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Tijeras Pueblo





























By Linda S. Cordell and Nicholas E. Damp

In the closing years of the 13th century, ancestors of modern Pueblo people gathered at a seep and stream in the canyon that runs along the southeast edge of the Sandia Mountains, New Mexico. Today the canyon is named Tijeras, scissors in Spanish, and the Pueblo village that thrived there for more than a century is called Tijeras Pueblo.
Throughout the American Southwest, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were times of dramatic social and demographic change. There was a general southward movement of people from the Four Corners area that coincided with population increase in the Rio Grande region. Pueblos were founded as far east as Pecos and Gran Quivira. At the same time, people who had been living in quite small settlements came together in fewer but larger villages. The people who built Tijeras Pueblo probably included local people and some who came from farther west. Together they wove a new social identity building on older relationships and creating new ones through exchange of raw materials, especially minerals and pigments, and finished products such as pottery; participation in ceremonies, and probably inter-marriage. Learning what archaeologists have discovered about Tijeras Pueblo, along with visits to the site, provide opportunities to understand how villages of this time period came into being and how the people prospered.
Today, Tijeras Pueblo is on the grounds of the Sandia Ranger Station, Cibola National Forest, just ten miles east of Albuquerque. The site was visited in the early 1930s by H. P. Mera and W. S. Stallings of the Museum of New Mexico. In 1948 the University of New Mexico (UNM) summer field school in archaeology, directed by Stanley A. Stubbs and Fred Wendorf, worked at Tijeras Pueblo. Tijeras Pueblo was the focus of intensive excavation in the 1970s as a UNM summer field school project begun by W. James Judge and continued by Linda S. Cordell, who also supervised archaeological surveys and mapping of archaeological sites in the canyon.

On November 17, 2005, Tijeras Pueblo was entered in the National Register of Historic Places. At the site, a self-guided interpretive trail and a new interpretive center with hands-on activities are available for visitors.
Archaeologists use remains of architecture and village layout to learn about how Ancestral Pueblo communities came together in the past.  Tijeras Pueblo was built largely of walls made of sun-dried adobe. In the course of excavation, these are exposed to the weather and will erode. To preserve the site, archaeologists filled-in their excavation trenches. The Forest Service planted grasses on the surface of the ground. The modern interpretive trail for visitors leads over and around ancient walls and open plazas that are under the ground surface and so largely invisible. The excavations have shown that the shape of the village of Tijeras Pueblo changed over time. The specificity of calendar dates in what follows comes from tree-rings. The people of Tijeras Pueblo used wooden beams for roofs and roof-support posts. These have yielded 462 dates related to construction.
In the early 1300s, Tijeras Pueblo was composed of about a dozen blocks of surface rooms scattered over an open area near the seep.  A very large round kiva, an underground ceremonial room, nearly 21 meters (64 feet) in diameter was near the center of the community. Although most of the living rooms in the pueblo were made of adobe and jacal (wood posts covered with mud), the kiva walls were double courses of large stone blocks. At the same time, the people also built and used a large rectangular kiva with adobe walls that was located within a house block above the seep.
In the 1360s, some of the people living at Tijeras Pueblo probably left. Some rooms fell into disrepair and adobe walls weathered into the ground. The people who remained reorganized their village. The new pueblo was confined to the limestone ridge at the southern part of the site. Houses were arranged in room blocks on three sides of a narrow U-shaped plaza, open to the east. The very large, stone-walled, circular kiva may no longer have been in use but a rectangular kiva on the west side of the plaza was built above the older adobe-walled kiva.
Finally, in the middle of the 1400s, people moved away from Tijeras Pueblo. They did not go far, perhaps joining other Pueblo communities on the east side of the Sandia Mountains.  Remains of a few stone wall-foundations and hearths on the surface of the site suggest that people used the old pueblo, perhaps as a place from which to tend nearby cornfields or as a camp from which they could hunt.  Eventually, even this use ended. Tijeras Pueblo is not forgotten by modern Pueblo peoples. It is remembered and visited today especially by people from the Southern Tiwa-speaking Pueblos of Isleta and Sandia and by the Pueblo of Zuni.
The people of Tijeras Pueblo were among the first in the Rio Grande region to make spectacular red pottery decorated with black lead-glaze paint. This pottery was widely exchanged. Tijeras Pueblo is at the crossroads of a key east-west route from the Great Plains to the Rio Grande and a north-south route from northern Mexico to northern New Mexico. The people had ties to all four of those areas.
Sources used:
Cordell, Linda S., ed. Tijeras Canyon, Analyses of the Past. Albuquerque: Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and University of New Mexico Press, 1980.
Cordell, Linda S. “Dialogue with the Past: Thoughts on Some University of New Mexico Field Schools.” Journal of Anthropological Research 43:29-46 (1989).
Cordell, Linda S., Glenda Deyloff, Mark D. Mitchell, and David H. Snow. “Mapping Tijeras Pueblo.” In: Between the Mountains Beyond the Mountains, Papers in Honor of Paul R. Williams, edited by Emily J. Brown, Karen Armstrong, David M. Brugge, and Carol J. Condie. Papers of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico 35 (2009), pp. 23-32.

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Latitude: 3504
Longitude: 10622