting the Kwahe'e type. It shows a certain amount of influence, either direct or indirect, from Mesa Verde pottery. The Mesa Verde traits seemed to gain in strength during the move down the Rio Puerco. They were confined, however, principally to design with a few attempts to actually copy.86

85. Mera, H. P., 1931, p. 32.
86. Mera, H. P., 1935, pp. 11-12.

Santa Fe Black-on-White was present in sufficiently greater numbers than Kwahe'e Black-on-White to suggest that occupation of the Rito was well under way by this time. Mera points out that now the tendency of architectural styles on the Pajarito was toward larger sized units, in the form of parallelograms. Some of these were later grouped together, and eventually grew into compact pueblo structures built about a central court.87 Architectural styles present in the Frijoles in Santa Fe Black-on-White times are uncertain, since no houses are known to remain of this transitional type. If there were any, which is quite probable, then they have been either incorporated into or supplanted by the large communal houses, of which there are several. Inasmuch as Santa Fe type is present here in such quantity, I suspect the presence at one time of the corresponding house type.

87. Mera, H. P., 1935, pp. 15-16.

A new type, Wiyo Black-on-White, developed in the early fourteenth century and supplanted the Santa Fe variety in the northernmost part of its range, being especially dominant in the Chama Valley. It was somewhat thicker than the preceding types, and differed in many other details. Wiyo Black-on-White was not very popular among the Indians of the Frijoles. As it was also found only sparingly in other Pajarito sites by Mera,88 the bulk of Wiyo might perhaps be considered as a late surviving form of the Santa Fe type, although occupying the same time level as true Wiyo. Eleven pieces of another similar type thicker and coarser than Santa Fe were also found in the Frijoles. This, apparently, is a transitional type between Santa Fe and Wiyo, and was labeled "affinis Wiyo" since it could not be classified definitely as Wiyo Black-on-White.

88. Mera, H. P., 1935, p. 18.

Biscuit A, or Abiquiu Black-on-Gray,89 evolved directly from Wiyo Black-on-White.90 Biscuit A, a thicker and coarser development of the black-on-whites, is well represented in the Frijoles, but is not found in very great quantity.

89. Kidder and Shepard, 1936, xxx.
90. Mera, H. P., 1933, p. 17.

Rio Grande Glaze ware,91 which originated in the Rio Grande Valley from Little Colorado influence and spread from some place below the present city of Albuquerque, made its appearance later in the same century as Wiyo Black-on-White. The glaze-decorated pottery finally spread into the Pajarito Plateau.92 Glazes of group A do not come in sufficient quantities in Frijoles Canyon to indicate any emphasis upon the type. Abiquiu Black-on-Gray (Biscuit A) seems to have predominated at this time, but the glazes had gained a foothold.

91. Mera, H. P., 1835, p. 31.
92. Mera, H, P., 1933, p. 17.

Biscuit B, or Bandelier Black-on-Gray, which grew directly out of Biscuit A, apparently was the most popular type of pottery in Frijoles Canyon, constituting almost five percent of the total number of sherds recovered. This percentage does not appear high until over 10,000 utility sherds are removed from the total, leaving only the decorated wares. It seems that during the development from Biscuit A, which took place sometime before 1450 on the Pajarito Plateau,93 the Frijoles people came into their own. Apparently there was a gradual change of architectural styles or a development of the smaller sites into the great communal dwellings which came into existence in a comparatively short period of time, like the pottery, which showed a lag up through Biscuit A times and then a sudden spurt in Biscuit B.

93. Mera, H. P., 1933, p. 37.

Glaze totals grew slowly and steadily, lagging in the A, B and C types but then expanding during Glaze D times. They really came into prominence as a major cultural development during the latter part of the Glaze E period. This was the period of the greatest cultural expansion in the middle sixteenth century, about time time that Coronado's expedition came into the Rio Grande valley and established winter headquarters at Tiguex (near time present Bernalillo).

At all four of the sites examined in the Frijoles, the late black-on-gray ware occurred in great numbers, along with the late forms of the glaze ware. The preceding wares showed slowness of development, while suddenly cultural activity was greatly increased in the sixteenth century. It appears as though the Frijoles people had developed a new lease on life and had suddenly become active in the development of a ceramic complex, possibly because of an influx of new population.

In the kiva section of this report I mentioned that during time Coronado expedition one of the captains and several men were sent up the river in the summer of 1541, where they saw two villages, probably Chamita and San Juan. When the Indians saw the Spaniards they abandoned their homes and removed to the mountains, where they had four very strong villages, in a very rugged country and inaccessible to men on horseback. These villages were undoubtedly on the Pajarito Plateau and their inhabitants belonged to the same linguistic stock (i.e., Tewa) as the Indians who had abandoned their homes.

That the late Biscuit type, Potsui'i Incised, and Sankawi Black-on Cream probably developed in the villages to the north of the Frijoles where it has been found in such great quantities has previously been mentioned, and this development took place near the time during this possible sudden influx of population. The number of individuals coming into the northern Pajarito villages is not known, but they probably numbered several hundred. If this is true, there might have been an immediate demand for pottery of all sorts. Surely they could not have brought a sufficient amount with them.

Stallings has pointed out that time pueblo of Tshirege was occupied as late as 1581 and Puiye as late as 1565,94 but this evidence does not show how much longer these villages were occupied. Occupation may have hung on for many years as it did at Puye; these dates only demonstrate that timbers for buildings were cut at that time. Occupation of those sites for some years after that time can be presumed. The dates do prove, however, that building was going on after the time of time influx of people from the north.

94. Stallings, W. S., jr., 1937, p. 5.

The sudden increase in the population may be the reason why late black-on-gray pottery is found in such great numbers at Puye, Tshirege, Sankawi, and Otowi, although the migrant groups did not introduce any new types since their styles were similar to those of the latter villages.

Tree-ring studies in the Pajarito region are known to indicate a drought in the sixteenth century. This shortage of water may have caused partial evacuation of these villages, the people pushing south ward to deep canyon homes where water supply may have been more constant, and at the same time removing themselves to more isolated spots farther from the influence of the Spanish. If these people did make such a move, then the sudden spurt of Bandelier Black-on-Gray and of the late glazes can be accounted for in another way than by the sudden rise in cultural development by the Frijoles people themselves.

It has always been a Keres tradition that people in the Rito were of the Keres stock. Bandelier says, "the people of Cochite (Cochiti) told me that the caves of Rito, as well as time three pueblo ruins (situated near together on the floor of Frijoles Canyon), were the work of their ancestry, when the Queres (Keresans) all lived there together, in times much anterior to the coming of the Spaniards."95 It is difficult to picture a union within the northern Tewa without strife of some sort, and Harrington says, "tills settlement is claimed by the Cochiti Indians as a home of their ancestors, and two old San Ildefonso Tewa informants have stated positively that it was a Tewa (Keresan) village."96 Even thought Tewas have married into Keres groups and vice versa, the outcome of an encroachment by migrant bands on foreign territory might well have been a bitter duel between the two stocks. A common purpose might possibly have been recognized, however, by the two groups and a peaceful union formed. The idea of a union of this sort perhaps ties in within Bandelier's interpretation of Tyuonyi, as a word having significance akin to "treaty" or "contract." If there had been warfare it is possible that the weaker of the two would have heft, and the stronger groups taken over. The ancient boundary between the Tewa and Keres territory is said to have been somewhat north of Frijoles Canyon.97

95. Bandelier, A. F., 1892, p. 145.

96. Harrigton, J. P., 1916, p. 412. The phrase "Tewa (Keresan)" is contradictory. Harrington probably meant Tanoan.

97. Harrington, J. P., 1916, p. 412.

The Frijoles Canyon under discussion was, according to Hewett,98 known to the Tewas as the Cochiti Rito. They called it "Puwhige" and agreed to the Cochiti tradition of ownership of the Rito. Weyima, rain priest at San Ildefonso, would never admit, however, the tradition that ancestors of the Cochitenos, except for certain clans, ever lived in the Cochiti Rito. Ancho Canyon (the first canyon north of the Cochiti Rito) was the one known to the Tewas as El Rito de Los Frijoles and was the true "valley of the bean fields."

98. Hewett, Edgar L., 1909a, p. 669.

It appears likely from the information presented that the two stocks had some contact, either peaceful or warlike. If the Tewas claim Ancho Canyon as part of their territory near their south boundary, then the Tewa villages in the canyons and on the mesas must have had some contact with the people (Keresans) hiving in the Rito; at least trade was carried on between the two groups.

Stallings99 gives a tree-ring date from Frijolito of 1447. Frijolito is situated almost on the edge of the south cliff just above Tyuonyi. The glaze ware here extends up through group C times, which suggests an evacuation of the site at about that time. The writer has observed the same situation with regard to the small ruined sites on mesas north of Frijoles Canyon, over as far as Water Canyon. They apparently were inhabited until Glaze C times, and suddenly abandoned. Glaze C apparently came into existence sometime during the fifteenth century; just how long it was in vogue is questionable, but it did precede and was partially contemporaneous with Bandelier Black-on-Gray. Shupinna (Shu-finne), a large Tewa village on the Pajarito Plateau north of Tshirege, was occupied iii Biscuit A times until sometime in the early part of the sixteenth century, and then abandoned. Navawi (Navawi'i), another large Tewa village, lasted to Glaze C times (late fifteenth century) when Tshirege and Puye were most probably founded.100 Most of the small villages on the little mesas around the Frijoles seem to have been abandoned about this time but the reason is still questionable. This again reverts to the possibility of a drought on the higher mesas, or pressure exerted by migrant groups of people. The people of the little colony sites may have moved down into the canyon, where it is likely that water supply was more constant,—or, they may have formed a part of a big southward push toward the Rio Grande, It has been pointed out that Glazes A, B and C showed a lag at the Frijoles sites but Glaze D was more abundant. This would correspond with the occupation through Glaze C times in some of the mesa homes, and suggests an in flux of mesa people into the Frijoles sites, which could have brought about the rise of the late Glaze ware.

99. Stallings, W. S. jr., 1933, p. 805.
100. Mera, H. P., 1934, p. 14.

Sankawi Black-on-Cream was the next ware to come into prominence. Its appearance seems to coincide with late Glaze E, though it was more abundant in the Pajarito during the early part of Glaze F.101 It has been pointed out that 1513 was the probable building date of the kiva and that one piece of early Sankawi was found imbedded in the mortar in which one of the vigas was set. This substantiates Mera's statement102 that Sankawi Black-on-Cream apparently developed during a time commensurate with late group E glaze pottery. Such large quantities of Sankawi Black-on-Cream are found at Sankawi, Tshirege, and Puye, that it is believed that this ware originated, and was largely developed, in the large late villages of the Pajarito Plateau.

101. Mera, H. P., 1933, p. 17.
102. Mera, H. P., 1933, p. 34.

In the Frijoles this made only a small showing as compared to the late glazes of Group E or to Bandelier Black-on-Grays, and apparently it never replaced the latter. Possibly the occupants of the Frijoles, who surely were in contact with villages to the north where Sankawi Black-on-Cream was so predominant, learned the new technique but never developed it to any great extent. On the other hand, this pottery may well have been imported from the northern villages.

The reason for its apparent unpopularity is unknown but it represents the last period of occupation in the Frijoles, along with Bandelier Black-on-Gray and the late prehistoric glaze-decorated types. At this time, probably about 1600, there seems to have been a definite halting of cultural activity. (See ceramic correlation charts, I, II, III, IV). Neither Biscuit or Sankawi hang on even in degenerate form, but one of the little glaze ollas found below the apparent floor of the kiva was an excellent representation of the last development of the art of glazing. It was sloppily done; the glaze was thick and bubbled, and had run, an elongated vertical design which could not be deciphered.

A few stragglers may have held on a few years after the close of the sixteenth century, but the bulk of the population had evacuated, and it seems probable that the large kiva was burned at this time. On the other hand, however, the canyon has been occupied from time to time by Spanish-speaking people. Chapman points out that in examination of pictographs upon the walls of several hundred caves in the Pajarito it became necessary to distinguish between the pre-Spanish and the recent, as there were many drawings evidently done by casual visitors and sheep herders.103

103. Chapman, K. M., 1938, p. 141.

It is quite possible that the Spanish expeditions during the sixteenth century had some effect upon the Frijolenos, probably indirectly. Coronado and his followers, as far as is known, never penetrated the valley of the Frijoles. This expedition up the Rio Grande in 1540 was about the time of the greatest pueblo communal activity which started on its decline shortly after the advent of the Spanish.

In the Narrative of Jaramillo (one of Coronado's officers during the expedition of 1540) the villages of the river of Tihues (Rio Grande) were described as "fifteen within a distance of about 20 leagues, all with flat roof houses of earth instead of stone, after the fashion of mud walls. There were other villages besides these on other streams which flow into this, and three of these are, for Indians, well worth seeing, especially one called Chia (Sia), another Uraba (Taos), and another Cicuique (probably Pecos)."104 It is difficult to say whether or not Tyuonyi was included in the villages on other streams flowing into the Rio Grande. If so, the mention of it came through hearsay, not from any actual visit to the area. The Frijolenos were, to judge from the experience of the people of Tiguex, fortunate rather than otherwise in escaping Spanish attentions.

104. Winship, G. P., 1896, p. 387.

Chamuscado's expedition in 1582 did not explore the Pajarito either; by this time the desertion of Frijoles seems to have been well on its way.

In February, 1583, the expedition of Antonio de Espejo stopped at a place called Cachiti (presumably Cochiti) where the people were very peaceful, and people from other pueblos asked the soldiers to go with them.105 Some of these people may have been from the Keres villages on the Jemez. Whether or not any of them were from the Frijoles is problematical, but entirely possible, since Tyuonyi was one of the nearest settlements to Cochiti. The Spaniards did not go to the north, so far as known, but marched southward for a league and a half (apparently close to the confluence of Jemez Creek with the Rio Grande) where they camped near a Keres village, and next day marched westward.

105. Luxan, (Hammond and Rey), pp. 82-83.

By 1598 during the campaign of Onate, a few stragglers were probably still hanging on in the Frijoles; shortly after the close of the century the sites were probably completely abandoned.

Thus, one of the largest aboriginal settlements of the upper Rio Grande, which had arisen as a result of eastward and southward movements of people from the break-up of the cultures of the upper San Juan Valley, and which had developed steadily until the first Spanish expedition into New Mexico, began to show a decline which gained momentum to such an extent that the entire population deserted in little more than 50 years. Just what factors were responsible for the break-up and abandonment are uncertain.

Spanish occupation affected other sites, and it is interesting to note that after the end of the seventeenth century—a century of Spanish rule—population of Biscuit ware territory had so shrunk that six towns were enough to shelter the survivors.106 Nothing but continued harassment, epidemic disease, or serious drought could have caused the wholesale abandonment of so advantageous a country. Whatever the reason, there was a constant retirement toward the Rio Grande. This is coroborated by Indian tradition.

106. Mera, H. P., 1933, p. 20.

No evidence has been found to suggest any occupation of consequence in the Frijoles after its abandonment at the end of the sixteenth century. Five small pieces of Tewa Polychrome were, however, found in the fill around the outside of the kiva. It Is difficult to know how to place these.

They may have found their way into a greatly disturbed site during a very late period of sporadic occupation. It is not at all impossible that in the troubled times at the end of the seventeenth century, during and after the period of the Pueblo Rebellion, a few Tewas may have retreated to the Frijoles, and possibly other Pajarito villages, for safety from the Spanish. Tewa Polychrome was fully developed before the end of the seventeenth century.107

107. Mera, H. P., 1932, p. 12.

Dr. Edgar L. Hewett has interestingly summarized in popular form his reconstruction of the wanderings of the Cochiti people:108

108. Hewett. Edgar L., 1938, pp. 57-61.

"So exceptionally complete are the links in a story which may very well go far back of William the Conqueror, that we even have legendary hints of the subdivisions of this immemorial village; and in a cave-room of the cluster which has suffered most from the erosion of the cliff, I once stumbled upon gentle Jose Hilario Montoya, the (later) Governor of new Cochiti, wrapped in his blanket and in reverie. He had stolen away from us, to dream an hour in the specific house that was of his own first grandfathers.
"We have no means of knowing just how long the strange white town of the Rito has been deserted, but it has been many, many centuries; for its hunted people built successive towns,109 and farmed and fought and had a history in each of six later homes before the written history of America began. Though eternally harassed by the Navajos, the Tyu-on-yi held its own, we are told, until destroyed by its own brethren . . .

109. This fascinating story is based, not on archaeology, but on Cochiti legend. Actually, these towns were not founded in succession but were occupied mostly during the same general period.

"The survivors of the final catastrophe abandoned their ruined town in the Rito, and moving a day's march to the south, established themselves upon the table-top of the great Poterero de las Vacas. They were now seven or eight miles west of the chasm of the Rio Grande, and on the summit of the tongue-plateau between two of its principal side-canons. They were a mile from water—the sparkling brooklet which flows past the Cueva Pintada—and therefore from their farms. But feeling this inconvenience little so long as it gave safety, they reared among the contorted junipers a new town—essentially unlike the quaint combination-pueblo of the Rito, but like a more common pattern. It was the typical rectangular stone box of continuous houses, all facing in. Here on the grim mesa, amid a wilderness of appalling solitude, they worried out the tufa blocks, and builded their fortress-city, and fended off the prowling Navajo, and fought to water and home again, and slept with an arrow on the string. How many generations of bronze babies frolicked in this lap of danger; and rose to arrowy youth that loved between sieges; and to gray-heads that watched and counselled; and to still clay that cuddled to the long sleep in rooms thence forth sealed forever, there is no reckoning—nor when was the red foray, whereof their legends tell, of an unknown tribe which finished the town of the Mesa of the Cows. But when the decimated Queres left that noble site, they left, besides their fallen home, a monument of surpassing interest . . . The only example of life-size carvings, or of any alto relievo, ever found in the enormous range of the Pueblos, are the four astonishing figures which were, and are, the homotypes of the chase-gods of wandering Cochiti . . . It was reserved for the Cochitenos to invent and realize a life-size fetich—therefore, one nearer the actual divinity symbolized, and more powerful. And from that far, forgotten day to this incongruous one, the stone lions of Cochiti have never lost their potency. Worshipped continually for longer ages than Saxon history can tell its own,110 they are worshipped still. No important hunt would even now be undertaken by the trustful folk of Cochiti without first repairing to the stone pumas, to anoint their stolid heads with face-paint and the sacred meal, and to breathe their breath of power.

110. A slight exaggeration.

"But now the town of the lions had fallen, and a second migration was imperative. In this new move to checkmate the tireless aggressor, the Cochitenos took a sort of "knight's leap." They dropped fifteen hundred feet from the mesa's top to the canon, and thence at a right angle three miles down the brook, namely, to the Cueva Pintada. The site of this, their third known town, which they called Tse-ki-a-tan-yi, was far ahead, in safety and in picturesqueness, of the second. In both these qualities it somewhat recalls the peerless Rito. The canon is wider and not as deep, but of similar formation, and similarly wooded and watered. As always, the wanderers chose its noblest point. There the northern cliff of white pumas is five hundred feet high, and in its face is a great natural cave like a basin set on edge, fifty feet above the ground. Along the foot of this fine cliff they hewed out their cave-rooms and built their tufa masonry, and in the arch of the great natural cave itself they hollowed other chambers, attainable only by dizzy toeholes in the sheer rock. The Painted Cave seems to have had some of the uses of a shrine, and along the crescent of its inner wall may still be traced prehistoric pictographs (along with more modern ones) done in the red ochre which abounds farther up the canon. There are figures of the Ko-sha-re, the delight-makers, and of the sacred snake whose cult—once universal among the Pueblos—has still such astounding survival at Moqui;111 and of the round, bright house of the Sun-Father and of the morning and evening stars, and many other precious symbols.

111. Obsolete term for the Hopi towns.

"At last the turn of Tse-ki-a-tan-yi, came too, and there was a day when they who had burrowed in its gray cliffs must bid it farewell. The cause of this migration is not certain. It may have been moral or military; omen of divine displeasure, or merely an overdose of Navajo—for the whole region was ceaselessly harried by this most powerful race of desert pirates. At all events, the beset Queres had finally to abandon their third town and seek a fourth. This time they moved south a short march and built Ra-tya, whose ruins are now known as San Miguel. Here again they dwelt and suffered and made history; and from here again they were at last compelled, by supernatural or hostile pressure, to move on. Their fifth stone town they built in the Canada de Cochiti, twelve miles northwest from the present pueblo, and named it Cua-pa. There was, and is, a lovely thread of a valley, just widening from the dark jaws of the canon which splits the Potrero Viejo from its giant brother to the north.
"Half-way back on the trail to the Cueva, atop the almost inaccessible Potrero de los Idolos, Bandelier—who was also the discoverer of the Rito, the Cueva Pintada, and the Potrero de las Vacas with its wonderful images—found two other stone cougars. They are life-size, but of different design from those of the northern potrero; less weathered, and evidently of later, though still prehistoric, origin. They, also, were carved in high relief from the bedrock with obsidian knives; they, likewise, faced south and were surrounded by a fence of tufa slabs. But they have not been as undisturbed . . .
"Driven in time from the Canada, as they had been driven from four previous towns, the Queres climbed the seven-hundred foot cliffs of the Potrero Viejo, which overhangs the Canada. Here was their sixth town—Ha-nut Cochiti, or Cochiti Above—and their most impregnable. Nowhere save by the three vertiginous trails is it possible to scale that aerial fortress; and we may presume that here at last they were able to defy their savage neighbors. With time, however, the difficulties of farming and watering at such long range seem to have induced them to remove to the banks of the Rio Grande, just where it emerges from its gruesome gorge to the widening vales of Pena Blanca. Here they raised their seventh pueblo, this time largely of adobe; and here they were when the history of America began. There is nothing to indicate that the Cochiti which has been known now for three hundred and fifty years, has been longer occupied than was any one of the six towns which preceded it; though of course the presumption is that it has. Here the Spanish world-openers found the town, and here the Cochitenos voluntarily became vassals of Spain and were baptized into the church of the new God. Here, too, nearly a century and a half later, they helped to brew that deadliest insurrection112 which ever broke on United States soil; and on that red August 10, 1680, their warriors were of the swarthy avalanche that befell the undreaming Spaniards. They had a hand in the slaying of the three priests of their parish, who were stationed at Santo Domingo; and were among the leading spirits of all those bloody years of the Pueblo rebellion. The only fight in which they are known to have figured largely, however, was at the reconquest. When Diego de Vargas, the Reconquistador, came, they abandoned Cochiti and went back to their long-ruined citadel on the Potrero Viejo. This seventh town-moving did not save them; for in the spring of 1694 Vargas and his "army" of 150 men stormed that aboriginal Gibraltar. In the desperate but short assault only twenty-one Indians were slain. Indeed, the decimation of the Cochitenos was due not at all to the Spaniards, but to their one-sided wars with the Navajos and with other Pueblos; to epidemics, and to social centrifuge—for the legendary hints are strong that not only Cochiti but all the Queres pueblos originated in the Tyu-on-yi. If this be true, the six present Queres pueblos to the south and west of Cochiti, with their prehistoric predecessors—for each had its town-movings—were doubtless founded by early rovers from the Rito,113 until all were gone from the first nest save the later wanderers whom we have been following.

112. More deadly than the war between the States?

113. Legendarily hinted, perhaps, but archaeologically far from proven.

"After the reconquest the Cochitenos abandoned their second town on the Potrero Viejo, and moving for the eighth time, returned to their present pueblo, where they have ever since remained. It is seldom that any of them visit the old homes. Only when there is to be a ceremonial hunt do they trudge away to their ancient Chase-Fetiches to drink the mighty breath of Mokeitcha. The trails are so fearfully rough that one can go all the way to the Rito much sooner afoot than on even the tireless Indian pony; and they are lonely now, and grown very dim. The ankle-deep wee crystals of the potrero-tops outsparkle the valley of the Rocs, unscuffled by passing feet. The wild turkey drinks unscared from the Rito de los Frijoles, and blinks at its sun-bewildered walls. The tawny puma purrs in the white light beside his gray stone prototypes on the Potrero de has Vacas or the Potrero de los Idolos. And Cochiti, at rest at last, dreams on its sunward gravel bank along the swirling Rio Grande, and tills its happy fields, and goes to Christian mass, and dances unto the Trues, and forgets that ever there was war and wandering."

The information set down in this report is the result of a study carried on during the last four years. The writer fully realizes that the work is by no means complete and may be the subject of criticism. The material has been presented simply as a result of analysis of what has been found up to the present time. Since such scant information has been available on the sites in this area, it is hoped that these reports will help to solve some of the problems of Frijoles prehistory.

In years to come investigation in this important and fertile area may be resumed, proving or disproving parts of these reports and throwing new light on the history of the ruined sites in El Rito de Los Frijoles, Bandelier National Monument.

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Last Updated: 01-May-2007
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Western National Parks Association