Hubbell Trading Post
Administrative History
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Indian Culture 9500 B.C. to Present

Paleo-Indian Period, 9500 B.C. to 5000 B.C.

Because of the presence of water in a generally semi-arid area, it is likely that Paleo-Indians drifted through the vicinity of Hubbell Trading Post. No remains associated with them have yet been found at the site, however. Any artifacts representative of these early people could be stone objects such as projectile points, scrapers, perforators, bifacial knives, hammerstones, and the debris from the manufacture of these weapons and tools. [1]

Desert Culture Period, 5500 to 0 A.D.

No artifacts from this period have yet been found at the site. Their stone weapons and tools are not as well flaked as those of the Paleo-Indians. Milling stones are common at their sites (they gathered seeds and nuts, and near the end of this period maize agriculture was introduced). Site density and size increased through this period. [2]

Anasazi Period, A.D. 0 to A.D. 1300

Anasazi sites are common throughout the Four Corners area; Hubbell Trading Post has its share. This era is broken down into several periods:

Basketmaker II (A.D. 0-500), noted for the horticulture of maize and squash, hunting and gathering. The people lived in shallow pithouses and surface houses of brush and mud.

Basketmaker III (A.D. 500-800), characterized by painted ceramics, round to oval pithouses, and surface storage rooms. More dependency on horticulture and less on hunting and gathering. Single-family sites. Hubbell Trading Post has one site from this period, HUTR 10, to be discussed further below.

Basketmaker III trended into Pueblo I, a period of expanding horticultural activity and the decreasing of hunting and gathering. Population increasing, multi-family villages established. Multi-family building units, consisting of five to fifteen rooms, often of adobe, and adjacent pithouses for storage, living, and working. Evidence of Pueblo I culture at Hubbell Trading Post.

Pueblo II period (A.D. 900-1100) is noted for increasing sizes of villages, which now contained kivas. Ceramics more diverse in form and decoration. New types of black-on-white ceramics.

arheological sites

Figure 39. Archeological sites at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site.

Two sites with PII affiliations at Hubbell. During Pueblo III (A.D. 1100-1300) period, villages moved to lower, wetter areas. Large villages near floodplains or sheltered areas, more complex and communal. Wide Reed Ruin at Hubbell Trading Post was a relatively large PIII site. There is another (probable) PIII site there, plus three others with PIII components. The general area was largely abandoned in about 1300 due to an ongoing drought that began in the 1270s. Little evidence of Pueblo IV and Pueblo V cultures after 1300 east of the Hopi mesas (which are west of Ganado).

The Navajo

One thing that seems certain about the Navajo is that they drifted in from the north. That is their linguistic group, Athabaskan, would indicate their land of origin to be northwestern Canada. They were nomadic hunters and gatherers. Nobody knows for certain what pressures or goals brought them here. Nobody knows for certain when they first arrived in the Four Corners area. Some have suggested A.D. 1000 or earlier, others say they could have arrived as late as the fifteenth or early sixteenth century.

The Spanish encountered the Navajo during Antonio de Espejo's expedition of 1582-1583. In the early seventeenth century the Navajo were described as "a semi-sedentary, agricultural people who moved away from their fields for hunting, lived in what are described as underground houses in small communities, traded with their Puebloan neighbors and were both friendly and hostile to them at different times and under different circumstances." [3] This would be a reasonably accurate description of them until the Anglo-Americans arrived in the mid 1800s.

It does seem likely that when the first of the people who would be called the Navajo arrived they were still hunters and gatherers. In that case, then, their encounter with the Puebloan culture must have been a genuine culture shock. It would be fascinating to know what thoughts went through their heads when they stumbled into, say Chaco Canyon. The modern traveler to Chaco Canyon is still impressed by the magnitude of what was created there. As hunters and gatherers, the Navajo would have brought little but their survival skills with them, and they would have arrived in small groups. Whatever they have learned apart from their survival skills was acquired first from the Pueblo Indians, then the Spanish-Mexicans, finally from the Anglo-Americans. They learned agriculture and weaving from the Puebloans, herding from the Pueblo Indians and the Spanish-Mexicans, metal working from the Mexicans and the Anglo Americans. They have proved to be adaptable and resilient---more so than the majority of the Pueblo Indians---as the world as changed around them.

The Navajo suffered great traumas during the Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American military campaigns against them. They in turn did some campaigning and marauding of their own as they ranged far from their own territory in search of captives and sheep and horses. Kit Carson's devastating campaign of the 1860s, the resulting Long Walk to Bosque Redondo, and the exile of the Navajo there for several years in the hands of the U.S. Army were undoubtedly the severest blows they have suffered.

When they returned to their own lands just before 1870, they fell under the influence of the Indian Agents and the Indian Traders. The traders proved to be one of the most important acculturating influences in the history of the Navajo, and J.L. Hubbell went into business at a crucial time in their history. (There's not enough room here for anything even approaching a detailed study of the Navajo. The interested reader should take a look at the bibliographic essay near the end of this work for suggested titles.)

Some Archeological Sites Within the Boundaries of Hubbell Trading Post

HUTR-1: This site includes the Hubbell Trading Post complex of buildings. The foundations of the Leonard Trading Post buildings are here (uncovered in 1987). Artifacts have been recovered while repairs to present structures were being conducted or utility lines dug. All such repairs or excavations have been monitored by archeologists. Artifacts found here are mainly of American and European manufacture, ceramics, food and medicine bottles, iron objects from farm implements or horse gear. Such objects are very similar to the artifacts recovered from the trash dump, which was northwest of the home and the guest hogan and just along the edge of the Pueblo Colorado Wash. The artifacts recovered at HUTR-1 are either still at the trading post or at the Division of Anthropology in Santa Fe. [4]

HUTR-2: This small site is located due South of the trading post at the boundary line of the historic site. Unidentified prehistoric sherds and lithic flakes have been recovered here in a small area on the surface by the irrigation ditch. The depth of the site seems to shallow and the area has been disturbed by the construction of the irrigation ditch, the boundary fence, as well as a nearby road. [5]

HUTR-3: Located just south of the entrance road and HUTR-5 (Wide Reed Ruin), this site was uncovered during excavation for a gas line that parallels the road. Three, possibly four slab-lined cists and five prehistoric sherds were exposed. The ceramics are Puebloan but have not been identified as to type. The artifacts may be associated with HUTR-5 and, if so, should not be considered a separate site. [6]

HUTR-4: The Sand Dune Site is located just west of HUTR-5 on the south bank of the Pueblo Colorado Wash. The area was excavated between 1978 and 1988 in order to salvage what secrets it contains before erosion destroys the site. An extensive study of the excavations is on file at the trading post. [7] A small prehistoric pithouse and slab-lined hearth were excavated in 1981. Later excavations exposed evidence of historic Navajo occupation of the site. Major excavation in 1987 revealed many more historic features, including the remains of two (probably) mid-eighteenth century hogans, as well as the remains of ramadas, hearths, storage pits, and a small corral or pen. Hundreds of potsherds, primarily Dinetah Utility Ware (A.D. 1750-1800) and lithics and pieces of groundstone were recovered. Some Pueblo I-III artifacts were recovered but these may be associated with HUTR-5. This site is interpreted as primarily an eighteenth century Navajo site of undetermined size. [8]

HUTR-5: Wide Reed Ruin is the most important archeological feature at Hubbell Trading Post. It is located on the south side of the Pueblo Colorado Wash, north of the entrance road and the employee housing area. Because of the danger of Wide Reed Ruin being lost by erosion along the banks of the wash, the site was excavated in the early 1970s. A comprehensive report, Wide Reed Ruin, by James E. Mount, is on file in the trading post's Curator's office. [9] Apparently the report, well done and comprehensive, is as yet unpublished.

Wide Reed Ruin

Figure 40. A corner of Wide Reed Ruin in December of 1971. This photograph illustrates some of the damage done to the site by erosion along Pueblo Colorado Wash. NPS photo by E. Bauer. HUTR Neg. R76#23.

One is surprised at how extensive the ruin is. This is a pentagon shaped pueblo constructed in A.D. 1276-1277 (According to tree ring dates). Nineteen of an estimated 68 rooms have been excavated, studied and photographed, and then recovered for preservation. Gabions were placed in the wash in an attempt to keep water away from the bank. This is a Pueblo III ruin with kivas and plazas, at one time the home of a sizable community. [10]

HUTR-9: Pueblo I sherds and a few lithic flakes were recorded on the surface at this site, which is located on a low sandy loam ridge about 0.3 miles northwest of the trading post. Cultural deposits appear to be shallow. The site is actually just outside the historic site boundary, and not far from the Pueblo Colorado Wash.


Figure 41. Laying inka to cover HUTR 10. After examination of the archeological site, the area was reburied in order to preserve it. Summer, 1984. NPS photo by E. Bauer. HUTR Neg. R76#23

HUTR-10: Site 10 is located at the western end of the historic site and is found inside and outside the boundary. It was discovered on April 27, 1969. This is a Basketmaker II-Pueblo I site and covers the largest area of any of the archeological sites at the trading post. Several burial sites have been excavated; reports on these investigations are on file at the Curator's office. [11] A large number of sherds and lithics have been collected from or observed over an area of about 8700 square meters. Skeletal remains and ceramic vessels were removed from the burial sites. The site has been reburied for preservation. [12]

HUTR-11: First recorded in 1969, this Pueblo III site is located along trading post boundary line between HUTR-10 and HUTR-12. This is a concentrated scatter of sherds and lithics. Construction of an irrigation ditch may have disturbed part of this site and part of the site is suffering erosion from a tributary arroyo of the Pueblo Colorado Wash. [13]

HUTR-12: Another scatter of sherds, more sparse than that of HUTR-11 but covering a slightly larger area, this site is found along the north fence line between HUTR-9 and HUTR-11. The site has been much disturbed by agricultural activity but appears to cover approximately 2,600 square meters inside and outside the boundary line. Identified sherds found here have included Pueblo I, Navajo Utility, and Hopi. [14]

HUTR-14: Extending over an area of about 1,960 square meters on a low rise south-southeast of the building complex, this site contains ceramic sherds from the Pueblo I-III periods. This is a dense concentration of sherds and lithic artifacts. An uncompleted irrigation ditch runs from the southeast boundary corner of the trading post site to the edge of HUTR-14. [15]

HUTR-15: This site has been disturbed by agricultural activities associated with the operation of the irrigation system. The Chaco Center Remote Sensing Team of the NPS detected a circular depression here in 1977-1978. All evidence gathered here indicates that this is a modern Navajo site and the circular depression may be the of a Navajo hogan. [16]

HUTR-16: This is another site that has been disturbed by agricultural activities. The period for this scattering of sherds and lithics is unidentified. The location of this small site is about 124 meters west-southwest of HUTR-14 and the depth appears to be shallow. [17]


The 160 acres of Hubbell Trading Post contain an unusual concentration of cultural resources from ancient Indians to modern Indians and the Spanish-Mexican and Anglo-European cultures. In other words, virtually the entire history of man's occupation of the area is represented here, from Anasazi pueblo sites to modern structures and artwork, and modern Indian arts and crafts. [18] This is a rich---and valuable--collection of cultural resources to be in such a small area. When one also considers the lucrative ongoing business at the trading post, one begins to understand the large responsibility of the superintendency of this small, remote historic site. Added to this is the complexity of dealing with the Navajo Nation. Because all of the superintendents here were first-time superintendents, the historic site has been laughingly referred to (not by everybody, by any means) as a superintendents' training ground. A few ex-superintendents suggested that it is not a good place to train superintendents. The issues to be faced here are too complex and varied.

Pertinent Research Studies on File at Hubbell Trading Post (listed chronologically)

Excavation of Burial 1, Site 10: Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Ganado, Arizona, by David M. Brugge. This is an unpublished report of a site discovered on April 2, 1969. There are six typed pages, plus four other pages to which seven photographs have been glued. The file copy appears to be a carbon copy. Many sherds were found and they are described. The burial was found because of erosion to the bank of the arroyo there. The bones are in poor condition, some missing, and most of the vessels found there had been broken, possibly by the pressure of the earth. The bones were salvaged and some vessels were reconstructed from pieces.

This is probably the earliest report from this site. (Other archeological work was done in this vicinity between 1971 and 1978. The site was protected by the installation of geo-web and was recovered with earth as an anti-erosion measure.)

Faunal Analysis of Material Collected at the Hubbell Trading Post During May and June 1973, by Frank E. Bayham. Trenching was done in an area where animals used to be butchered. Quantities of bone were found in those places. This report, submitted by Stanley Olsen, Zoo-archeologist, of the Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, to Dr. Keith Anderson, Arizona Archeological Center, National Park Service, in Tucson, is the result of that study. The report is a 56-page photocopy. Many of the pages are simply lists that describe the species of the creatures that were butchered, the part of the skeleton recovered, the size of the bone, the age and sex of the animal, if known, and the condition of the bone. The study proved that 98% of the faunal material was from domesticated animals. The study also discusses whether the meat was used by the Hubbells and nearby Navajo, or was sold to other Navajo. The report is admittedly inconclusive; other bone pits may be available so whether there was indeed more mutton than beef on the Hubbell menu may be a chore for future researchers to decide.

Wide Reed Ruin, by James E. Mount. By 1972, a northern portion of Wide Reed Ruin was about to crumble into the invading Pueblo Colorado Wash. This study is a result of excavations on part of the site in order to preserve information buried there just in case a portion of the ruin should be washed away. James E. Mount was a part-time employee of the Arizona Archeological Center and a graduate student at the University of Arizona. This is a surprisingly engrossing 207-page report filled with diagrams and many good black-and-white photographs. Tree-ring dates indicate that the pueblo was probably built as a unit in about 1276. Many sherds, tools, and ceramics were uncovered. The place was thoroughly mapped and photographed, and then it was re-covered. Gabions have since been placed in the wash to prevent further erosion. It should be noted that the south end of the ruin, the side not in any danger from the wash, has not been excavated. The report on file is a photocopy, photographs glued to pages.

Preliminary Report on Remote Sensing of Hubbell Trading, by LouAnn Jacobson, 10 July, 1978, Remote Sensing Division, Southwest Cultural Resources Center, National Park Service. Aerial photographs of Hubbell Trading Post were made on October 10, 1977. Photo interpretation revealed some anomalies. They were looking for possibly undetected archeological sites. An attempt to interpret the report indicates that probably nothing of interest was discovered: "This project was only moderately successful in locating archeological features using aerial imagery. A pithouse and sherd scatter unknown to the interpreter were located but all other known areas with cultural material were not seen on the photos." The report is a seven-page photocopy with some maps and photocopies of aerial photos.

An Archeological Assessment of Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, by Dan Scurlock, and prepared by the Center for Anthropological Studies for the National Park Service, February, 1979. A 100-page bound work, this is a good overview of the general history of the area as well as a comprehensive survey of all of the people who have occupied the historic site. The bibliography will be useful to those who wish to do a thorough study of local Indians, the Indian traders, and many other pertinent subjects. An excellent reference work, and the bibliography should keep the interested reader busy for years.

Analysis of Burial #3 from Hubbell Trading Post (HUTR-10) in Northeastern Arizona, by Marilyn R. London and Analysis of Burial #4 from Hubbell Trading Post (HUTR-10) in Northeastern Arizona, by Marilyn R. London. These reports, photocopies, are in a folder labeled "HUTR Site 10, burial #2, Oct. '77." Ten Ektachrome transparencies of burial #2 are in the folder, but there is no report on burial #2. The transparencies show some fragmented pots, and the skull of what must have been an adult.

Burial #3 consists of a child of about five years of age who died 1200 to 1300 years ago. Neither the sex nor the cause of death could be determined due to the deteriorated condition of the remains.

Burial #4 consists of the remains of a six-month-old infant. The condition of the burial was poor due to age and rodent activity.

These remains were delivered to the University of New Mexico in 1981. Both reports are dated February, 1982.

Historic Analysis at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, by Judith A. Habicht-Mauche and Mary Stiner, Southwest Archeological Consultants. Prepared for the National Park Service, Division of Anthropology, 1987. This is a bound book of about 150 pages that "summarizes the analysis of historic artifacts recovered from test excavations conducted at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site (HUTR-1) between 1982 and 1987." These artifacts were recovered from trash heaps, or from trenches dug at the time of maintenance or stabilization projects. The objects analyzed number in the thousands and include almost everything one might find in a trash heap that was building between the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. Even plastics that postdate World War II are discussed.

In this remarkable study one can discover what the Hubbell family ate, what they ate from and with, what they drank, what they played with, their medicines, the tools they used. Samples of virtually all of the artifacts and assorted thingamabobs used by this family have turned up. And, yes, they did eat a lot of mutton. The study is not without a social comment or two: "The presence of fine matched dinnerware and personal objects of precious and semiprecious metal indicate the Hubbell family enjoyed a relatively high standard of living. The volume, variety and relative quality of materials recovered from HUTR-1 contrasts markedly with those recovered from contemporaneous Navajo sites, illustrating the stark social and economic differences that separated Indian from Trader. True, but then the Navajo were a different sort of people, and, during most of their history the Navajo wouldn't have had much use for a gravy boat or a gold lipstick case with engraved initials.

Studies at the Sand Dune Site, HUTR. Including: An Evaluation of Ceramics at the Sand Dune Site, and Notes on Historic Material Culture at the Sand Dune Site, by Peter J. McKenna, Division of Anthropology, Southwest Cultural Resources Center, National Park Service, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1987. This is a bound twenty-five page study that does, as the title claims, evaluate ceramics found at the Sand Dune Site. The work is for those whose main interest would be the identification of potsherds, but it even goes on to discuss some modern glass fragments and a beer cao pull-tab found at the site.

Excavation of the Sand Dune Site (AZ.K:6:1) at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Ganado, Arizona, by Karin L. Jones, November 3, 1987. Threatening erosion along the Pueblo Colorado Wash prompted this excavation. This is a bound work of about fifty pages with numerous photographs and diagrams that describes the site, the methods used during the excavation, and the results of the investigation. Hundreds of artifacts were recovered.

Suggested Further Research

The 1988 Resources Management Plan states that management needs more detailed information on the significance, extent, and condition of the archeological resources in order to properly care for them. It was felt that more precise information is needed in reference to their locations, features and bounds, and such information should include the foundations of the Leonard buildings, the first trading post on the site, which is to the north of the present home and trading post. A thorough and complete evaluation is wanted, one that would employ remote sensing, field investigation, documentary research, and comparative analysis. Such a project would enable management to provide protection and interpretation for the sites in the future. For example, some of the sites are located where future farming may be done. In order to work the area with confidence, without fear of destroying resources, management should know which portions of the fields should be avoided by farm machinery.

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Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006