New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies


Project name: Jicarilla
Site type: Navajo hogan; artifact scatters; tower structure and rooms, pictograph panels
Period: Basketmaker III (ca. 700) to modern; Gallina phase (ca. AD 1050–1300); Dinetah phase (AD 1300–1700); Gobernador phase (ca. 1600–1775)
Project directors: John Ware and Yvonne Oakes

Dinetah-Phase Occupation and the Twin War Gods on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation

Excavations along New Mexico 537 on land belonging to the Jicarilla Apache Nation revealed Gallina-period and Dinetah Navajo sites along with a previously unrecorded pictograph of the Twin War Gods of the Dinetah phase and a panel of other pictographs.

LA 71263 was occupied during the Gallina period, ca. AD 1050–1300, and also during the later Dinetah phase (AD 1300–1700). Excavations uncovered a burned Navajo hogan and a nearby bell-shaped storage pit associated with Dinetah Gray utility sherds, Jemez Black-on-white, glaze-on-yellow, and several minor pottery types. The burned logs in the structure and its hearth allowed for radiocarbon and dendrochronological dating of the site. Three of the dates confirmed an early Navajo occupation during the Dinetah phase between 1620 and 1650.

LA 76270 was a sparse sherd and lithic artifact scatter that contained Dinetah Gray sherds. It may have been a temporary campsite used by Navajos during the Dinetah or subsequent Gobernador phase (ca. 1600–1775).  Tower, Site of the Ancients

Perhaps of most interest is the adjacent Site of the Ancients (LA 143324). It contained a Gallina phase (AD 1050–1260) tower structure with six to eight attached rooms, a small cavate in a cliff wall, and pictograph panels. Within one of the Gallina rooms were Dinetah phase Navajo corncobs radiocarbon-dated to about AD 1640, the same as LA 71263. On the cliff face adjacent to the tower and rooms are two pictograph panels. One is large and contains symbols from several different periods from Basketmaker III (ca. AD 700) to modern. The other panel contains a red-painted representation of the Twin War Gods, sacred in Navajo history. Only seven drawings of the Twin War Gods have been recorded, and this is the easternmost one known.

These sites expand our knowledge of the little-known Navajo occupation of Rio Arriba County. LA 71263, in particular, confirms the presence of early Navajo peoples on the eastern edge of traditional Dinetah lands. The Twin War Gods are significant Navajo deities, and their presence in this area was previously unsuspected.