Historic Preservation

At the Coronado Historic Site our work is centered on historic preservation; an equally important part of the work of archaeologists as excavation.

Anyone familiar with archaeology knows that it is often described as a “destructive” science. This is true. After all, once you have excavated a site and removed the artifacts, there is no going back and replacing it exactly as it was. Therefore, many archaeologists spend much of their time in historic preservation, so that people may enjoy ancient sites for years to come, and other archaeologists can have an opportunity to do research in the future, when techniques may be more advanced and less destructive.

This summer, at Coronado, we will be repairing and reconstructing structures that were built in the 1930’s. The most ancient buildings on the site were back filled and covered over by E.L. Hewett in the 1930’s, in order to preserve them for future generations. All the buildings at the site are constructed of adobe. Adobe is basically clay and sand mixed with water.  As you might guess, even in the minimal rain of the southwest, eventually adobe melts away, so we have to replace it.

The first step in the process is laying down a ‘scratch’ coat. This involves making mud balls and applying them in rows.  This process is sometimes called coursed or puddle adobe, and it was with this technique that the ancient inhabitants of Kuaua village built all of their structures.

Scratch coatFigure 1. Scratch Coat.

After the Scratch Coat has been applied and dried, we can apply smooth coats to create the finished surface.

Scratch and SmoothFigure 2. Smooth coat over scratch coat.


Figure 3. Ranger Ethan Ortega smooth coating the old ranger residence.

Ranger Ethan Ortega and I have been working on the small building near the beginning of the river trail. This building was once where the ranger lived. Try to imagine living in that one room building the next time you take a walk on the site. We will be repairing several of the buildings this summer and I will keep you up to date on our progress with pictures each week.


The Archaeological Relic

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