Region III Quarterly

Volume 2 - No. 2

April, 1940


By Chester A. Thomas,
Acting Custodian,
Bandelier National Monument.

One of the greatest of American scholars, and probably one of the least known, lies buried in a crypt in Seville Cathedral, in Spain. No huge memorial marks the site of his last resting place, but his works are a monument that overshadow the massive bronzes and marbles raised to many far less eminent men. A simple plaque on the Seville Crypt reads: "Adolph F. Bandelier, Archeologist, Archivist, Historian, Born in Bern, Switzerland, August 6, 1840. Died in Seville, Spain, March 18, 1914. A great American Scholar." These words tell the beginning and the ending of a brilliant career. The one-hundredth anniversary of his birth will be formally observed at the national monument named for him, near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Bandelier's early formal education was very slight. He never attended school after his eighth year. As a boy, he came with his father to the United States. The family settled at Highland, Illinois, where the father took up banking. In 1856, young Adolph went to Bern, where he studied geology under Professor Studer of Bern University. The young man who returned to Illinois joined his father in banking and mining enterprises, but soon found that the humdrum of business in a small midwestern town was not to his liking. Always a student, he turned his attention to ethnology and archeology. He studied the early history and ethnology of Latin America. In 1877 he widened his knowledge by extensive travel in Mexico and Central America. He came home and published his papers from 1877 to 1879 on the ethnology of the ancient Mexicans. These influenced the executive committee of the newly organized Archeological Institute of America to appoint him to conduct special researches in New Mexico.

In 1882 he came to New Mexico where his attention was first devoted to the ruins of the Pueblo of Pecos, the results of which were published in 1881 in connection with an "Historical Introduction." From Pecos, Bandelier extended his researches to the Keres Pueblo of Cochiti. He remained two months among the Keres, sharing their food, their hardships, and their simple pleasures. They treated him as one of their own and he was able to understand the spirit of fraternity and the features of their organization. This sojourn at Cochiti was the beginning of several which brought to the observer a keen insight into the life and customs of these villagers, and which, with similar observations among the Tewa especially at San Juan, finally resulted in The Delight Makers, published in English and German, early in 1890. This novel of early Pueblo life has for its setting the dwellings of the Tyuonyi, the ruins of which are incorporated in the bounds of the present Bandelier National Monument. Bandelier said that the plot is entirely his own, but his characters are real Indians. He knew the Keres and gained their confidence. He believed that only by presenting ethnologic studies in the guise of fiction, would his writings be read by laymen.

Bandelier temporarily suspended his New Mexico investigations to join in the researches of the Lorillard expeditions to Mexico and Central America, under Desire Charnay. Charnay had already disbanded and returned to France, but Bandelier proceeded to Cholula where he spent four months studying the famous pyramid and the customs and beliefs of the native inhabitants. In March of the following year he was again among the Pueblos. He continued his studies along the same general lines from 1883 to the winter of 1886, meanwhile making Santa Fe his home in order to be in more immediate touch with the field of his observations. During these years he penetrated almost every corner of New Mexico, southern Arizona, Sonora, and Chihuahua; explored the country even farther southward in Mexico, visiting and describing hundreds of ruins, and surveying and mapping as he went. So hazardous were his journeys that many times he was reported missing, supposedly dead at the hands of the hostiles or of starvation or of exposure. During one of his journeys he was afflicted with smallpox in the two-foot snows of the Manzanos. In 1882 he had a narrow escape from death in a midwinter blizzard in the desert of eastern New Mexico, where two companions perished. His own hardihood enabled him to reach safety after journeying 93 miles on horseback and 35 miles afoot through deep snow.

His friend and companion, Dr. Charles F. Lummis, says of their journeys together: "Thousands of miles of wilderness and desert we trudged side by side--camped, starved, shivered, learned and were glad together. Our joint pursuits in comfort at our homes (in Santa Fe and Isleta, respectively) will always be memorable to me; but never so wonderful as that companioning in the hardships of what was, in our day, the really difficult fringe of the Southwest. There was not a decent road. We had no endowment, no vehicles. Bandelier was once loaned a horse; and after riding two miles, led it the rest of the thirty. So we went always by foot; my big camera and glass plates in the knapsack on my back, the heavy tripod under my arm; his aneroid, surveying instruments, and satchel of the almost microscopic notes which he kept fully and precisely every night by the campfire (even when I had to crouch over him and the precious paper with my water proof focusing cloth) somehow bestowed about him. Up and down pathless cliffs, through tangled canyons, fording icy streams and ankle deep sands, we traveled; no blankets, overcoats, or other shelter; and the only commissary a few cakes of sweet chocolate, and a small sack of parched popcorn meal. Our lodging was the cold ground. When we could find a cave, a tree, or any thing to temper the wind or keep off part of the rain, all-right. If not, the open. . . .He was in no way an athlete--nor even muscular. I was both--and not very long before had completed my 3,500-mile 'Tramp Across the Continent.' But I never had to slow down for him. Sometimes it was necessary to use laughing force to detain him at dark where we had water and a leaning cliff, instead of stumbling on through the trackless night to an unknown 'somewheres.'"

No small part of his ambition was to upset the popular theories respecting the history, archeology, and ethnology of the Southwest. To this end he destroyed the fanciful notions regarding the Aztec origin of various Pueblo ruins, the Montezuma myth among the Pueblos, the age of the city of Santa Fe, the mystery of Quivira and of the Gran Quivira, the locations of the Seven Cities of Cibola, the routes of various early Spanish explorers, and many other fallacious beliefs. He was the first to offer scientific evidence, based on his broad scholarship and remarkable ability in the utilization of source material, to settle the varied problems concerning the condition and range of the Pueblo and other tribes before and after the beginning of the Spanish period.

From time to time Bandelier prepared various accounts of the progress of his investigations in the Southwest, which were incorporated chiefly in the annual reports of the Archeological Institute although several valuable papers appeared in various periodicals. He contributed brief articles to the Century Cyclopedia of Names and to the Catholic Encyclopedia. His most noted work is the "Final Report of Investigations among the Indians of the Southwestern United States, carried on mainly in the Years From 1880 to 1885." Part I of this work was issued by the Archeological Institute in 1890, and Part II in 1892. Of equal importance, from the historical point of view, is his "Contributions to the History of the Southwestern Portion of the United States", published also by the Archeological Institute in 1890, partly at the expense of Mrs. Mary Hemenway.

In 1886 the Hemenway Southwestern Archeological Expedition was organized under the patronage of the late Mrs. Mary Hemenway, of Boston, and under the directorship of Cushing. Bandelier was selected as its historiographer. During the next three years he applied himself to a study of the Spanish archives relating to the Southwest, not only in Santa Fe, but in Mexico City and elsewhere. On the termination of the Hemenway Expedition in July, 1889, Bandelier's collection of copies of documents, together with a few originals, comprising in all about 350 titles, was deposited in the Peabody Museum of Harvard University. In 1886-88 he prepared, in French, an elaborate manuscript history of 1400 pages, illustrated with 400 watercolor sketches, of the colonization and the missions of Sonora, Chihuahua, New Mexico, and Arizona, to the year 1800. This great work now reposes in the Vatican.

In July, 1892, Bandelier went to Peru to engage in archeological and historical researches under the patronage of the late Henry Villard. These were prosecuted under Mr. Villard's patronage until April, 1894, when the important collections which had been gathered were given to the American Museum of Natural History, and the investigations were continued by and for that institution. Bandelier's field of operations now shifted to Bolivia. He visited the ruins of Tiahunnaco, where many valuable collections were obtained and the structural details of the ruins were studied and platted. Returning to La Paz, he explored the slopes of Illimani, where, at an ealtitude of 13,000 feet, other valuable collections were gathered from the ruins and burial cists. In December of the same year, he visited the island of Titicaca, where three and a half months were spent in archeological and ethnological investigations. Subsequently similar important work was conducted on the island of Koati.

Bandelier returned to the United States from South America in 1903 when he became officially connected with the American Museum of Natural History, and undertook the task of recording his South American work for publication. He later resigned and in 1906 accepted an appointment with the Hispanic Society of America, where he prepared and published several contributions to South American history and archeology. From 1909 to 1911 he suffered almost total blindness from cataract, but he continued his work, with the aid of his wife, who now became eyes and hands to him. In October, 1911, he was appointed research associate in the Carnegie Institution of Washington, to enable him to complete his studies of the Spanish documentary history of the Pueblo Indians. He went to Mexico and from there to Seville, Spain. He was engaged in continuing his researches in the archives of Madrid, Sevilla, and Simancas, when he died at Sevilla in 1914.

In New Mexico, the Indians of Cochiti had told Bandelier that their ancestors used to live in the Frijoles Canyon, near Santa Fe. They guided him to the country and he spent many months exploring and mapping the remains of the ancestral homes of some of the present day Pueblos. The Rito was always one of the dearest spots in Bandelier's memory. Of it he wrote the Delight Makers and he and his good friend, Charles Lummis, returned there again and again to photograph, study and explore. The area now has been set aside as a national monument and named for the famous scholar. Comprising some 26,000 acres of canyon and mesa, the monument is preserved by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.

According to legend, the Rito is the first known home of the Cochiti. It is one of the unique beauties of the Southwest. Lummis says, "There are scores of greater canyons in this neglected land; but there is only one Tyuonyi" (referring to the canyon of the Rito de los Frijoles) The settlement was a large one for the prehistoric United States perhaps 1,000 to 1,500 people, a figure that likely was never exceeded by any aboriginal "city" of the Southwest. With stone axes they hewed their inner rooms into the cliffs and built little pueblos that stretch serpentine-like along the top of the talus.

Ancient work in stone in the Southwest was usually confined to making little images or fetiches. In the southern portion of the Bandelier National Monument, on a mesa called the Potrero de las Vacas, are seen the only life-size carvings over found in the whole of the Pueblo range. Close to the ruined village of Yapashi are the so-called Stone Lions of Cochiti. Badly battered and weather beaten, the images today are far from artistic in appearance. Enclosed in a fence of slabs of tuff set on edge, the shrine resembles in shape a great tadpole. The lions are a shrine of the hunting society of Cochiti today and they figure prominently in Zuni mythology. Not far away is the "Cueva Pintada", or Painted Cave, a natural cavern whose walls are covered with the crude attempts at art of an ancient people.

cliff ruins

For some years the policy of the government had been to reserve Bandelier National Monument entirely as a wilderness area and not to encourage travel and development. In time the area became so well known through the medium of magazine articles, books, and scientific publications that public demand for access could no longer be ignored. The lower end of Frijoles Canyon was chosen for modest development. A road, trails, campgrounds, water and sewer system, museum, small hotel, and administration buildings were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Fully 90 per cent of the monument is still primitive country through which no roads will be built. Weeks on end can be spent in the solitude of natural areas without meeting a "white man."

Last year 11,000 people visited the monument to see the famous ruins of a prehistoric culture, and to gain rest and inspiration from the climate and scenery. The greatest concentration of population in olden times was in the Canyon of El Rito de los Frijoles (little river of the beans). A deep canyon or gorge cut by the stream rising high in the mountains is a veritable oasis in the dry country of New Mexico. Groves of cottonwoods, alders and box elder grow along the stream-banks, their light green contrasting with the somber green of the pine and juniper-covered slopes. Salmon pink cliffs on both sides lend a more than usual amount of color. Here on the south exposure of the canyon and on the valley floor, drought-stricken and harried people, forced to desert their homes in the Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, and Little Colorado regions in the 13th century, found a haven. They brought their Pueblo culture, and the resulting blend led to a culture peculiar to the Rio Grande area. For centuries the pioneer Indian farmers lived in the Rito, built villages, honeycombed the cliffs with artificial caves, and tilled the soil in the valley and on the uplands. After several hundred years, drought, flood, famine, savage foes, disease, or depletion of the soil forced them again to seek new homes. This time they turned to the broad valley of the Rio Grande where some of their kinsmen were already living. Descendants of people who once inhabited the Rito, today live close by, till the soil, dance to persuade the rain clouds to come, and hold colorful pageants. They no longer need the protection of the cliffs; their pueblos are compactly built on the flats close to the fields.

Bandelier National Monument is so located that the traveler may "catch archeology alive." The ranger archeologists provided by the National Park Service accompany groups of visitors to the ancient villages and interpret the ways of the "old peoples." A short drive from the headquarters takes the explorer to an occupied pueblo where he may see life today much as it was lived centuries ago.

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Date: 17-Nov-2005