Prehistory of El Rito de los Frijoles, Bandelier National Monument


In the Rito de Los Frijoles ceremonial rooms or kivas are found in three situations: in conjunction with pueblos in the valley bottom, sunk in the talus in front of the cliff-villages, and excavated in the walls of the cliff, as pointed out by Hewett.5 There is one kiva in the Rito de Los Frijoles, now known to have been destroyed by fire sometime after 1513, distinguished from all the rest by its relatively great size. (Fig. 6.). It lies a few hundred feet east of Tyuonyi (the great community house) on the floor of the canyon at one of the widest points. It seems to be removed from major ruined sites, and lies in the vicinity of several other kivas located up a steep declivity, being overlooked by the smoke-blackened caves in the cliffs a hundred or more feet above the canyon floor at this particular point.

5. Hewett, Edgar L., 1900, pp. 445-446.


The first investigator to make any report of the ruined sites of this vicinity was Adolphe Bandelier under the auspices of the Archaeological Institute of America in the 1880's. He refers to the structure as a circular tank 15 meters (49 ft.) across and states that there is some doubt in regard to its antiquity.6 In reality, it varies from 41-1/2 to 42 feet in diameter and is more than 130 feet in circumference. More than 60 individuals could have been comfortably accommodated.

6. Bandelier, A. F., 1092, p. 144.

There is no definite evidence to prove that two moieties ever existed in prehistoric social organization in the Rito de Los Frijoles, but Hewett7 states that a circular platform a few hundred yards to the east, constructed of tuff blocks laid in concentric form, appealed most strongly to him as being the remains of the other tribal kiva, built above ground. There is no evidence to disprove this statement, but I have been informed indirectly, however, that this platform was used by Mexican occupants as a bean threshing floor during the last century. I have examined this feature many times and no signs of great antiquity were noticed but I am in no position to argue its age. Excavation of this platform may bring to light facts concerning its function.

7. Hewett, Edgar L., 1909, pp. 446-447.

During the ruins stabilization program in 1937 the large kiva was the first site to be worked upon. Reports on the stabilization itself have already been submitted,8 but a few statements as to the condition of the kiva might well be given at this time in addition to the technical report on our discoveries.

8. Hendron, J. W., September-October, 1937.

Since excavation of this structure was not completed, apparently, by the School of American Archaeology, because of the lack of facilities and time, it seemed that re-excavation was the only course to consider, to consider, inasmuch as the entire kiva was to be stabilized to such a degree that it would not disintegrate noticably for some years to come.

Hewett's description9 is adequate from a general standpoint but since the time of his work the structure had deteriorated almost past identification. The inside wall had disintegrated badly, leaving a sort of a bench two to five feet high leaning against the outside wall. Almost all of the mortar had washed from between the building stones, and the remainder was disappearing rapidly with each additional rain. The excavated fill apparently had been thrown to the outside, forming mounds which drained a great deal of rain water down the walls.

9. Hewett, Edgar L., 1909. pp. 444-446.

It had long been suspected that these great mounds of earth around the outside were unnatural deposits and that they had not even been placed there by the original builders of the kiva. Curiosity was satisfied by running a trench from the south side of the mound, beginning at the floor of the canyon, taking it in a northeasterly direction toward the inside wall. Huge chunks of tuff and black basalt were encountered at the bottom. This retarded the digging but from this experience grew the idea that all of this solid material at the bottom was part of the original structure itself. The trench was discontinued for fear of weakening the wall. Several feet of soft fill on top were removed, down to the more or less solid base of tuff and basalt chunks which was a part of the main wall. From this fill came several thousand broken pieces of pottery, which throw some light upon the chronological position of this important site. The pottery will be discussed later.

The fill was cleared from around the disintegrated ventilator shaft, which is described by Hewett10 as follows: "In the wall adjacent to the fire-pit is a horizontal tunnel forming a passageway from the kiva to a vertical shaft a short distance outside the kiva walls (Fig. 7). In the large kiva here described two such entrances exist, one on the eastern and one on the western side. In no other kiva has more than one such entrance been found. The function of this feature of the subterranean ceremonial rooms cannot be regarded as finally determined. It is a feature common to all ancient kivas, both in the Rio Grande and the San Juan valley, but does not exist in the kivas of the modern Pueblo towns. It is what Dr. J. Walter Fewkes, in his report on the excavation of Spruce Tree House in Colorado, describes as a device for the ventilation of the kiva. It is recognized as the latter by most Southwestern archaeologists today. This was re-excavated and we found a hard plastered floor, much harder than the remaining mortar in the torn-down inside wall. The mortar had been mixed with small chunks of charcoal, suggesting that mud might have been mixed with burned wood to make it more stable.11

10. Hewett, Edgar L., 1909, pp. 441-446.

11. This statement is problematical, inasmuch as any material scattered about might have been scooped up and thrown in the mix. Oftentimes potsherds are found buried in between building blocks and this would be possible if dump material was used for making mortar. However, the writer has seen and examined many sites in which charcoal and ashes have been used. Castaneda's Narrative of the Coronado Expedition in 1540-1542 (Winship, G. P., 1896, p. 520) says, speaking of the Province of Tigues (Tiguex) and its neighborhood: "They have no lime, but they make a mixture of ashes, coals, and dirt which is almost as good as mortar, for when the house is to have four stories, they do not make the walls more than half a yard thick. They gather a great pile of twigs of thyme and sedge grass and set it afire, and when it is half coals and ashes they throw a quantity of dirt and water on it and mix it all together. They make round balls of this, which they use instead of stones after they are dry, fixing them with the same mixture, which comes to be like a stiff clay."


The depth of the shaft from the base of the dump clearance to the floor was six feet, nine inches. At the point where the shaft leaves the kiva wall it is two feet wide; it widens to three feet three inches, when it reaches the wall of the vertical shaft seven feet to the southeast. The floor rises one foot, two inches, from the point where it leaves the main structure until it reaches the vertical shaft. A center point in the kiva was established and the center of the vertical wall of the shaft was located 54°35' east of south (Fig. 9).


It has been mentioned previously that another entrance existed on the west side (Fig. 9). Although not previously excavated, it showed evidence of having fallen in in years past, being so completely disintegrated that excavation was made difficult. The fill was cleared from around the outside but blocks of tuff, which were later decided to be the side walls, were left in place, although loose.

Paralleling somewhat the style of the ventilator, the floor began at the same level and continued up-grade for four feet, nine inches, until an almost square slab floor was reached, which was nine inches thick at the extreme west end and 44 inches wide. Across the tunnel on the floor. and even with the main wall of the kiva, was a slab of tuff 26 inches long, 12 inches wide, and nine inches thick, laid flat and extending from one side of the opening to the other. It reminded me of a stepping stone but I am at a loss to describe its purpose.12

12. The fact that this slab was laid even with the outside wall has often puzzled me. Why did they not lay it even with the inside wall which separated the horizontal tunnel from the kiva proper? It is only theory, however, to suppose that the inside wall was of later construction. Remains of a broken lintel of tuff were found set in the face of the outside wall which would have extended the width of the opening had the lintel not been broken.

The length of the entire horizontal shaft was ten feet, and the depth from top to bottom at the widest point was four feet.13 The tunnel had been roofed with slabs of tuff and short lengths of ponderosa pine or other conifers. Pieces of charred wood were found imbedded in the walls in such positions that, intact, they would have extended to the other side. This charred juniper and pinyon extended back only as far as the front of the square slab floor, indicating a vertical opening at the west end.

13. Note comparison in the height of the wall near the ventilator shaft, which is 6'9". Height of the wall should have been uniform at all points up to the time of abandonment under normal conditions if it were repaired when necessity arose. A difference of almost three feet possibly suggests unimportance of the west entrance and, theorizing further, that its use was discontinued.

The size of the ventilator shaft on the opposite side of the kiva would not permit passage by human beings, but this west entrance would. I crawled through with ease on my hands and knees and cleared the 30-inch height by several inches. A smaller person, size of the average Pueblo Indian, could easily stoop and walk through. As a matter of comparison with the ventilator shaft, the west entrance is located 52° 30' west of north from the center of the kiva (Fig. 8).

The fill here consisted of ashes and small bits of charred wood from the roofing, together with the soft pulverized tuff. Several rats' nests were found, so there is good chance that the few potsherds found are of very little value inasmuch as they could have worked through the burrows. At the point where small poles were set in the walls to form the covering of the horizontal tunnel and where the vertical shaft began, several pieces of charred pine were found, but only one was datable by the tree-ring method. This one piece showed that it had been cut in 1513.14 It had been a part of a timber at least six or eight inches in diameter, which immediately suggested that it formed one of the east-west vigas close to the center of the structure, with the end resting near the wall of the west entrance. When the roof was fired sometime after the cutting date (1513) it would have collapsed and this one end worked into the entrance, until the small poles making up the roof of the horizontal tunnel had burned and fallen in. The big end probably then fell into the passage, to be later covered over with wind-blown debris and the loose building stones. On the other hand, this viga might possibly have served as a support under a heavy stone lintel where the horizontal tunnel turns upward to form a vertical shaft.15

14. Stallings, W. S., jr., 1937, p. 5 (included under Tyuonyi).

15. During excavation and reconstruction of a small kiva north of the south mound at Pecos, the writer found evidence that this type of construction had been employed in building of a ventilator shaft. In this instance a heavy pine lintel was placed over the stone lintel so that the ends would set well over the vertical walls. Pecos people probably knew that tremendous weight in the walls of the vertical shaft could not be held for long by brittle sandstone.

From the balance of the wood material found around the walls of the kiva the dates are as follows: 1412 plus x, 1417 plus x, 1423 plus x, 1428 plus x, 1481 plus x, 1486 plus x, 1500 plus x, and 1505 plus x.16

16. Stallings, W. S., jr., 1937, p. 5. The outside ring dates of individual specimens are taken from the original work sheets. Published as 1423 plus x 1513, and as from Tyuonyi. Note that all these dates fall comparatively close together. It appears entirely possible that they might belong to the same period of cutting as the charred piece found in the west entrance. Outside rings could have been missing to a one or two inch thickness because of having been burned off or through natural disintegration and rotting caused by moisture, pressure, insects, etc.

The year 1513 appears to represent a date close to the time when the structure was completed. Allowing sufficient years for the natural disintegration of a heavy roof structure made of poles, branches, grass and mud placed over the heavy vigas, the abandonment of this kiva approximately corresponds with the final dates of evacuation of the Pajaritan villages. This is thought to have taken place as late as the latter part of the sixteenth century (see ceramic correlation chart I). Castaneda17 in his Narrative of the Coronado Expedition states that during the summer of 1541 Captain Francisco de Barrionuebo was sent with some men up the river to the north where he saw two provinces, one called Hemes and the other Yuqueyunque. The people of Yuqueyunque, while the camp was being established, abandoned their two handsome pueblos, the river between them, and removed to the mountains where they had four very strong villages in a very rugged country and inaccessible on horseback. Bandelier18 points omit that Yuqueyunque is at the site of the present town of Chamita and that the people the Spaniards met were the Tewas, the other village across the river being the present San Juan. He does not suggest any identification of the four villages mentioned as situated in inaccessible parts of the mountains.

17. Winship, G. P., 1896, pp. 510-511.

18. Bandelier, A. F., and Hewett, Edgar L., 1937, p. 187.

The four villages in the rugged country mentioned above could have been the Tewa villages of the Pajarito Plateau. It is known from tree-rings that Tshirege (Tsirege) and Puye19 were inhabited for some years after 1541. Other inaccessible villages could have been Sankawi (Sankewi'i) and Otowi, which were inhabited at about the same time. This is only a suggestion but such a supposition seems logical.

19. Stallings, W. S., jr., 1937, p. 5. Tshirege, 1480 plus or minus 10-1581 plus or minus 1; Puye, 1507-1565 plus or minus 3.

Heavy timbers for the understructure of the roof, which rested approximately seven feet above the floor, were at least a foot in diameter at the butt ends, and they were well protected by the poles, grass and mud, which rested above, and extended well over the walls of the kiva (See Large Kiva sections-B). In all probability greater part of the disintegration took place with firing and during the years which immediately followed. We cannot very well use as a criterion old timbers now intact in sites at Mesa Verde, the Aztec ruins or Chaco, because of the differences in climatic conditions and the fact that some of those sites were much better protected than those of the Rito de Los Frijoles. The writer has seen and examined timbers in some old dwellings of Spanish-Americans near the Rio Grande at villages of El Rancho, Jacona, and Jaconita, which are said by the natives to be very old. A cross section was taken from one of the old beams and it dated 1847.20 Ignacio Aguilar, cacique at the Indian Pueblo of San Ildefonso, once took me into the old round kiva there and pointed out that old vigas supporting the roof were hewn with stone axes.

20. This date of 1847 was later checked by Mr. W. S. Stallings, jr. at the Laboratory of Anthropology, though the date has not been published. This timber was almost 100 years old and was still firm.

Since the three main vigas of yellow pine were laid from north to south, any timbers placed over these main vigas would have been laid from east to west, and would have been elevated several inches. The fact that one possible east-west viga was charred21 and that pieces of the main vigas were found showing no charring makes it appear likely that the roof was not totally burned.

21. Dated 1513.

Under one of the main vigas on the north side22 was found a small piece of Sankawi Black-on-Cream pottery. It was well back under the viga, imbedded in hard mortar in which the timber was set, with very little chance for it to have worked itself into this position. Sankawi Black-on-Cream apparently developed sometime in the sixteenth century during a time commensurate with late Group E Glaze pottery and extended into Glaze F times. It is found in such large quantities at Sankawi, Tshirege, and Puye, that it is believed to have originated and largely developed in the villages of the northern Pajarito Plateau.23 The Rito de Los Frijoles is a part of the Pajarito Plateau, but a little too far south to be included in the closely adjacent area in which the Sankawi type was principally produced. The ware appears in moderately high percentages here but low when compared with the Bandelier Black-on-Gray24 which probably preceded it, suggesting an almost complete abandonment of the site shortly after this period (see ceramic correlation chart I). The sherd mentioned above is an unusually early occurrence of Sankawi Black-on-Cream.

22. Dated 1417 plus x, 1423 plus x, and 1428 plus x. Outside rings missing. Possibly cut in 1513?

23. Mera, H. P., 1934. p. 14.

24. Present designation of the type formerly called Biscuit B. See Ridder and Shepard, 1936, xxx.

During their original placement the main vigas were evidently held by stones set broadside against the vigas, or by posts driven down a sufficient distance to keep them from rolling slabs were driven down in an upright position against the butt ends to keep the vigas from shifting in that direction. This method was particularly noticed at the south, which, under normal conditions, would suggest that the roof drained to the south. This would correspond within the slope at the foot of the north cliff.

After the stabilization crew removed the dump materials from around the outside, the hard solid base of basalt and ash25 blocks encountered was obviously unnatural, and a test trench on the north side was dug to a depth of six and one-half feet until river wash and conglomerates were struck.

25. Ash is used to designate rhyolitic tuff.

On the basis of the foregoing I am inclined to believe that deeper excavation was required for the north side of the floor than for the south side, since the cliff slope extended beyond it. The Indians then began the construction of a wall approximately five feet thick with chunks of ash and basalt, the faces laid to the inside forming the almost vertical but flared wall.26 Some of these chunks were long and flat and were keyed into the large chunks to the outside, which were laid to a widths of over 15 feet on the southwest and covered with tons of fill. Around the very edge of this artificial build-up extremely large chunks were found, apparently to hold the wall in place, some of them weighing several hundred pounds. It is presumed that this type of construction was used to conform to the subterranean chamber concept which was widespread through out the Anasazi area.

26. From personal observation flared walls seem to be common in prehistoric kivas of the Rio Grande valley, especially the ones with walls of masonry. This feature was affected during initial construction, so that any outside pressure from fill would not cause the wall to fall to the inside.

As far as I know the varying successive courses of the Rito (little river) have never been determined. Pits have been dug at various points on the canyon floor and river wash was found at depths not more than 18 inches in some places. It may be that the southwest portion of this outside wall was laid so as to turn away any possible rise in the stream.27

27. A similar situation exists on the floor just off the southwest tiers of rooms at Tyuonyi. River wash here is struck at 18 inches and large boulders have been placed at the foot of the six to nine-foot drop to hold the slope (Fig. 32).

The bottom of the kiva is on approximately the same level as the floor of the canyon surrounding the structure, and this heavy outside retaining wall was laid directly over the top soil. Very little excavation if any was done on the south side before the first stones were laid; most of the excavation took place on the upgrade or north side.

Hewett speaks of the structure being lined with a double wall of blocks28 far superior in workmanship to the outside wall, with the exception of one poorly constructed section on the north approximately halfway between the ventilator and the west entrance. This was substantiated by our findings. The method here parallels that of the outside wall, in that building stones were haphazardly laid for an approximate ten-foot length of the inside wall. This establishes the fact that trouble was experienced within the inside wall and that at least the top four feet had fallen down leaving the outside wall exposed. It is well to point out that the inside wall was carefully laid for the most part, all blocks running in the same direction and more or less uniform in size. The more uneven building blocks were set in mud and the gap was taken up by forcing in small chunks, thus making a steady wall when the mud dried.29 Most blocks had the appearance of having been worked, but I noticed one place in one wall where construction was not so perfect. The builders had missed the covering of some vertical joints and left one section exposed for the entire height of the wall, giving the appearance of a sealed door which led no place. The outside wall was built up of chunks weighing less than a pound and ranging up to several hundred pounds. The masonry of the west entrance was much cruder than that of the inside wall, which is strange inasmuch as it was exposed and the outside wall, of which it was a part, was covered by the inside wall. It seems that a little lining of the stones here might have been in order, but instead they were laid around the inside of the kiva only, and squared off when the horizontal tunnel was reached. This neglect could have been because of the lack of space in the shaft; a lining as thick as the inside wall of the kiva would have prohibited its use by human beings.

28. Hewett, Edgar L., 1909. p. 444.

29. Chinking of walls was employed throughout the Pajarito Plateau and seems to have been a standard procedure.

The workmanship in the ventilator shaft or east tunnel was also crude, much more primitive looking than the inside wall. In fact, the corners were laid in with extremely large chunks. While we were preparing to stabilize it some of the corner stones of the inside wall fell, leaving the outside wall exposed from top to bottom. Loose dirt was scraped away and a shallow trench was dug, which showed that the outside wall at this point extended about eight inches below the inside wall. The stones of the inside wall were set in mud apparently of the same material or mortar used in building up the wall. An estimate of the thickness of this base mud would be difficult because the first course of building stone was so unevenly laid. Patches of what appeared to have been plaster were found in the narrow space between the inside and outside walls, suggesting that the inside wall was laid in at some later date than the initial building period. As a matter of fact, there was no pressure placed on the inside wall by the weight of the roof structure. The main vigas rested on the outside and it is logical to assume that the inside wall was constructed at some undetermined later date.

Probably because heavy brush and even trees were growing inside the kiva prior to original excavation, and too, because of recent exposure to the elements, evidence of a plastered floor was found only on the north side of the kiva. Three definite layers of this feature were located, no more than one-half inch thick altogether (Fig. 10). Underneath this was undisturbed soil of the canyon floor, large chunks of tuff mixed with river wash. These three plastered floor layers showed blackening in spots. They began at the bottom of the first course of building stone of the inside wall where still in place. The remainder of the floor could not be traced.


Six postholes for the roof supports were located, three on the north and three on the south. I refer to them from east to west as No. 1n, No. 2n, No. 3n (the ones on the north), and No. 1s, No. 2s, and No. 3s. (See Large Kiva Plan A). Posthole 1s had a flat smooth stone in the bottom, while 2s and 3s narrowed down to a point at the bottom. It appeared that posts were cut to fit these earth cones, and that stones surrounded the actual set to steady the posts. All of these holes correspond with the position of the viga sets found in the outside wall and indicate that there were three main vigas placed from north to south which supported the roof.

A rectangular slab of tuff in which a hole was drilled appeared to represent the sipapu or ceremonial entrance from the underworld (Figs. 11 and 12). (See Large Kiva sections B). It was found two feet six inches north of the center, buried in the dirt. At the top it was eight inches long, six inches wide; at the bottom, eight and one-half inches long and five and one-half inches wide. It was ten inches long on one side and 11-1/2 inches long on the other. The sipapu hole cut into the rock was three inches in diameter and seven inches deep, narrowing down to an approximately two-inch diameter at the bottom. Two inches from the top end and on the inside was a boring three-quarter inches in diameter and extending upward to the outside in a westerly direction when the stone was in normal position. Just above this boring and on the outside was another boring which did not extend quite through to the vertical hole as was the case of the former.


On the floor near the eastern side of the room was said to have been a fire-pit called by the Tewa Indians the sipapu,30 but this feature was not found in 1937.

30. Hewett, Edgar L., 1909. p. 444. (The apparent confusion was explained to me by Dr. Hewett with the statement that a fire-pit was known to the Tewa Indian workmen as the sipapu).

Lying beneath the probable floor level, deposits of stone were encountered, apparently deliberately placed there for some unknown reason. They were definitely below the floor level (that is, if the remaining fragmentary portion of the floor layers around the northeast part of the wall was a true indication of the old floor). Portions of what appeared to have been little walls came to light, but could not be traced as in any way continuous. A few potsherds were found which will be discussed later.

The entire bottom of the structure was tested, and peculiar outcroppings of stone were found to the west side; when excavated they proved to be parts of a rectangular pit. Similar features were found on the three remaining sides.

These are identified as follows: (A) the feature a few feet from the west entrance (Fig. 13). It was in the form of a pit and the inside measurements were: length, 62 inches; width, 19 inches to 21 inches. It was walled up with chunks of tuff and basalt approximately nine inches wide, although the stones were very irregularly laid. There was the appearance of a slight cave-in at one side. Its greatest depth was 44 inches at the south end, where a small hole four inches in diameter was found, evidently dug through a very crudely plastered floor. The depth at the north end was 35 inches. At this point was a crude wall 14 inches high above the floor level and extending to the north for about three and one-half feet, forming a step. No use for such a pit was discovered. Bits of pottery were found and also the upper part of a human femur and an unbroken late type of mano formed from basalt. The pottery will be discussed later.


(B). This was found five feet southwest of the center of the kiva (Fig. 14). Its form was the same as (A) and the walls were laid up in the same manner. It was seven and one-half feet long, 19 inches wide at the east end, and 17 inches wide at the west end (inside measurements). Its greatest depth was 30 inches, at the west end. It was only 17 inches deep at the west end, since a stone in the bottom formed a slight terrace on the west. The stone seemed too large to have been used merely to fill the pit. The pit had a crudely plastered floor curving up at the edges. At the east end was a huge chunk of basalt weighing several hundred pounds which appeared to have been an original part of the structure.


(C). Six and one-half feet southwest of (B) was another pit, also with a plastered floor curving up at the edges (Fig. 14). It was 34 inches long and 16 inches wide inside. The walls were definite but poorly constructed. It was 32 inches deep. Running to the southeast was a wall five feet long adjoining the south wall of the pit. There was only one wall. If there were were others to form another enclosure they have disappeared. At the west end a definite wall of rocks adjoined the south wall of the pit and extended 35 inches to the northwest. Adjoining the north wall at the west end an array of rocks seemed to form an enclosure shaped like a question mark. It extended for 54 inches to the northwest. It seemed that these stones were set on original soil, no floor being found. In the main pit were found bits of broken pottery.

(D). Nine feet northeast of the kiva center was another sub-floor feature similar to the previous ones described, composed of two main parts, or two different enclosures, and walled up very crudely and with rather indefinite outlines. They were separated only by a single wall of stones laid in mud (Fig. 15). The one nearest the center of the kiva was about 21 inches long and 20 inches wide. It was 32 inches deep with the plastered floor curving up at the edges. The plastering was very crudely executed. A flat slab six inches thick was on the east side and extended the width of the structure.


(E). Adjoining this pit to the northeast was another similar feature, not as deep (Fig. 15). On the east end, which has no wall, it was 23 inches wide and on the northwest end it was 12 inches wide. It was shallow, not more than ten inches deep and big chunks of tuff composed the floor which slopes to the southwest. These chunks seems to have been naturally placed, that is, not laid by the kiva builders. The center post hole (2n) rested almost directly on top of these pits. Twelve inches to the north was an enclosure about 12 inches in diameter, which appeared to be another post hole but was out of line; that is, it did not line up with the viga-set in the north wall and the center post hole on the south side of the kiva. It probably belonged to the sub-floor feature, but in what capacity could not be ascertained.

No evidence of a fireplace was found in the position previously reported.31 No traces of an altar were found at this time either.32

31. Hewett, Edgar L., 1909, p. 444.
32. Ibid.

Near the wall and to the northeast we located broken pieces of slate33 which at one time served as the covering of a small round pit filled in with soft dirt. When this fill was removed a small cup-like object of unbaked clay was found. (See Large Kiva sections B). It was about four inches in diameter, the depression in the center being about two inches in diameter and two inches deep. It was set in a small recess almost directly under the inside wall. Not more than six feet to the southeast and under the wall another such object was found approximately the same size. On the opposite side of the kiva another one of these objects was discovered, almost disintegrated. However, some of the red unfired clay was found, and some evidence of a hole in the center.

33. Many of the ruins of the Pajarito Plateau have slate worked into the walls as part of their construction. Frequently they are found as a covering or as a stepping stone.

To the southeast of the pit in the front of the west entrance and not more than two feet from the center of the kiva, amid a profusion of rock outcroppings, was found another chunk of this unbaked clay, rounded and with a depression in the middle. A stone slab had been placed over this, too (Fig. 16). A turkey bone whistle six inches long was found in the fill. Some of the natives from the pueblo of San Ildefonso, when I pointed out one of these unbaked clay objects, immediately agreed among themselves that these little objects were of ceremonial significance and kept the wall from falling down. I have mentioned that apparent trouble with a former slumping of the inside wall had had to be dealt with, and pointed out one place where it was repaired.


Several finds of artifacts were made. Four feet west of the ventilator shaft opening and a little to the south buried under several inches of soft fill we located a small ceremonial jar, of early Santa Fe Black-on-White, a style in vogue during the thirteenth century.34 It was a narrow-necked globular vessel with small lugs near the top (Fig 17). Seven feet northwest of the center, in almost a direct line with the west entrance, buried under the soft fill, another narrow-necked globular ceremonial vessel was found. It is a good example of the last gasp of the glaze-paint series35 which could have been manufactured in the seventeenth century (Fig's. 18 and 19). Near the west entrance on the north side and three inches from the wall, another small jar was located under four inches of fill (Fig. 20). It was of the Glaze E type, which was the fashion during the middle of the late sixteenth century.36

34. Mera, H. P., 1931, pp. 11-12.
35. Mera, H. P., 1933, p. 9.
36. Mera, H. P., 1933, pp. 6-7.



In conversation with Dr. Hewett I was informed that the three small ollas which we found buried may have been used ceremonially and that it was customary to bury such vessels when a site was abandoned. The San Ildefonso (Tewas) in recent years, it seems, used such vessels in connection with the rainbow altar ceremony. The pots were suspended from a frame over the altar, each containing water from the four directions. Into a fifth vessel was poured some of the water from each of the other four. Harrington, in his study of the Tewa indians37 states that the cardinal sacred water lakes have been learned for San Ildefonso only. When medicine water, wopo, is prepared in connections with certain ceremonies, small quantities of water are collected from the following four places, all situated near San Ildefonso pueblo. North, west, south, east, these places are also sometimes called, respectively, 'north lake'. The medicine water from the above is rainwater; that from below is obtained by digging a hole in the ground where water can be reached. The water from the six sources is mixed in a woposai'i 'medicine-water bowl' and used ceremonially.

37. Harrington, J. P., 1916, pp. 44-45.

The sub-floor features of the kiva appeared to have been of earlier date than the structure proper, because of the crudeness of construction. A discussion of the potsherds in these and other features will now be given, in an effort to place them in the proper period of development.

The west entrance cannot easily be placed in an earlier period than the kiva itself. The bulk of the pottery belonged to the late black-on-gray types ("biscuit ware"), which were so prevalent during the period of greatest activity. Two sherds of a late glaze-decorated type were found giving more proof that the pit was late. Two sherds of a black-on-white type related to Wiyo Black-on-White were found, which probably belonged to the period of growth. (See ceramic correlation chart I). One piece of early utility ware was found here, but this spells nothing. It has been pointed out before that these wares could have worked down in the fill, so that from a standpoint of ceramics no great age is shown.

Subfloor pit (A), the feature six and one-half feet southeast of the west entrance produced only late culinary ware and late glaze ware, some unidentifiable Biscuit ware and one shred of Potsui'i incised, all of which could have been manufactured during the sixteenth century.

In pit (C), six and one-half feet southeast of (B), the bulk of the sherds were of late culinary types, and the late black-on-grays and late glaze sherds were prominent. One piece of Santa Fe Black-on-White was found.



In the test trench which was run to the north of the structure the sherds were all comparatively late, showing a preponderance of glaze ware. The glaze was unidentifiable as to type, but would probably fall largely in Glaze D and Glaze E groups.

Another test trench was run from a supposed floor level on the north side of the structure, the nature of which has been previously described. It produced 24 sherds. Twenty-one were of the culinary type which could have been made in early black-on-white times, but which probably lasted until the decline somewhere near the end of the sixteenth century. Three pieces of early culinary ware were found which were made contemporaneously with the Chaco-Kwahe'e complex.


Sherds were also found in the vicinity of the rounded clay object almost in the center of the kiva, of the late black culinary type.

In the fill around the small glaze ceremonial olla found six feet to the northwest from the center, 15 sherds of Santa Fe Black-on-White were recovered. Santa Fe Black-on-White ware is of much earlier date than the glaze olla. It follows the Kwahe'e wares of very early black-on-white times, while the glaze piece was probably not made before the decline of the Rito de Los Frijoles, as is clearly suggested by the poor execution of the design.

The pit in front of the west entrance also produced late pottery. A great many miscellaneous glaze bowl sherds were found, along with one Biscuit sherd and one Potsui'i incised sherd, while the balance of the sherd material belonged to the late utility wares and late glazes. Also buried in this fill was the upper part of a human femur.

From the foregoing discussion of pottery types it would be very difficult to place an early age on these sub-floor features. There is always the possibility, however, that they were of earlier date than other parts of the kiva structure, and were filled in at a later date after late styles in pottery development had come into use. This is only theory, with no definite evidence, but so many peculiar things have come to light that it is very difficult to say just what did happen here as regards sequences in architectural types. It is best to leave the discussion of the pits in abeyance until further evidence is at hand.

In the disturbed fill around the outside of the kiva more than 11,000 potsherds were recovered which will be discussed in detail in the conclusion of this series.

In concluding the kiva report a short discussion will be given. The sub-floor features have already been mentioned, the conclusion being that they showed signs of earlier origin than the kiva walls, using as a basis the inferior type of masonry employed, but that there was no evidence in ceramic styles to back up this supposition.

The bulk of the sherd material came from the fill around the outside of the structure and the analysis may reflect the history of ceramics for the entire area. In this one site, which might have been a catch-all for discarded pottery, is shown an early development of Pueblo II Black-on-White styles. With the coming in of the glaze wares the black-on-whites were apparently put on the sidelines; and the glazes, which barely got a foothold in the earlier part of the period, steadily came into prominence showing an unbroken sequence from early to late times, becoming really common late in their history.

From early Pueblo III times the black-on-whites lagged, and the transitional types were not prominent until about the middle of Pueblo IV. At this time there was a definite spurt in the late black-on-grays, at a time when the glazes were prominent. About this same time a degenerate type of ware is sparsely represented; seven sherds of Potsui'i Incised,38 which according to Mera, came in sometime after the beginning of Biscuit B, reaching its greatest development on the Pajarito Plateau and in adjacent sections, and decreasing in popularity away from this center, especially to the south and east.39

38. Mera, H. P.. 1933, p. 17.

39. The Rito de Los Frijoles is some miles south of the main area of development of Potsui'i incised ware.

Following this period there was an apparent decline or shortage of later pottery styles, which would suggest an abandonment of the site. Inasmuch as these finds were made only in one excavation, they cannot very well be assumed to reflect conditions at the rest of the sites in the canyon until a comparative study is made, which will be presented at the end of this series of reports.

Several sherds of foreign origin were found. They included two sherds of Jemez Black-on-White,40 which grew out of a basic form, Santa Fe Black-on-White, incorporated with Mesa Verde Black-on-White styles, and a possible influence from Galisteo Black-on-White;41 one piece of an unnamed black-on-white,42 which was a variant of Galisteo Black-on-White in the localized area around Santa Fe, New Mexico; one sherd of Rowe Black-on-White.43 a local variant of Galisteo Black-on-White in the Pecos area. Three sherds of a type of red ware were found showing Little Colorado characteristics.

40. Kidder, A. V., 1931, p. 154.

41. Mera, H. P., 1935, p. 23.

42. Unpublished type designated by Stallings and Stubbs as Poge Black-on-White.

43. Kidder and Shepard, 1936, p. 467.

To sum up, the large kiva in El Rito de Los Frijoles, Bandelier National Monument, which was re-excavated and stabilized in the summer and fall of 1937, yielded tree-ring dates of 1412 plus x to 1513 A. D., and yielded pottery of the twelfth to the seventeenth centuries, the greatest portion belonging to the sixteenth. The evidence at hand suggests that one building period of the kiva was in 1513 and abandonment probably took place late in the same century. The "plus x" is believed to be pretty large in apparently early fifteenth century tree-ring specimens, and the earlier pottery can be explained as belonging to a period of development, trade, sporadic occupation, or as even being carried in and dropped. A variety of interesting and unusual architectural features, notably an entrance-passage on the west opposite the ventilator, a ground-stone sipapu, and several floor pits were found and studied, the conclusion being that evidence was not sufficient to place them in a period earlier than the main part of the kiva. Clear evidence of the general method of roof construction was found.

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Last Updated: 01-May-2007
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