AZTEC, NM – Retired archaeologist Jeff Wharton used maps to explain the sheer size of Aztec North, a large, unexcavated house at Aztec Ruins National Monument, on a guided tour of part of the normally closed park to the public.
“We’re standing right here. Where’s my finger. We’re on top of that mound, ”said Wharton, who retired from the National Park Service after spending 16 years at Aztec Ruins.
Twenty-five people had rare access on September 25 to Aztec North, which is normally closed to visitors due to its fragile archaeological resources, park officials said in a statement.
The guided tour took place in conjunction with National Public Lands Day, the Farmington Daily Times reported.
Various changes have been made to the park boundaries since the area was declared a national monument in 1923. It now encompasses approximately 318 acres (1.29 km²) and consists of Aztec West, Aztec North and Aztec East, another large house not searched.
Aztec West is the fully excavated structure that visitors see when visiting the park.
It was the first guided tour offered to the park since the coronavirus pandemic prompted park officials to overhaul services, a park ranger explained.
“This part of the monument is relatively new,” Wharton said of Aztec North which sits along the terrace north of the Animas River.
He explained that the Aztec north predates the main group of ruins and was probably built no earlier than 1070, based on analyzes of surface ceramics, and then abandoned in the 1140s.
The Big House is probably a story made of pebble walls and adobe, which does not resemble Aztec West, and which probably contained between 100 and 110 rooms.
It is not known how many residents were in Aztec North, Wharton said in response to a question.
“The number of rooms does not necessarily equal the population count,” he said.
The group was visible on the surface of the pebble rows that demarcated the great house or halls of marks, pottery shards, a mound of rubble and a kiva depression.
“You have to watch your steps on these cobbled slopes. They’re a little tricky, ”Wharton said as the group walked south to the edge of the River Terrace.
Downstairs, a short distance to the south, is Aztec West and the community of Aztec.
The sight could have been a reason people built Aztec North but, over time, they got closer to the Animas River before they left the area, Wharton said.
Mary Savage moved to Aztec from Carson City, Nevada about a month ago, but didn’t know the Aztec ruins were a national monument until she signed up for the tour.
“I have a particular interest in archeology. I’ve even been interested in it since I was a student four decades ago, ”said Savage, adding that as an undergraduate student at Indiana University, she was working on mound sites. prehistoric in the state.
During the tour, Savage asked Wharton about Aztec North, including the methods used for data collection and the people who once lived there.
“I wanted to come today just to see the evolution of how this place was created. Because it’s a fairly advanced civilization that created this masonry, ”she said.
When a participant asked if the park department would ever dig the site completely, Wharton said no.
The park service has a reserve philosophy in place, he said, “so the excavation will not take place.”
He added that in the summer of 2016, an archeology graduate student named Michelle Turner conducted limited digs at Aztec North.
“It was an interesting dig because it was able to identify feet of cobblestone for the standing wall and that was about it,” he said. “She only had two test trenches here and there and two on the other side of the wall. But that’s also close to the excavation that this site is going to get.
Arnold Dinet Yazzie signed up for the tour to deepen his understanding of the park.
“I visited the West Ruins probably six, eight times, but I was curious about this one here. That’s the reason I came, ”Yazzie said.
His interest in archeology began when he took archeology and anthropology classes at Fort Lewis College in the late 1960s.
“It was very informative and informative for me,” he said of the tour.
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