AZTEC RUINS

Aztec Ruins are in northern New Mexico, 88 kilometers north of Chaco Canyon, and 16 kilometers north of the Salmon great house. Many researchers believe that a prehistoric road connected Salmon and Aztec, but any trace of it has been obscured or obliterated by subsequent agriculture. Aztec Ruins consists of a huge community including Aztec West, Aztec East, Aztec North, and Earl Morris great houses, at least a dozen great kivas, a tri-wall structure, and numerous other prehistoric structures. Three of the great houses and their associated great kivas, including Aztec West, are about 350 meters northwest of the Animas River in the town of Aztec. Many other prehistoric structures including Aztec North great house are strung out along a ridge to the northwest.

Aztec West is the largest Chacoan structure outside of Chaco Canyon and it is exceeded in size by only two great houses in the canyon, Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl. Aztec West includes 400-500 rectangular rooms, thirty kivas, and one great kiva. Three primary wings in a U-shaped configuration enclose a plaza. Each wing is five to seven rooms wide, and terraces down from three stories on the outside to one story along the plaza. The great house faces southeast, and the southeast side of the plaza is enclosed by an curved row of rooms. In the plaza are several kivas including the only restored great kiva in the southwest. Aztec West was built in the early 1100s A. D., occupied until the late 1100s, then reoccupied in the 1200s by people from Mesa Verde.

The walls of Aztec West are built of a stone rubble and mud mortar core, with a coursed stone veneer on each side. Some of the rooms in the west wing have a pattern of bands of green stone. Aztec West is in a better state of preservation than most other excavated Chacoan great houses. It has nineteen rooms with intact ceilings that consist of vigas (primary beams), latillas (secondary beams or joists), willow matting, and earth. The restored great kiva is 15 meters in diameter, and is surrounded by fourteen perimeter rooms.

Aztec East is 140 meters to the east of Aztec West. Aztec East is unexcavated, so less information is available on it, but it appear to be a terraced, south-facing great house, split into an east block and a west block, with a plaza to the south. The compact Earl Morris great house is 43 meters north of Aztec East. Between Aztec East and Aztec West is an unexcavated great kiva estimated to be 19 meters in diameter. To the northwest of Aztec West is the Hubbard Tri-wall structure, three concentric circular walls that enclose a central circular room surrounded by rings of squarish rooms.

 

References
Lister, Robert H. and Florence C.
1968 Earl Morris & Southwestern Archaeology. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
1987 Aztec Ruins on the Animas: Excavated, Preserved, and Interpreted. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
1990 Aztec Ruins National Monument: Administrative History of an Archaeological Preserve. SWCRC Professional Papers No. 24, NPS, Santa Fe.

Powers, Robert P., William B. Gillespie, Stephen H. Lekson
1983 The Outlier Survey: A Regional View in the San Juan Basin. Albuquerque: Division of Cultural Research, National Park Service.

Stein, John R. and Peter J. McKenna
1988 An Archaeological Reconnaissance of a Late Bonito Phase Occupation Near Aztec Ruins National Monument, New Mexico. Santa Fe: Division of Anthropology, Southwest Cultural Resource Center, NPS.

1998 Anne Lawrason Marshall
University of Idaho.