New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies


Project name: Gavilan
Site type: Gravel-mulched fields, village, foot trail; morada, mercantile, livestock pens
Period: Rio Grande Classic (AD 1325–1600); 1930s
Project director: James L. Moore

The Gavilan Project

In order to prevent inadvertent damage to archaeological sites during the reconstruction of the section of US 285 that runs through the Ojo Caliente Valley near the small communities of Gavilan, Duranes, Gallegos, and Ojo Caliente, the New Mexico Department of Transportation requested that the OAS examine and excavate portions of eleven prehistoric sites and one historic site.

Most of the prehistoric sites (LA 105703–LA 105709, LA 105713, and LA 118547) contain gravel-mulched fields and other features related to Pueblo farming in the Ojo Caliente Valley during the Rio Grande Classic period (AD 1325–1600). Limited excavations were also conducted in an area associated with one of the villages occupied by those farmers, now known as Hilltop Pueblo (LA 66288), which may have been part of a community associated with the large Classic-period village of Nuté (LA 298), considered by the modern Tewas in the Española area to be one of their ancestral villages. The last prehistoric site was a section of trail (LA 118549) that may have helped link many of the Pueblo villages in this area with one another and the fields they used, and may also have functioned as a ritual pathway to important shrines in the valley.

The historic site contained a complex of remains including the Gavilan morada, the Candido García Store, and the locations of corrals, pens, and a shed used in the early 1900s by the Archuleta family. However, most of the historic features were outside the highway right-of-way and were avoided; only the García Store was fully excavated. 

The farming sites were all located on top of a gravel terrace that lines much of the east side of the Ojo Caliente Valley in this area. The array of features found at these sites was dominated by gravel-mulched plots used for growing crops, and the borrow pits that provided most of the materials used to build those fields. While other types of farming features like contour terraces and check dams were also found at a few sites, they were quite rare. Pollen samples taken from the fields showed that the main crops grown there were corn and cotton. Areas used as temporary residences by farmers tending their fields, identified at four of the nine farming sites, consisted of scatters of chipped stone and occasional ground stone artifacts, sherds, fire pits, and the locations of possible field shelters. Chipped stone debris, common along the terrace edge at these sites, probably represents the use of that zone as a quarry for raw materials.

Hilltop Pueblo sits atop an isolated section of gravel terrace about 200 m east of the Classic-period village of Nuté. The pottery found there suggests that Hilltop Pueblo and Nuté were occupied at about the same time, though we are uncertain whether Hilltop Pueblo was an independent entity or a part of Nuté that was separated from the main village by a short distance. No excavations were conducted within the roomblocks at Hilltop Pueblo; rather, we examined associated deposits at the base of the terrace representing both trash disposal and materials washed down the hill from above. Grid garden