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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 27, 2002 - Issue 66


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Pueblo Hamlet to Offer Educational Experience

by Carol Cohea/Staff writer Farmington Daily Times
Youngsters visiting Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, Colo., in the months ahead will be treated to a hands on learning experience, as if they were stepping back to a time to grind corn, plaster walls or study archaeo-astronomy.

Generally, ruins, partially standing walls and rubble mounds, do not show the lifestyle of the former inhabitants in a way in which children can relate.

In the Pueblo hamlet, children will be able to experience rooms with vigas and latilla roofs, and a tower with a ladder.

"It will be a typical, average-sized Pueblo III structure that you'd find in the northern San Juan area between AD 1100 and 1300. It would have housed an extended family unit and included storage rooms and habitation rooms," explained Larry Baker, executive director of Salmon Ruins.

His enthusiasm for the project is obvious.

"While there are some pueblo replicas outside of the region, it will be the first in this area, that I'm aware of. The room blocks and tower are patterned after an archaeological site at Mesa Verde. I'm jazzed and very enthusiastic that our stabilization team is creating the replica," Baker said.

He said the pueblo hamlet's position atop a mesa edge to the northeast of the main educational campus could allow the production of some solar and lunar alignments to conduct archaeo-astronomy lessons.

The Pueblo hamlet project is being built on contract by the masons associated with Salmon Ruins and the stabilization unit of the Division of Conservation Archaeology, the contracting arm of the San Juan County Archaeological Research Center and Library at Salmon Ruins.

The professional Navajo masons of the stabilization unit have had previous experience working on Crow Canyon's Lowry Pueblo in 2001 and Escalante Ruin in 1999. The project director is Chris Zeller, professional archaeologist and preservation specialist. He has been project director on ruin stabilizations programs of pueblitos in Largo Canyon southeast of Blanco, including Old Fort Ruin, The Citadel and Truby's Tower. The team is known for maintaining the stylistic and structural integrity of the ruins.

"The hamlet will basically serve as an authentic northern San Juan area style pueblo, but it will be an education classroom and used for educational activities," Baker said.

For example, he said, there will be kneeling bins in the floor to grind corn. With walls surrounding them and a roof overhead, students can learn about ceiling architecture, vigas, latillas and aspects of maintaining the buildings, even how the walls were plastered.

"People like to see reconstructions. They will come away with a better understanding and feeling of what it was like to be in the buildings, surrounded by four walls and roof. It will provide a proper setting and feeling, a proper association with the past," he said.

Salmon Ruins success with reconstruction is seen in its Heritage Park.

"It has worked well for us in terms of our educational programs," Baker said.

The Park integrates the authentic historic structures of the Salmon family homestead with a reconstructed Basketmaker III pithouse, two different styles of hogans, Jicarilla Apache and Ute wickiups and teepees.

The pueblo hamlet was designed by George R. Greenbank Architect and Associates of Telluride, Colo. It features 2,366 cubic feet of masonry for the pueblo, along with an area extending out to the plaza and a perimeter wall. The room block will have 10-foot ceilings and the tower with hatchway will extend to 15-feet.

"The roofs are designed to support the weight of the children, because the people had activities on the roofs," Baker said.

In between the authentic ceiling structure, as seen from both the inside of the rooms and on top, will be modern roofing materials.

Planning for the project began during the winter, when Baker and Zeller began meeting with architects and officials from the archaeological center. Crow Canyon President and Chief Executive Officer Ricky R. Lightfoot was instrumental in securing funding and moving the project forward.

Crow Canyon Archaeological Center is a not-for-profit organization which focuses on long-term archaeological research on the ancestral Pueblo Indian occupation of the Mesa Verde region.

The stabilization unit masonry team is currently in Phase I of the work, collecting stone for the project from the center property.

"It will take 75 tons to do the structure and the retaining wall. Stone acquisition is a hot, hard, labor-intensive job," Baker said. "This phase will be completed in about two weeks. Then we'll be breaking ground for the footing and to pour the foundation. Work on the hamlet should begin about Aug. 1."

He said the masonry team will work until the frost starts.

"You can't mix mortar after the temperatures drop," he said.

To make the building structurally sound, it will be built with masonry cement. But what people see will appear to be adobe. It will be an acrylic polymer to provide for additional erosion resistance.

"It's highly likely it may not be completed until September 2003, Baker said. "We're sparing no level of detail in terms of the replica."

Cortez, CO Map
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