CHAPTER 12: STABILIZATION: THE HIGH COST OF WATER
Aztec Ruins has been a heavily-used testing ground for substances and means to unobtrusively hold it together for the benefit of posterity against what at times have been overwhelming odds. Ironically, the principal enemy in its preservation has been an overabundance of one physical element the periodic scarcity of which may have been a contributing factor in its abandonment six or seven centuries ago. That element is water.
In the beginning of nineteenth-century awareness of the grouping of sites that now compose Aztec Ruins National Monument, it was not water that constituted a threat to their survival, but man himself. Realizing this, John Koontz, the first owner of the land upon which the ruins are situated, attempted to prohibit indiscriminate digging in the largest of the mounds or robbing them of architectural materials. This was a policy subsequently followed by Henry Abrams, who purchased the land in 1907.
While curtailing vandalism was a goal, Abrams also dreamed of having the structure beneath the mounds become a well-preserved, if not restored, attraction. He therefore included their preservation as part of his long-term excavation agreement with the American Museum of Natural History. Already having the high-minded intention of in some way making the site available to the American public, it was a stipulation to which the museum readily agreed.
Thus, from 1916 to the present, the Anasazi great house now known as the West Ruin has received constant protection. That protection has had two facets: vigilance against despoliation and reparation. Reparation has spawned a new specialty called stabilization, subsidiary to research archeology, to the benefit of all Anasazi remains within the National Park Service system.
A chronological account of the efforts to save Aztec Ruins elucidates what has become a crucial part of the management of the monument. To minimize duplication, some relevant information presented in Chapters 3 and 7 will not be repeated.
Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006