With the receipt of a National Science Foundation grant, major excavations at Arroyo Hondo Pueblo could begin in the summer of 1971. The first field season was dedicated to building a detailed understanding of the construction and domestic architectural details of the Pueblo. The initial conclusions were borne out during further testing throughout the site in subsequent years, which showed remarkable similarity in construction and design over the whole pueblo. Adding these details to the site map generated by clearing to the uppermost wall the remains over the total pueblo allowed for a preliminary reconstruction of the pueblo at its climax size, details that could be used for planning future work.
Two roomblocks (11 and 16) and Kiva C were intensively excavated in order to understand architectural details such as wall and floor construction, room features, and wall abutments. Roomblocks 11 and 16 were selected for this intensive excavation because their location near the spring suggested that they might have been the first roomblocks constructed at the site. The data from these excavations also allowed an initial glimpse into the two occupations of the Pueblo, a first step in constructing a cultural history of Component I and Component II.
While the intensive excavations were underway, the overburden was stripped from the rest of the site, revealing the uppermost walls. A total of 640 surface rooms were thus uncovered and mapped so that the room-by-room plan of the pueblo would be clear. After shovels were used to identify the depth of the overburden, a road grader was used to strip the top 10-15 centimeters of sterile soil from all roomblocks. Careful monitoring of this heavy equipment ensured that it damaged no cultural material. Once the wall level was reached, hand tools were employed to completely clear the tops of all walls. These walls were then marked and the site was fully mapped. Judging from the height of rooms above the assumed original ground surface, some rooms were considered to be those of a second story. These areas were tested later to corroborate this conclusion. In most cases this was found to be correct. In one case (near roomblock 6) it was originally thought there was a third story. This appeared as part of the end of the first-year reconstruction of the site. Later testing determined this was incorrect, and it was recognized as a second story. The overburden of plaza areas was also tested in a search for kivas. Also, the large circular depression to the west of the main pueblo (12-J) was reexcavated. As Nelson had excavated this fifty years earlier, little detailed information could be obtained. The possible function of this structure was described in detail in the monograph by Creamer on the Pueblo’s architecture and by Schwartz in the synthesis narrative.