Arroyo Hondo Reflections, Ed Kelley, PhD, December 2013
I became involved with the Arroyo Hondo project when Dr. Loren Potter, my ecology class professor, approached me and asked if I would be interested in doing a Master's Thesis on an archeological site near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since I was finishing my senior year at University of New Mexico (UNM), I felt that this would
I met with Dr. Schwartz in downtown Santa Fe, at the SAR office, to discuss what he expected from the ecological project. Since I have no written document to jog my memory, I don't recall what he told me, what were his expectations, or what was the information he needed in my project. Thus, I do not know whether I obtained the information that he wanted, nor if I included everything he needed from my work on the project. I assume all was accomplished.
The camp of the archeological site soon became my home during the work week. I met and visited with the staff and obtained information and orientation from Dick Lang, Bruce Dickson, and other individuals on the dig. The enthusiasm of the team, and their professional credentials, were quite impressive. As the session evolved, I was awed by the amount of work they produced. The camaraderie, humor and good-natured attitudes of the whole team made the summer an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Armed with the information gathered in my meeting with Dr. Schwartz, I obtained USGS topographic maps and began to explore all the road and highway accesses to areas of interest within a five mile radius of the Arroyo Hondo site. This would be my primary study area. I walked the Arroyo Hondo canyon and lower arroyo and made notes concerning geology, soils, vegetation, water availability, and other archeological features within this boundary.
After evaluating the information, I chose two locations to experiment with growing corn and beans. One location was on the floor of the Arroyo Hondo canyon near the end of the small perennial stream. The other site was near the Arroyo Hondo Pueblo site near the rim of the canyon. The results of this experiment proved that we could grow some food by hand - carrying water to the garden on the rim of the canyon, but even the plots receiving the most water only produced poor crops and a small quantity.
The crops planted on the valley floor produced greater quantity and better quality. Even with a fair amount of rain and no droughts, I would hate to think about growing enough food to survive a long winter and spring. (However, I do believe that had David Noble carried more water to the gardens on the top of the canyon rim, we would have had better crop production!)
As spring turned to summer, many of the plants in the area began to flower. At this time, I began collecting and documenting locations, time and date of each plant collection.
The room excavations were producing a variety of kinds of geological material, so I started to identify, which had been used for building and tool making. I noted the locations where these materials could be found in relation to the Arroyo Hondo Pueblo.
Soon I realized that many of the items coming out of the dig were not from within the 5 mile radius. I had originally assumed that this area would cover the locations of most of the botanical and geological material being recovered. Most of the rocks and minerals recovered actually did come from within the study area, but many of the special rocks and minerals used as decoration or tools came from locations within a 30 mile radius.
I expanded my search and conducted short spot surveys of most of the area within this 30 mile radius. These surveys located numerous additional plant species and geologic material, which later would be found in the excavation materials. Tropical feathers and sea shells, of course, came from much farther distances.
Since climate conditions even today have a significant impact on farming and general living conditions of numerous populations around the world, I began a collection of diverse information concerning climate change. I collected core samples from the largest Ponderosa pines and pinus edulis (pinon) trees that I found during my wider excursions for data collections on geology, soils, and vegetation. These core samples were turned over to SAR for evaluation by the Tree Ring Laboratory. They would develop a climate history of the area through the study of these rings.
I also initiated a collection of data on the climate of Santa Fe, which had data records for 150 years. The original weather station was at the Plaza, but was moved twice and ended up at the Santa Fe Airport. The regional weather station at Albuquerque was also a source of information for climate data.
Published data from other areas around New Mexico was collected, and I found the general climate of New Mexico reflected the path of the jet stream. When the jet stream paths are predominantly north of New Mexico, the area has a cooler, wetter climate.
Since the idea of ice fields of the North Pole regions shrink and expand in a general North-South direction, they create a change in the climate of New Mexico and therefore in Arroyo Hondo.
I recognized after completion of the field work and the development of the Arroyo Hondo Monograph that New Mexico has a rich history in the recent past of successes and failures in farming. Both dry and irrigation farming in the foothills and valleys at the same elevation as the Arroyo Hondo site have met with conditions that were too cold or too dry to successfully grow crops other than alfalfa. Studying these farming areas could possibly have been helpful in providing insight into the Arroyo Hondo occupation pattern. Actually, I found references in literature searches to people's migrations in other parts of the world that were similar to Arroyo Hondo.
At the end of the field season, I took my collections of rocks, minerals and plants to UNM, where I worked for several months in the UNM herbarium to identify the plants that I had collected. I conducted numerous literature reviews at the UNM library to determine known uses of the plants in my collection, and to categorize them as medicinal, ritual, paints or poisonous. Dr. William Martin assisted me by verifying many of the plant species.
The geology museum collections provided basic identification of my rocks and minerals collections, and the curator verified my personal identifications The general geology of the Arroyo Hondo site was presented in a table, and a supplemental list of all samples found was submitted to the SAR lab.
The climate data research and analysis was conducted under the watchful eye of Dr. Ivan Bennett, professor of climatology. A water-year data table, and temperature charts were created to illustrate these findings.
For my first experience in field archeology, I could not have been more fortunate than to have the gift of that season at Arroyo Hondo. Strong positive bonds were created that hold many pleasant connections and memories for me. Thank you, Doug Schwartz.