Sunday, May 27, 2012

Descriptions of the Pueblo Houses of New Mexico


Descriptions of the Pueblo Houses of New Mexico


We are next to consider the houses and mode of life of the Sedentary Village Indians, among whom architecture exhibits a higher development, with the use of durable materials, and with the defensive principle superadded to that of adaptation to communism in living. It will not be difficult to discover and follow this latter principle, as one of the chief characteristics of this architecture in the pueblo houses in New Mexico, and in the region of the San Juan River, and afterwards in those of Mexico and Central America. Throughout all these regions there was one connected system of house architecture, as there was substantially one mode of life.
In New Mexico, going southward, the Indians, at the epoch of discovery, were not in a new dress and in an improved condition. They had advanced out of the Lower and into the Middle Status of barbarism; the houses in which they dwelt were of adobe brick or of stone, two, three, four, and sometimes five and six stories in height, and containing from fifty to five hundred apartments. They cultivated maize and plants by means of irrigating canals. The water was drawn from a running stream, taken at a point above the pueblo and carried down and through a series of garden beds. They wore mantles of cotton, as well as garments of skin.
[Footnote: "They have no cotton-wool growing, because the country is cold, yet they wear mantles thereof, as your honor may see by the show thereof; and true it is, that there was found in their houses certain yarn made of cotton-wool."—Coronado's Relation, Hakluyt's Coll. of Voyages, London ed., 1600, iii, p. 377.]
[Footnote: "Their garments were of cotton and deer skins, and the attire, both of men and women, was after the manner of Indians of Mexico…. Both men and women wore shoes and boots, with good soles of neat's leather—a thing never seen in any part of the Indies."— Voyages to New Mexico, by Friar Augustin Rueyz, a Franciscan, in 1581, and Antonio de Espejo in 1583. Explorations for Railroad Route, &c., Report Indian Tribes, vol. iii, p. 114.]
The present Pueblo Indians of New Mexico are in the main their descendants. They live, some of them, in the same identical houses their forefathers occupied at the time of Coronado's expedition to New Mexico in 1541-1542, as at Acoma, Jemez, and Taos, and although their plan and mode of life have changed in some respects in the interval, it is not unlikely that they remain to this day a fair sample of the life of the Village Indians from Zunyi to Cuzco as it existed in the sixteenth century.


The Indians north of New Mexico did not construct their houses more than one story high, or of more durable materials than a frame of poles or of timber covered with matting or bark, or coated over with earth. A stockade around their houses was their principal protection. In New Mexico, going southward, are met for the first time houses constructed with several stories. Sun-dried brick must have come into use earlier than stone. The practice of the ceramic art would suggest the brick sooner or later. At all events, what are supposed to be the oldest remains of architecture in New Mexico, such as the Casas Grandes of the Gila and Salinas rivers, are of adobe brick. They also used cobble-stone with adobe mortar, and finally thin pieces of tabular sandstone, prepared by fracture, which made a solid and durable stone wall. Some of the existing pueblo houses in New Mexico are as old as the expedition of Coronado (1540-1542). Others, constructed since that event, and now occupied, are of the aboriginal model. There are at present about twenty of these pueblos in New Mexico, inhabited by about 7, 000 Village Indians, the descendants of those found there by Coronado. They are still living substantially under their ancient organization and usages. Besides these, there are seven pueblos of the Mokis, near the Little Colorado, occupied by about 3,000 Indians, who have remained undisturbed to the present time, except by Roman Catholic missionaries, and among whom the entire theory of life of the Sedentary Village Indians may yet be obtained. These Village Indians represent at the present moment the type of life found from Zunyi to Cuzco at the epoch of the Discovery, and, while they are not the highest, they are no unfit representatives of the entire class.