Historic Preservation Revisited

As I have written before, the larger part of my work at the Coronado Historic Site has been preservation. To me this part of archaeology is possibly more important than excavation. When Edgar Lee Hewitt excavated the site in the 1930’s he was trying to create a tourist attraction. He was not concerned with the kind of scientific archaeology we engage in today. His interest was in documenting a culture history of the village, placing it within a time frame based on the artifacts that were found. Fortunately his instinct to preserve what he found has proved to be prescient.

The rebuilding of the painted kiva has given the southwest a unique place of interface between the Puebloan culture which created it and the modern western culture which surrounds it. There is nowhere else in the entire southwest where this type of structure can be entered.  It gives all of us an opportunity to learn and respect the culture which it represents.

During the last two months, Ranger Ethan Ortega and I have been conducting major repairs on the exterior to preserve it for the future. Figure 1, shows what it looked like at the beginning of the summer. Notice the pitting on the south side and the gouge behind the ladder.


Figure 1.

Figure 2 shows the first stage of repair, removing the adobe bricks.


Figure 2.

Figure 3 shows the same area with the bricks replaced.


Figure 3.

This requires chiseling the old adobe bricks out, cleaning the area, then cutting new bricks to fit in the old spaces and mixing mortar that will allow us to replace them. This process also had to be done behind the ladder, Figure 4.


Figure 4.

After the bricks have set we have to add a scratch coat.  This involves missing clay, sand, and stone and throwing mud balls at the wall, Figure 5, to create a rough surface.


Figure 5.

The final stage is the smooth coat. This is just sand and clay and is what gives adobe its unique look. Figure 6, shows the kiva drying after the smooth coat.


Figure 6.

Adobe is an ongoing project. You can never stop working on it.  The next time you visit the site and look at the buildings, remember that the staff is constantly working on it. The work is hard under the best of circumstances, during a summer like this, when the temperature hovers near 100 degrees, it can be beastly. Think of the ancient residents who had to do this work without an electric cement mixer, without modern hammers, chisels, shovels and trowels, and imagine the effort it took and the care that was involved in building and maintaining these dwellings. Hewitt’s vision of a 1930’s tourist attraction may seem trite in retrospect, but his efforts at preservation and the collecting and saving of more than 50,000 artifacts have left a legacy that can be studied and admired well into the next century.


The Archaeological Relic!


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