Year 1 Day 42 Exploring Our Backyard

I’m a bit late with this blog.  Time seems to be just running by.  Sorry for being tardy…

Today we realized that our campground is actually on the land that is a New Mexico Historic Site.  Called the Coronado State Monument, it is named for Francisco Vasquez de Coronado who is thought to have camped near this site with his soldiers in 1540 while searching for the fabled Cities of Gold.  Instead of finding treasure he found 12 thriving agricultural villages inhabited since 1300 AD.  Coronado called the inhabitants: Los Indios de los Pueblos or Pueblo Indians.  Armed with this knowledge, we just had to explore the historic site and we discovered a gold mine of history and interesting information.

The ruins of the northernmost of the 12 Pueblos villages that were situated along the Rio Grande River here in this valley was just ¼ mile from us. The village was called Kuaua. Its name means “evergreen” in Tiwa.  It was first settled around AD 1325 and was occupied by approximately 1,200 people when Coronado arrived in 1540.  Conflict with Coronado and later Spanish explorers led to the abandonment of this site within a century of first contact.  Today, the descendants of the people of Kuaua live in the surviving Tiwa-speaking villages of Taos, Picuris, Sandia, and Isleta.

When archeologists from the Museum of New Mexico excavated the ruins of the Kuaua Pueblo during the 1940s, they discovered a square kiva in the south plaza of the community.  This kiva, or ceremonial chamber, contained many layers of mural paintings.  These murals represent some of the finest examples of Pre-Columbian art ever found in the United States. Painstaking efforts allowed for the recovery of the murals, and fourteen examples of the original art are on display in the Visitor’s Center.  The painted kiva was reconstructed and a local indigenous artist reconstructed one of the mural layers on this kiva’s interior walls.

We toured the ruins and we were allowed to climb up a ladder made from logs, walk across the top of the adobe kiva and then climb down another log ladder that was jutting out of a hole in the top of the kiva.


The floor of the kiva was about 8 feet below the surface of the ground.  Inside was cool and dark but had enough natural light from the hole in the roof so we could see the painted walls.  While we were not allowed to take photographs, I did find this photo of the painted walls on the Internet so you can see what we saw.

While inside the kiva, our guide explained to us the meaning of each painting and the traditional use of the kiva by the Pueblos.  She also took us around the reconstructed ruins of the village.  The actual ruins still exist but were reburied after they were excavated when the archaeologists realized that the rain was destroying the adobe.  It is hoped that someday, when funding is available, the ruins will be re-excavated and protected by over hangs or some other protective coverings.

Here is A Computer Simulation Of The Layout Of This Pueblo Village Called Kuaua.

Here Is A Computer Simulation Of What The Village Looked Like.

Here Is A Photo Of Reconstructed Ruins Of The Village.


Another View OF The Ruins


The Rio Grande River Flows By The Village.



Along with touring the ruins, the kiva and the remarkable displays, we also visited the gift shop.  Here we met the docent who filled us with lots of additional information about the Pueblo Indians and their culture.  We spent over 45 minutes with her as she was very warm and friendly and filled with facts.  We were also amazed at the quality of the art work that the local tribe had on displayed and ended up buying a few pieces.  They will make magnificent wall hangings once we decide to settle down and buy a house.  When that will be, we do not have the faintest idea but the  things that we acquired during our circumnavigation and now our exploration of North America will bring back the fondest memories.



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