Monday, April 11, 2016

About Native American Zuni Cliff Dwellings And Ruins Of The Southwest

About Native American  Zuni Cliff Dwellings And Ruins Of The Southwest

    Through a large area in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, also in parts of northern Mexico, there are found several kinds of ancient ruins. At some places they are pretty well preserved, and walls still stand to a considerable height. At others they are mere heaps of stone blocks or crumbling adobe bricks. The three best defined types of buildings found in these ruins are old pueblos, cliff ruins, and cave houses.
    Zuñi is the largest inhabited pueblo. Not far from it lies Old Zuñi; and under the ruins of Old Zuñi lie the ruins of a yet older pueblo. Such ruins of old pueblos number hundreds in the Southwest. Sometimes the old walls were built of stone, carefully laid, and with the cracks neatly chinked with splinters of stone; sometimes the stones of the walls were laid in adobe cement; sometimes the walls were constructed of great adobe bricks. These old pueblos were in style and character like those now inhabited. They were often three or four stories high and terraced from in front back. Sometimes they were elliptical or rounded in general form, but more commonly they were built around the three sides of a central court, upon which the buildings faced. Some of these old pueblos were larger than any now occupied, and many of them were better built.
    The cliff dwellings were built on ledges of rock along the sides of cliffs. Many of the streams of the Southwest flow through deep and narrow gorges cut in the solid rock. Such gorges are there called cañons. Among the famous cliff-dwellings are those in the cañon of the Chelley River, and those in Mancos Cañon. Here are houses perched up on ledges or stowed away in natural caverns. Some of them are hundreds of feet above the stream, and have a perpendicular rock wall for one hundred feet below them. These 
houses are carefully built with stone laid in cement. Besides houses of many rooms, and of two or more stories, there are circular towers. Plainly, the people who built these houses did it to secure themselves from attack. Their gardens and fields must have been far below in the valley.
Cliff Ruins at Mancos Canyon. 
     The cave houses were usually dug out in the rocks by human beings. They were cut in the soft rock with picks or axes of stone. Some of these dwellings were cut out as simple open caves. In such, there were walls erected at the front. The cave might be so cut that the rock face remained for the front wall of the house; a hole was first cut for a doorway, and then the room or rooms would be dug out from it behind the cliff wall.
Some persons believe these three kinds of houses were built by three distinct peoples or tribes. This is not likely, for sometimes two or all three kinds are found together, so related as to show that all were occupied at one time by the people of one village.

                                                     Cliff Ruins at Mancos Canyon. 
About twenty or twenty-five miles up the Rio Grande from the pueblo of Cochiti, New Mexico, is a brook called El Rito de los Frijoles, which means “the brook of the beans.” It runs in a fine gorge with rock banks; large pine trees grow in the valley and cap the summits of the chasm. In one of the side cliffs are hundreds of holes, the remains of old dug cave rooms and houses. In most of them the rock cliff face itself forms the front wall of the house. We entered one single-roomed house that looked almost as if it had been used yesterday.
We crept in through a little doorway about a dozen feet up in the cliff and found ourselves in a small room about fifteen feet square. We could see the marks on the roof and the upper part of the walls, where stone picks had been used in cutting out the house. The floor was neatly smoothed, and covered with hard clay. The lower part of the wall was finished smooth with clay, washed over with a thin coat of fine cream-colored clay. The roof was black with the smoke of ancient fires; a little smoke-hole pierced the forward wall, near and above, but at one side of, the door. There were niches cut out in the wall, where little treasures used to be kept. Ends of poles set in the rock seemed to be pegs upon which objects were hung; their unevenly cut ends showed the marks of stone axes. In the floor we found a line of loops to which the bottom pole of the old blanket-weaving loom must have been fastened.

                                                                   Pueblo El Rito
But these cave houses are not the only ruins at El Rito. Along certain parts of the cliff are remains of ancient buildings of the true pueblo type, which had been built against the base of the cliff. They are often placed in such a way with reference to cave rooms in the cliff as to show that both were parts of one great building. Thus, on the ground floor there might be two pueblo rooms in front of a cave room, on the second floor there might be one pueblo room in front of one cave room, and on the third floor there might be only cave rooms. Following up the cañon a little way from this mass of ruins, passing other cave houses, and heaped-up rubbish of old pueblo walls, on the way, we see, perhaps a hundred feet up the cliff, a great natural cavern. Climbing to it, we find as genuine cliff houses constructed therein as those of Mancos Cañon itself. It is certain that at El Rito the people built at one time the three kinds of houses,—the pueblo, the cliff house, the cave house.
At El Rito we find what is common near these ruins in many places,—great numbers of pictures cut in the rock wall. These pictures are sometimes painted as well as cut in, and often represent sent the sun, the moon, human beings, and animals.
Many relics are found at these ruins. The old metatés and rubbing stones for grinding meal are common. Axes, adzes, and picks of stone are not rare, and once in a while a specimen is found with the old handle still attached. These stone tools have a groove around the blade. A flexible branch was bent around this and tied, thus forming the handle. Many round pebbles are found which are much battered; these were hammers. Pieces of sandstone are found with straight grooves worn across them; they were used to straighten and smooth arrows on. Arrow heads and spear heads made of chert, jasper, chalcedony, and obsidian, are common. Sometimes yarns of different colors, bits of cloth, and objects made of hair are found. Sandals neatly woven of yucca fiber are common.
In many of these old caves dried bodies have been found. They are usually called “mummies,” but wrongly so. Sometimes sandals are found still upon their feet, and not rarely the blankets made of feather cloth, in which they were wrapped, are preserved. This was made by fastening feathers into a rather open-work cloth of cords.
The art of all arts, however, among the people who built these ancient houses is the one in which modern Pueblos excel,—pottery. Thousands of whole vessels have been taken from these ruins. There are many forms,—great water-jars, flasks, cups, bowls, ladles,—and, in ware and decoration, they are much better than those made by modern Pueblos. The ware is generally thinner, better baked, firmer, and gives a better ring when struck. The decorations are usually good geometrical designs.
The ancient builders were, in culture, mode of life, and architecture, much like the modern Pueblos. It is probable that some of them were the ancestors of the Pueblo Indians. The Mokis claim that some of the ruins of the McElmo Cañon were the old homes of their people; and the inhabitants of Cochiti assert that it was their forefathers who lived at El Rito de los Frijoles. We cannot say of every ruined building who built it, but certainly the builders were Indians very like the Pueblos.