The Cliff Ruins of Canyon de Chelly, Arizona
by Cosmos Mindeleff
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Transcriber's Note:

Typographical errors are listed at the end of the text. Brackets within quotations are in the original.




CONTENTS Page Introduction 79 History and literature 79 Geography 82 Classification and descriptions 89 Ruins of the pueblo region 89 I—Old villages on open sites 93 II—Home villages on bottom lands 94 III—Home villages located for defense 111 IV—Cliff outlooks or farming shelters 142 Details 153 Sites 153 Masonry 159 Openings 164 Roofs, floors, and timber work 165 Storage and burial cists (Navaho) 166 Defensive and constructive expedients 170 Kivas or sacred chambers 174 Chimney-like structures 182 Traditions 190 Conclusions 191


Plate Page XLI. Map of the ancient pueblo region, showing location of Canyon de Chelly 79 XLII. Map of Canyon de Chelly and its branches 85 XLIII. Detailed map of part of Canyon de Chelly, showing areas of cultivable land 93 XLIV. Section of old walls, Canyon de Chelly 95 XLV. General view of ruin on bottom land, Canyon del Muerto 97 XLVI. Village ruin in Canyon de Chelly 103 XLVII. Casa Blanca ruin, Canyon de Chelly 105 XLVIII. Mummy cave, central and eastern part 112 XLIX. Eastern cove of Mummy cave 115 L. Reservoir in ruin No. 10 127 LI. Small village, ruin No. 16, Canyon de Chelly 129 LII. Walls resting on refuse in ruin No. 16 131 LIII. Cliff outlook in lower Canyon de Chelly 149 LIV. Cliff ruin No. 14 151 LV. Site marked by pictographs 153 LVI. Site difficult of approach 159 LVII. Masonry in Canyon de Chelly 161 LVIII. Chinked walls in Canyon de Chelly 163 LIX. A partly plastered wall 165 LX. Plastered wall in Canyon de Chelly 167 LXI. Storage cist in Canyon de Chelly 169 LXII. Navaho burial cists 171 LXIII. Kivas in ruin No. 10, showing second-story walls 173

Figure Page 1. Ground plan of an old ruin in Canyon del Muerto 95 2. Ground plan of a ruin on bottom land in Canyon del Muerto 96 3. Ground plan of small ruin in Canyon de Chelly 96 4. Granary in the rocks, connected with a ruin 97 5. Ground plan of a ruin in a cave 98 6. Ground plan of Pakashi-izini ruin, Canyon del Muerto 99 7. Ground plan of a ruin in Canyon del Muerto 100 8. Ground plan of a ruin in Tseonitsosi canyon 100 9. Ground plan of a much obliterated ruin 101 10. Ground plan of a ruin in Canyon de Chelly 101 11. Ground plan of a village ruin 103 12. Ground plan of kivas in Canyon de Chelly 103 13. Ground plan of a small ruin on bottom land 104 14. Ground plan of the upper part of Casa Blanca ruin 105 15. Ground plan of the lower part of Casa Blanca ruin 106 16. Ground plan of Mummy Cave ruin 113 17. Ruin in a rock cove 117 18. Ground plan of a ruin in a rock cove 117 19. Ground plan of a ruin on a ledge 118 20. Ground plan of ruin No. 31, Canyon de Chelly 119 21. Ground plan of ruin No. 32, Canyon de Chelly 120 22. Section of a kiva wall 122 23. Ruin No. 10 on a ledge in a cove 123 24. Ground plan of ruin No. 10 124 25. Oven-like structure in ruin No. 10 127 26. Plan of oven-like structure 128 27. Ground plan of a small village, ruin No. 16 129 28. Ruins on a large rock 130 29. Ground plan of ruins No. 49 131 30. Ruins on an almost inaccessible site 133 31. Ground plan of a large ruin in Canyon del Muerto 134 32. Ground plan of a small ruin in Canyon del Muerto 135 33. Ground plan of a small ruin 135 34. Plan of a ruin of three rooms 136 35. Ground plan of a small ruin, with two kivas 136 36. Ground plan of a small ruin, No. 44 137 37. Ground plan of a ruin on a rocky site 137 38. Rock with cups and petroglyphs 138 39. Ground plan of a ruin in Canyon de Chelly 139 40. Site showing recent fall of rock 140 41. Ruin No. 69 in a branch canyon 140 42. Ground plan of a small ruin in Canyon del Muerto 140 43. Ground plan of a small ruin 141 44. Plan of a ruin with curved inclosing wall 141 45. Ground plan of ruin No. 34 142 46. Ground plan of cliff outlook No. 35 143 47. Plan of a cliff outlook 143 48. Plan of cliff ruin No. 46 144 49. Plan of cliff room with partitions 145 50. Plan of a large cliff outlook in Canyon del Muerto 145 51. Plan of a cluster of rooms in Canyon del Muerto 146 52. White House ruin in Tseonitsosi canyon 146 53. Ground plan of a ruin in Tseonitsosi canyon 147 54. Plan of rooms against a convex cliff 147 55. Small ruin with curved wall 147 56. Ground plan of a cliff outlook 148 57. Plan of cliff outlook No. 14, in Canyon de Chelly 148 58. Ground plan of outlooks in a cleft 149 59. Plan of a single-room outlook 149 60. Three-room outlook in Canyon del Muerto 150 61. Plan of a two-room outlook 150 62. Plan of outlook and burial cists, No. 64 150 63. Plan of rectangular room, No. 45 151 64. Rectangular single room 151 65. Single-room remains 152 66. Site apparently very difficult of access 158 67. Notched doorway in Canyon de Chelly 164 68. Cist composed of upright slabs 169 69. Retaining walls in Canyon de Chelly 172 70. Part of a kiva in ruin No. 31 175 71. Plan of part of a kiva in ruin No. 10 176 72. Kiva decoration in white 177 73. Pictograph in white 178 74. Markings on cliff wall, ruin No. 37 178 75. Decorative band in kiva in Mummy Cave ruin 179 76. Design employed in decorative band 180 77. Pictographs in Canyon de Chelly 181 78. Plan of chimney-like structure in ruin No. 15 182 79. Section of chimney-like structure in ruin No. 15 183 80. Plan of chimney-like structure in ruin No. 16 184 81. Section of chimney-like structure in ruin No. 16 185 82. Plan of the principal kiva in Mummy Cave ruin 186 83. Chimney-like structure in Mummy Cave ruin 187


By Cosmos Mindeleff



Although Canyon de Chelly is one of the best cliff-ruin regions of the United States, it is not easily accessible and is practically unknown. At the time of the conquest of this country by the "Army of the West" in 1846, and of the rush to California in 1849, vague rumors were current of wonderful "cities" built in the cliffs, but the position of the canyon in the heart of the Navaho country apparently prevented exploration. In 1849 it was found necessary to make a demonstration against these Indians, and an expedition was sent out under the command of Colonel Washington, then governor of New Mexico. A detachment of troops set out from Santa Fe, and was accompanied by Lieutenant (afterward General) J. H. Simpson, of the topographical engineers, to whose indefatigable zeal for investigation and carefulness of observation much credit is due. He was much interested in the archeology of the country passed over and his descriptions are remarkable for their freedom from the exaggerations and erroneous observations which characterize many of the publications of that period. His journal was published by Congress the next year[1] and was also printed privately.

[Footnote 1: Thirty-first Congress, first session, Senate Ex. Doc. No. 64, Washington, 1850.]

The expedition camped in the Chin Lee valley outside of Canyon de Chelly, and Lieutenant Simpson made a side trip into the canyon itself. He mentions ruins noticed by him at 41/2, 5, and 7 miles from the mouth; the latter, the ruin subsequently known as Casa Blanca, he describes at some length. He also gives an illustration drawn by R. H. Kern, which is very bad, and pictures some pottery fragments found near or in the ruin. The name De Chelly was apparently used before this time. Simpson obtained its orthography from Vigil, secretary of the province (of New Mexico), who told him it was of Indian origin and was pronounced chay-e. Possibly it was derived from the Navaho name of the place, Tse-gi.

Simpson's description, although very brief, formed the basis of all the succeeding accounts for the next thirty years. The Pacific railroad surveys, which added so much to our knowledge of the Southwest, did not touch this field. In 1860 the Abbe Domenech published his "Deserts of North America," which contains a reference to Casa Blanca ruin, but his knowledge was apparently derived wholly from Simpson. None of the assistants of the Hayden Survey actually penetrated the canyon, but one of them, W. H. Jackson, examined and described some ruins on the Rio de Chelly, in the lower Chin Lee valley. But in an article in Scribner's Magazine for December, 1878, Emma C. Hardacre published a number of descriptions and illustrations derived from the Hayden corps, among others figures one entitled "Ruins in Canon de Chelly," from a drawing by Thomas Moran. The ruin can not be identified from the drawing.

This article is worth more than a passing notice, as it not only illustrates the extent of knowledge of the ruins at that time (1878), but probably had much to do with disseminating and making current erroneous inferences which survive to this day. In an introductory paragraph the author says:

Of late, blown over the plains, come stories of strange newly discovered cities of the far south-west; picturesque piles of masonry, of an age unknown to tradition. These ruins mark an era among antiquarians. The mysterious mound-builders fade into comparative insignificance before the grander and more ancient cliff-dwellers, whose castles lift their towers amid the sands of Arizona and crown the terraced slopes of the Rio Mancos and the Hovenweap.

Of the Chaco ruins it is said:

In size and grandeur of conception, they equal any of the present buildings of the United States, if we except the Capitol at Washington, and may without discredit be compared to the Pantheon and the Colosseum of the Old World.

In the same year Mr J. H. Beadle gave an account[2] of a visit he made to the canyon. He entered it over the Bat trail, near the junction of Monument canyon, and saw several ruins in the upper part. His descriptions are hardly more than a mention. Much archeologic data were secured by the assistants of the Wheeler Survey, but it does not appear that any of them, except the photographer, visited Canyon de Chelly. In the final reports of the Survey there is an illustration of the ruin visited by Lieutenant Simpson about thirty years before.[3] The illustration is a beautiful heliotype from a fine photograph made by T. H. O'Sullivan, but one serious defect renders it useless; through some blunder of the photographer or the engraver, the picture is reversed, the right and left sides being interchanged, so that to see it properly it must be looked at in a mirror. The illustration is accompanied by a short text, apparently prepared by Prof. F. W. Putnam, who edited the volume. The account by Simpson is quoted and some additional data are given, derived from notes accompanying the photograph. The ruin is said to have "now received the name of the Casa Blanca, or White House," but the derivation of the name is not stated.

[Footnote 2: Western Wilds, and the Men who Redeem Them: Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Chicago, Memphis, 1878.]

[Footnote 3: U.S. Geog. Surveys West of the 100th Meridian, Lieutenant George M. Wheeler in charge; reports, vol. VII, Archaeology; Washington, 1879, pp. 372-373, pl. xx.]

In 1882 Bancroft could find no better or fuller description than Simpson's, which he uses fully, and reproduces also Simpson's (Kern's) illustration. In the same year investigation by the assistants of the Bureau of Ethnology was commenced. Colonel James Stevenson and a party visited the canyon, and a considerable amount of data was obtained. In all, 46 ruins were visited, 17 of which were in Del Muerto; and sketches, ground plans, and photographs were obtained. The report of the Bureau for that year contains an account of this expedition, including a short description of a large ruin in Del Muerto, subsequently known as Mummy Cave. A brief account of the trip was also published elsewhere.[4] The next year a map of the canyon was made by the writer and many new ruins were discovered, making the total number in the canyon and its branches about 140. Since 1883 two short visits have been made to the place, the last late in 1893, and on each trip additional material was obtained. In 1890 Mr F. T. Bickford[5] published an account of a visit to the canyon, illustrated with a series of woodcuts made from the photographs of the Bureau. The illustrations are excellent and the text is pleasantly written, but the descriptions of ruins are too general to be of much value to the student.

[Footnote 4: Bull. Am. Geog. Soc., 1886, No. 4; Ancient Habitations of the Southwest, by James Stevenson.]

[Footnote 5: Century Magazine, October, 1890, vol. XL, No. 6, p. 806 et seq.]

In recent years several publications have appeared which, while not bearing directly on the De Chelly ruins, are of great interest, as they treat of analogous remains—the cliff ruins of the Mancos canyon and the Mesa Verde. These ruins were discovered in 1874 by W. H. Jackson and were visited and described in 1875 by W. H. Holmes,[6] both of the Hayden Survey. This region was roamed over by bands of renegade Ute and Navaho, who were constantly making trouble, and for fifteen years was apparently not visited by whites. Recent exploration appears to have been inaugurated by Mr F. H. Chapin, who spent two summers in the Mesa Verde country. Subsequently he published the results of some of his observations in a handsome little volume.[7] In 1891 Dr W. R. Birdsall made a flying trip to this region and published an account[8] of the ruins he saw the same year. At the time of this visit a more elaborate exploration was being carried on by the late G. Nordenskioeld, who made some excavations and obtained much valuable data which formed the basis of a book published in 1893.[9] This is the most important treatise on the cliff ruins that has ever been published, and the illustrations can only be characterized as magnificent. All of these works, and especially the last named, are of great value to the student of the cliff ruins wherever located, or of pueblo architecture.

[Footnote 6: U.S. Geol. Survey, F. V. Hayden in charge; 10th Ann. Rept. (for 1876), Washington, 1878.]

[Footnote 7: The Land of the Cliff Dwellers, by Frederick H. Chapin; Boston, 1892.]

[Footnote 8: Bull. Am. Geog. Soc., vol. XXIII, No. 4, 1891; The Cliff Dwellings of the Canons of the Mesa Verde.]

[Footnote 9: The Cliff Dwellers of the Mesa Verde, by G. Nordenskioeld; Stockholm and Chicago, 1894.]


The ancient pueblo culture was so intimately connected with and dependent on the character of the country where its remains are found that some idea of this country is necessary to understand it. The limits of the region are closely coincident with the boundaries of the plateau country except on the south, so much so that a map of the latter,[10] slightly extended around its margin, will serve to show the former. The area of the ancient pueblo region may be 150,000 square miles; that of the plateau country, approximately, 130,000.

[Footnote 10: See Major C. E. Dutton's map of the plateau country in 6th Ann. Rept. U.S. Geol. Survey, pl. xi. His report on "Mount Taylor and the Zuni plateau," of which this map is a part, presents a vivid picture of the plateau country, and his descriptions are so clear and expressive that any attempt to better them must result in failure. The statement of the geologic and topographic features which is incorporated herein is derived directly from Major Dutton's description, much of it being taken bodily.]

The plateau country is not a smooth and level region, as its name might imply; it is extremely rugged, and the topographic obstacles to travel are greater than in many wild mountain regions. It is a country of cliffs and canyons, often of considerable magnitude and forming a bar to extended progress in any direction. The surface is generally smooth or slightly undulating and apparently level, but it is composed of a series of platforms or mesas, which are seldom of great extent and generally terminate at the brink of a wall, often of huge dimensions. There are mesas everywhere; it is the mesa country.

Although the strata appear to be horizontal, they are slightly tilted. The inclination, although slight, is remarkably persistent, and the thickness of the strata remains almost constant. The beds, therefore, extend from very high altitudes to very low ones, and often the formation which is exposed to view at the summit of an incline is lost to view after a few miles, being covered by some later formation, which in turn is covered by a still later one. Each formation thus appears as a terrace, bounded on one side by a descending cliff carved out of the edges of its own strata and on the other by an ascending cliff carved out of the strata which overlie it. This is the more common form, although isolated mesas, bits of tableland completely engirdled by cliffs, are but little less common.

The courses of the margins of the mesas are not regular. The cliffs sometimes maintain an average trend through great distances, but in detail their courses are extremely crooked; they wind in and out, forming alternate alcoves and promontories in the wall, and frequently they are cut through by valleys, which may be either narrow canyons or interspaces 10 or even 20 miles wide.

The whole region has been subjected to many displacements, both flexures of the monoclinal type and faults. Some of these flexures attain a length of over 80 miles and a displacement of 3,000 feet, and the faults reach even a greater magnitude. There is also an abundance of volcanic rocks and extinct volcanoes, and while the principal eruptions have occurred about the borders of the region, extending but slightly into it, traces of lesser disturbances can be found throughout the country. It has been said that if a geologist should actually make the circuit of the plateau country, he could so conduct his route that for three-fourths of the time he would be treading upon volcanic materials and could pitch his camp upon them every night. The oldest eruptions do not go back of Tertiary time, while some are so recent as probably to come within the historic period—within three or four centuries.

The strata of the plateau country are remarkable for their homogeneity, when considered with reference to their horizontal extensions; hardly less so for their diversity when considered in their vertical relation. Although the groups differ radically from each other, still each preserves its characteristics with singularly slight degrees of variation from place to place. Hence we have a certain amount of similarity and monotony in the landscape which is aided rather than diminished by the vegetation; for the vegetation, like the human occupants of this country, has come under its overpowering influence. The characteristic landscape consists of a wide expanse of featureless plains, bounded by far-off cliffs in gorgeous colors; in the foreground a soil of bright yellow or ashy gray; over all the most brilliant sunlight, while the distant features are softened by a blue haze.

The most conspicuous formation of the whole region is a massive bright-red sandstone out of which have been carved "the most striking and typical features of those marvelous plateau landscapes which will be subjects of wonder and delight to all coming generations of men. The most superb canyons of the neighboring region, the Canyon de Chelly and the Del Muerto, the lofty pinnacles and towers of the San Juan country, the finest walls in the great upper chasms of the Colorado, are the vertical edges of this red sandstone."

Of the climate of the plateau country it has been said that in the large valleys it is "temperate in winter and insufferable in summer; higher up the summers are temperate and the winters barely sufferable." It is as though there were two distinct regions covering the same area, for there are marked differences throughout, except in topographic configuration, between the lowlands and the uplands or high plateaus. The lowlands present an appearance which is barren and desolate in the extreme, although the soil is fertile and under irrigation yields good crops. Vegetation is limited to a scanty growth of grass during a small part of the year, with small areas here and there scantily covered by the prickly greasewood and at intervals by clumps of sagebrush; but even these prefer a higher level, and develop better on the neighboring mesas than in the valleys proper. The arborescent growth consists of sparsely distributed cottonwoods and willows, closely confined to the river bottoms. On intermediate higher levels junipers and cedars appear, often standing so closely together as to seriously impede travel, but they are confined to the tops of mesas and other high ground, the valleys being generally clear or covered with sagebrush. Still higher up yellow pines become abundant and in places spread out into magnificent forests, while in some mountain regions scrub oak, quaking asp, and even spruce trees are abundant.

In the mountain regions there is often a reasonable amount of moisture, and some crops, potatoes for example, are grown there without irrigation; but the season is short. In the Tunicha mountains the Navaho raise corn at an altitude of nearly 8,000 feet, but they often lose the crop from drought or from frost. On the intermediate levels and in the lowlands cultivation by modern methods is practically impossible without irrigation, except in a few favored localities, where a crop can be obtained perhaps two years or three years in five. But with a minute knowledge of the climatic conditions, and with methods adapted to meet these conditions, scanty crops can be and are raised by the Indians without irrigation throughout the whole region; but everywhere that water can be applied the product of the soil is increased many fold.

Near the center of the plateau country, in the northeastern corner of Arizona, a range of mountains crosses diagonally from northwest to southeast, extending into New Mexico. In the north an irregular cluster of considerable size, separated from the remainder of the range, is called the Carrizo; and the range proper has no less than three names applied to different parts of it. The northern end is known as the Lukachukai, the central part as the Tunicha, and the southern part as the Chuska or Choiskai mountains, all Navaho names. The two former clusters attain an altitude of 9,500 feet; the Tunicha and the Chuska are about 9,000 feet high, the latter having a flat top of considerable area.

On the east these mountains break down rather abruptly into the broad valley of the Chaco river, or the Chaco wash, as it is more commonly designated; on the west they break down gradually, through a series of slopes and mesas, into the Chin Lee valley. Canyon de Chelly has been cut in the western slope by a series of small streams, which, rising near the crest of the mountain, combine near its head and flow in a general westerly direction. The mouth of the canyon is on the eastern border of the Chin Lee valley. It is 60 miles south of the Utah boundary and 25 miles west of that of New Mexico; hence it is 60 miles east and a little north from the old province of Tusayan, the modern Moki, and 85 miles northwest from the old province of Cibola, the modern Zuni. Its position is almost in the heart of the ancient pueblo region; the Chaco ruins lie about 80 miles east, and the ruins of the San Juan from 60 to 80 miles north and northeast.

The geographic position of Canyon de Chelly has had an important effect on its history, forming as it does an available resting place in any migratory movement either on the north and south line or east and west. The Tunicha mountains are a serious obstacle to north and south movement at the present day, but less so than the arid valleys which border them. Except at one place, and that place is difficult, it is almost impossible to cross the mountains with a wheeled vehicle, but there are innumerable trails running in all directions, and these trails are in constant use by the Navaho, except in the depths of winter. The mountain route is preferable, however, to the valley roads, where the traveler for several days is without wood, with very little water and forage, and his movements are impeded by deep sand.

To the traveler on foot, or even on horseback, Canyon de Chelly is easily accessible from almost any direction. Good trails run northward to the San Juan and northeastward over the Tunicha mountains to the upper part of that river; Fort Defiance is but half a day's journey to the southeast; Tusayan and Zuni are but three days distant to the traveler on foot; the Navaho often ride the distance in a day or a day and a half. The canyon is accessible to wagons, however, only at its mouth.

The main canyon, shown on the map (plate XLII) as Canyon de Chelly and known to the Navaho as Tse-gi, is about 20 miles long. It heads near Washington pass, within a few miles of the crest of the mountain, and extends almost due west to the Chin Lee valley. The country descends by a regular slope from an altitude of about 7,500 feet at the foot of the main crest to about 5,200 feet in the Chin Lee valley, 25 miles west, and is so much cut up locally by ravines and washes that it is impassable to wagons, but it preserves throughout its mesa-like character.

About 3 miles from its mouth De Chelly is joined by another canyon almost as long, which, heading also in the Tunicha mountains, comes in from the northeast. It is over 15 miles long, and is called on the map Canyon del Muerto; the Navaho know it as En-a-tse-gi. About 13 miles above the mouth of the main canyon a small branch comes in from the southeast. It is about 10 miles long, and has been called Monument canyon, on account of the number of upright natural pinnacles of rock in it. In addition to those named there are innumerable small branches, ranging in size from deep coves to real canyons a mile or two long. Outside of De Chelly, and independent of it, there is a little canyon about 4 miles long, called Tse-on-i-tso-si by the Navaho. At one point near its head it approaches so near to De Chelly that but a few feet of rock separate them.

On the western side of the mountains there are a number of small perennial streams fed by springs on the upper slopes. Several of these meet in the upper part of De Chelly, others in Del Muerto, and in the upper parts of these canyons there is generally water. But, except at the time of the autumn and winter rains and in the spring when the mountain snows are melting, the streams are not powerful enough to carry the water to the mouth of the canyon. The flow is absorbed by the deep sand which forms the stream bed. Ordinarily it is difficult to procure enough water to drink less than 8 or 10 miles from the mouth of De Chelly, but occasionally the whole stream bed, at places over a quarter of a mile wide, is occupied by a raging torrent impassable to man or beast. Such ebullitions, however, seldom last more than a few hours. Usually water can be obtained anywhere in the bottom by sinking a shallow well in the sand, and it is by this method that the Navaho, the present occupants of the canyon, obtain their supply.

The walls of the canyon are composed of brilliant red sandstone, discolored everywhere by long streaks of black and gray coming from above. At its mouth it is about 500 feet wide. Higher up the walls sometimes approach to 300 feet of each other, elsewhere broadening out to half a mile or more; but everywhere the wall line is tortuous and crooked in the extreme, and, while the general direction of De Chelly is east and west, the traveler on the trail which runs through it is as often headed north or south. Del Muerto is even more tortuous than De Chelly, and in places it is so narrow that one could almost throw a stone across it.

At its mouth the walls of Canyon de Chelly are but 20 to 30 feet high, descending vertically to a wide bed of loose white sand, and absolutely free from talus or debris. Three miles above Del Muerto comes in, but its mouth is so narrow it appears like an alcove and might easily be overlooked. Here the walls are over 200 feet high, but the rise is so gradual that it is impossible to appreciate its amount. At the point where Monument canyon comes in, 13 miles above the mouth of De Chelly, the walls reach a height of over 800 feet, about one-third of which consists of talus.

The rise in the height of the walls is so gradual that when the canyon is entered at its mouth the mental scale by which we estimate distances and magnitudes is lost and the wildest conjectures result. We fail at first to realize the stupendous scale on which the work was done, and when we do finally realize it we swing to the opposite side and exaggerate. At the junction of Monument canyon there is a beautiful rock pinnacle or needle standing out clear from the cliff and not more than 165 feet on the ground. It has been named, in conjunction with a somewhat similar pinnacle on the other side of the canyon, "The Captains," and its height has been variously estimated at from 1,200 to 2,500 feet. It is less than 800. A curious illustration of the effects of the scenery in connection with this pinnacle may not be amiss. The author of Western Wilds (Cincinnati, 1878) thus describes it:

But the most remarkable and unaccountable feature of the locality is where the canyons meet. There stands out 100 feet from the point, entirely isolated, a vast leaning rock tower at least 1,200 feet high and not over 200 thick at the base, as if it had originally been the sharp termination of the cliff and been broken off and shoved farther out. It almost seems that one must be mistaken; that it must have some connection with the cliff, until one goes around it and finds it 100 feet or more from the former. It leans at an angle from the perpendicular of at least 15 degrees; and lying down at the base on the under side, by the best sighting I could make, it seemed to me that the opposite upper edge was directly over me—that is to say, mechanically speaking, its center of gravity barely falls with the base, and a heave of only a yard or two more would cause it to topple over. (Page 257.)

The dimensions have already been given. The pinnacle is perfectly plumb.

The rock of which the canyon walls are formed is a massive sandstone in which the lines of bedding are almost completely obliterated. It is rather soft in texture, and has been carved by atmospheric erosion into grotesque and sometimes beautiful forms. In places great blocks have fallen off, leaving smooth vertical surfaces, extending sometimes from the top nearly to the stream bed, 400 feet or more in height and as much in breadth. In the lower parts of the canyons the walls, sometimes of the character described, sometimes with the surfaces and angles smoothed by the flying sand, are generally vertical and often overhang, descending sheer to the canyon bottom without talus or intervening slopes of debris. The talus, where there is any, is slight and consists of massive sandstone of the same character as the walls, but much rounded by atmospheric erosion. The enlarged map (plate XLIII) shows something of this character.

Near its mouth the whole bottom of the canyon consists of an even stretch of white sand extending from cliff to cliff. A little higher up there are small areas of alluvium, or bottom land, in recesses and coves in the walls and generally only a foot or two above the stream bed. Still higher up these areas become more abundant and of greater extent, forming regular benches or terraces, generally well raised above the stream bed. At the Casa Blanca ruin, 7 miles up the canyon, the bench is 8 or 10 feet above the stream. Each little branch canyon and deep cove in the cliffs is fronted by a more or less extended area of this cultivable bottom land. Ten miles up the talus has become a prominent feature. It consists of broken rock, sand, and soil, generally overlying a slope of massive sandstone, such as has been described, and which occasionally crops out on the surface. With the development of the talus the area of bottom land dwindles, and the former encroaches more and more until a little above the junction of Monument canyon the bottom land is limited to narrow strips and small patches here and there.

These bottom lands are the cultivable areas of the canyon bottom, and their occurrence and distribution have dictated the location of the villages now in ruins. They are also the sites of all the Navaho settlements in the canyon. The Navaho hogans are generally placed directly on the bottoms; the ruins are always so located as to overlook them. Only a very small proportion of the available land is utilized by the Navaho, and not all of it was used by the old village builders. The Navaho sites, as a whole, are far superior to the village sites.

The horticultural conditions here, while essentially the same as those of the whole pueblo region, present some peculiar features. Except for a few modern examples there are no traces of irrigating works, and the Navaho work can not be regarded as a success. The village builders probably did not require irrigation for the successful cultivation of their crops, and under the ordinary Indian methods of planting and cultivation a failure to harvest a good crop was probably rare. After the Harvest season it is the practice of the Navaho to abandon the canyon for the winter, driving their flocks and carrying the season's produce to more open localities in the neighboring valleys. The canyon is not a desirable place of residence in the winter to a people who live in the saddle and have large flocks of sheep and goats, but there is no evidence that the old inhabitants followed the Navaho practice.

During most of the year there is no water in the lower 10 miles of the canyons, where most of the cultivable land is situated. The autumn rains in the mountains, which occur late in July or early in August, sometimes send down a little stream, which, however, generally lasts but a few days and fails to reach the mouth of the canyon. Late in October, or early in November, a small amount comes down and is fairly permanent through the winter and spring. The stream bed is even more tortuous than the canyon it occupies, often washing the cliffs on one side, then passing directly across the bottom and returning again to the same side, the stream bed being many times wider than the stream, which constantly shifts its channel. In December it becomes very cold and so much of the stream is in shade during a large part of the day that much of the water becomes frozen and, as it were, held in place. In the warm parts of the day, and in the sunshine, the ice is melted, the stream resumes its flow, and so gradually pushes its way farther and farther down the canyon. But some sections, less exposed to warmth than others, retain their ice during the day. These points are flooded by the water from above, which is again frozen during the night and again flooded the next day, and so on. In a short time great fields of smooth ice are formed, which render travel on horseback very difficult and even dangerous. This, and the scant grazing afforded by the bottom lands in winter, doubtless is the cause of the annual migration of the Navaho; but these conditions would not materially affect a people living in the canyon who did not possess or were but scantily supplied with horses and sheep. The stream when it is flowing is seldom more than a foot deep, generally only a few inches, except in times of flood, when it becomes a raging torrent, carrying everything before it. Hence irrigation would be impracticable, even if its principles were known, nor is it essential here to successful horticulture.

One of the characteristic features of the canyons at the present day is the immense number of peach trees within them. Wherever there is a favorable site, in some sheltered cove or little branch canyon, there is a clump of peach trees, in some instances perhaps as many as 1,000 in one "orchard." When the peaches ripen, hundreds and even thousands of Navaho flock to the place, coming from all over the reservation, like an immense flock of vultures, and with disastrous results to the food supply. A few months after it is difficult to procure even a handful of dried fruit. The peach trees are, of course, modern. They were introduced into this country originally by the Spanish monks, but in De Chelly there are not more than two or three trees which are older than the last Navaho war. At that time, it is said, the soldiers cut down every peach tree they could find. But, aside from the peaches, De Chelly was until recently the great agricultural center of the Navaho tribe, and large quantities of corn, melons, pumpkins, beans, etc, were and are raised there every year. Under modern conditions many other localities now vie with it, and some surpass it in output of agricultural products, but not many years ago De Chelly was regarded as the place par excellence.

It will be clear, therefore, that prior to very recent times De Chelly would be selected by almost any tribe moving across the country, and, barring a hostile prior occupancy, would be the most desirable place for the pursuit of horticultural operations for many miles in any direction. The vicinity of the Tunicha mountains, which could be reached in half a day from any part of the canyons, and which must have abounded in game, for even now some is found there, would be a material advantage. The position of the canyon in the heart of the plateau country and of the ancient pueblo region would make it a natural stopping place during any migratory movement either north and south or east and west, and its settlement was doubtless due to this favorable position and to the natural advantages it offered. This settlement was effected probably not by one band or tribe, nor at one time, but by many bands at many times. Probably the first settlements were very old; certainly the last were very recent.



No satisfactory general classification of the ruins of the ancient pueblo region has yet been made; possibly because the material in hand is not sufficiently abundant. There are thousands of ruins scattered over the southwest, of many different types which merge more or less into each other. In 1884 Mr A. F. Bandelier, whose knowledge of the archeology of the southwest is very extensive, formulated a classification, and in 1892, in his final report,[11] he announces that he has nothing to change in it. The classification is as follows:

I. Large communal houses several stories high.

(a) Composed of one or two, seldom three, extensive buildings, generally so disposed as to surround an interior court.

(b) Polygonal pueblos.

(c) Scattered pueblos, composed of a number of large many-storied houses, disposed in a more or less irregular manner; sometimes in irregular squares or on a line.

(d) Artificial caves, resembling in number, size, and disposition of the cells the many-storied communal dwelling.

(e) Many-storied dwellings, with artificial walls, erected inside of natural caves of great size.

II. Detached family dwellings, either isolated or in groups forming villages.

[Footnote 11: Arch. Inst. of America, 5th Ann. Rept., p. 55; and Arch. Inst. of America, Papers, American series, IV, p. 27.]

Many hundreds of ruins have been examined by Mr Bandelier, and doubtless the classification above afforded a convenient working basis for the region with which he is most familiar, the basin of the Rio Grande and its tributaries. It does not apply very well to the western part of the pueblo region.

The distinguishing characteristics of the first group (of five classes)—houses several stories high—are as follows: Each building consisted of an agglomeration of a great number of small cells, without any larger halls of particularly striking dimensions. All the buildings, except outhouses or additions, were at least two stories high, and the lower story was entered only from the roof. The various stories receded from the bottom to the top. The prevalence of the estufa (kiva) generally, or often, circular in form.

Ruins of class II—detached family dwellings—consist sometimes of a single room; more often of several rooms. The rooms are generally built of stone, although examples constructed of mud and adobe are also found in certain regions. The average size of the room is larger than in the communal building, and there is a gradual increase in size of rooms from north to south. There are front doorways and light and air holes are larger than in the communal houses. Mr Bandolier suggests that the detached family dwelling was the early type, and that only when enemies began to threaten were the communal houses resorted to for purposes of defense.

This classification is apparently based on external form alone, without taking into account the numerous influences which modify or produce form; and while no doubt it was sufficient for field use, it is not likely to be permanently adopted; for there does not appear to be any essential or radical difference between the various classes. Moreover, there does not appear to be any place in the scheme for the cliff ruins of the variety especially abundant in De Chelly and found in many other localities, unless indeed such ruins come under class II—detached family dwellings; yet this would imply precedence in time, and the ruins themselves will not permit such an inference.

The essential uniformity of types which prevails over the immense area covered by the ancient pueblo ruins is a noteworthy feature, and any system of classification which does not take it into account must be considered as only tentative. What elements should be considered and what weight assigned to each in preparing a scheme of classification is yet to be determined, but probably one of the most important elements is the character of the site occupied, with reference to its convenience and defensibility. There are great differences in kind between the great valley pueblos, located without reference to defense and depending for security on their size and the number of their population, of which Zuni and Taos are examples, and the villages which are located on high mesas and projecting tongues of rock; in other words, on defensive sites where reliance for security was placed on the character of the site occupied, such as the Tusayan villages of today. Within each of these classes there are varieties, and there are also secondary types which pertain sometimes to one, sometimes to the other, and sometimes to both. Such are the cliff ruins, the cavate lodges, and the single house remains.

The unit of pueblo architecture is the single cell, and in its development the highest point reached is the aggregation of a great number of such cells into one or more clusters, either connected with or adjacent to each other. These cells were all the same, or essentially so; for while differentiation in use or function had been or was being developed at the time of the Spanish conquest, differentiation in form had not been reached. The kiva, of circular or rectangular shape, is a survival and not a development.

Large aggregations of many cells into one cluster are the latest development of pueblo architecture. They were immediately preceded by a type composed of a larger number of smaller villages, located on sites selected with reference to their ease of defense, and apparently the change from the latter to the former type was made at one step, without developing any intermediate forms. The differences between the largest examples of villages on defensive sites and the smallest appear to be only differences of size. Doubtless in the early days of pueblo architecture small settlements were the rule. Probably these settlements were located in the valleys, on sites most convenient for horticulture, each gens occupying its own village. Incursions by neighboring wild tribes, or by hostile neighbors, and constant annoyance and loss at their hands, gradually compelled the removal of these little villages to sites more easily defended, and also forced the aggregation of various related gentes into one group or village. At a still later period the same motive, considerably emphasized perhaps, compelled a further removal to even more difficult sites. The Tusayan villages at the time of the Spanish discovery were located on the foothills of the mesas, and many pueblo villages at that period occupied similar sites. Actuated by fear of the Ute and Comanche, and perhaps of the Spaniards, the inhabitants soon after moved to the top of the mesa, where they now are. Many villages stopped at this stage. Some were in this stage at the time of the discovery—Acoma, for example. Finally, whole villages whose inhabitants spoke the same language combined to form one larger village, which, depending now on size and numbers for defense, was again located on a site convenient for horticulture.

The process sketched above was by no means continuous. The population was in slow but practically constant movement, much the same as that now taking place in the Zuni country; it was a slow migration. Outlying settlements were established at points convenient to cultivable fields, and probably were intended to be occupied only during the summer. Sometimes these temporary sites might be found more convenient than that of the parent village, and it would gradually come about that some of the inhabitants would remain there all the year. Eventually the temporary settlement might outgrow the parent, and would in turn put out other temporary settlements. This process would be possible only during prolonged periods of peace, but it is known to have taken place in several regions. Necessarily hundreds of small settlements, ranging in size from one room to a great many, would be established, and as the population moved onward would be abandoned, without ever developing into regular villages occupied all the year. It is believed that many of the single house remains of Mr Bandelier's classification[12] belong to this type, as do also many cavate lodges, and in the present paper it will be shown that some at least of the cliff ruins belong to the same category.

[Footnote 12: See a paper by the author on "Aboriginal remains in Verde valley, Arizona," in 13th Ann. Rept. Bureau of Ethnology, p. 179 et seq.]

The cliff ruins are a striking feature, and the ordinary traveler is apt to overlook the more important ruins which sometimes, if not generally, are associated with them. The study of the ruins in Canyon de Chelly has led to the conclusion that the cliff ruins there are generally subordinate structures, connected with and inhabited at the same time as a number of larger home villages located on the canyon bottom, and occupying much the same relation to the latter that Moen-kapi does to Oraibi, or that Nutria, Pescado, and Ojo Caliente do to Zuni; and that they are the functional analogues of the "watch towers" of the San Juan and of Zuni, and the brush shelters or "kisis" of Tusayan: in other words, they were horticultural outlooks occupied only during the farming season.

Mr G. Nordenskioeld, who examined a number of cliff and other ruins in the Mancos canyon and the Mesa Verde region, adopts[13] a very simple classification, as follows:

I. Ruins in the valleys, on the plains, or on the plateaus. II. Ruins in caves in the walls of the canyons, subdivided as follows: (a) Cave dwellings, or caves inhabited without the erection of any buildings within them. (b) Cliff dwellings, or buildings erected in caves.

[Footnote 13: The Cliff Dwellers of the Mesa Verde, pp. 9 and 114.]

From its topographic character it might be expected that the Canyon de Chelly ruins would hardly come within a scheme of classification based upon those found in the open country; and here, if anywhere, we should find corroboration of the old idea that the cliff ruins were the homes and last refuge of a race harassed by powerful enemies and finally driven to the construction of dwellings in inaccessible cliffs, where a last ineffectual stand was made against their foes; or the more recent theory that they represent an early stage in the development of pueblo architecture, when the pueblo builders were few in number and surrounded by numerous enemies. Neither of these theories are in accord with the facts of observation. The still later idea that the cliff dwellings were used as places of refuge by various pueblo tribes who, when the occasion for such use was passed, returned to their original homes, or to others constructed like them, may explain some of the cliff ruins, but if applicable at all to those of De Chelly, it applies only to a small number of them.

The ruins of De Chelly show unmistakably several periods of occupancy, extending over considerable time and each fairly complete. They fall easily into the classification previously suggested, and exhibit various types, but the earliest and the latest forms are not found. In the descriptions which follow the classification below has been employed:

I—Old villages on open sites. II—Home villages on bottom lands. III—Home villages located for defense. IV—Cliff outlooks or farming shelters.


In the upper part of the canyon, and extending into what we may call the middle region, there are a number of ruins that seem to be out of place in this locality. They are exactly similar to hundreds of ruins found in the open country; such, for example, as the older villages of Tusayan, located on low foothills at the foot of the mesa, and the peculiar topographic characteristics of the location have not made the slightest impression on them. These ruins are located on gentle slopes, the foothills of the talus, as it were, away from the cliffs, and are now marked only by scattered fragments of building stone and broken pottery. The ground plans are in all cases indistinguishable; in only a few instances can even a short wall line be traced. They seem to have been located without special reference to large areas of cultivable land, although they always command small areas of such land. There is a remarkable uniformity in ruins of this type in character of site occupied, outlook, and general appearance. They are always close to the stream bed, seldom more than 10 or 12 feet above it, and the sites were chosen apparently without any reference to their defensibility. A typical example occurs at the point marked 60 on the detailed map (plate XLIII), another occurs at 58, and another at 52. One of the largest examples is in the lower part of the canyon. At the junction of Del Muerto there is a large mass of rock standing out alone and extending nearly to the full height of the canyon walls. On the south it is connected with the main wall back of it by a low tongue of rock, sparsely covered in places by soil and sand, and on the top of this tongue or saddle there is a large ruin of the type described, but no ground plan can now be made out. Possibly the obliterated appearance of this ruin and of others of the same class is due to the use of the material, ready to hand and of the proper size, in later structures. It is known that a similar appearance was produced in Tusayan by such a cause. The old village of Walpi, on a foothill below the mesa point and the site of the village at the time of the Spanish conquest, presents an appearance of great antiquity, although it was partly occupied so late as fifty years ago. When the movement to the summit of the mesa became general, the material of the old houses was utilized in the construction of the new ones, and at the present day it can almost be said that not one stone remains above another. So complete is the obliteration that no ground plan can be made out.

If similar conditions prevailed in De Chelly, there might be many more ruins of this class than those so far discovered. Even those found are not easily distinguished and might easily be passed over. Possibly there were small ruins of this type scattered over the whole canyon bottom. An example which occurs at the point marked 12 on the map, and shown in plate XLIV, presents no trace on the surface except some potsherds, which in this locality mean nothing. The site is a low hill or end of a slope, the top of which is perhaps 25 feet above the stream bed, but separated from it by a belt of recent alluvium carpeted with grass. The hill itself was formed of talus, covered with alluvium, all but a small portion of which was subsequently cut away, leaving an almost vertical face 15 or 18 feet high. In this face the ends or vertical sections of several walls can be seen; one of them is nearly 3 feet thick and extends 4 feet below the present ground surface.

The filling of these ruins to a depth of 4 or 5 feet and the almost complete absence of surface remains or indications does not necessarily imply a remote antiquity, although it suggests it. During the fall and early winter months tremendous sand storms rage in the canyon; the wind sweeps through the gorge with an almost irresistible power, carrying with it such immense quantities of sand that objects a few hundred feet distant can not be distinguished. These sand storms were and are potent factors in producing the picturesque features of the red cliffs forming the canyon walls; but they are constructive as well as destructive, and cavities and hollow places in exposed situations such as the canyon bottom are soon filled up. The stream itself is also a powerful agent of destruction and construction; during flood periods banks of sand and alluvium are often cut away and sometimes others are formed. Yet there are reasons for believing that the old village ruins on open sites, now almost obliterated, mark the first period in the occupancy of the canyon, perhaps even a period distinctly separated from the others. Excavation on these sites would probably yield valuable results.


Ruins comprised in the second class are located on the bottom lands, generally at the base of a cliff, and without reference to the defensibility of the site. They are, as a rule, much broken down, and might perhaps be classed with the ruins already described, but there are some distinctive features which justify us in separating them. Ruins of this class are always located either at the base of a cliff or in a cove under it, on the level or raised but slightly above the bottom land, and sometimes at a considerable distance from the stream. The ground plans can generally be distinguished, and in many instances walls are still standing—sometimes to a height of three stories. The ground plans reflect more or less the character of the site they occupy, and we would be as much surprised to find plans of their character in the open country as we are to see plans of class I within the canyon. Unlike the ground plans of class I, those of this group were laid out with direct reference to the cliff behind them, and which formed, as it were, a part of them.

In point of size, long period of occupancy, and position these villages were the most important in the canyon. The ruins often cover considerable areas and almost invariably show the remains of one or more circular kivas. Sometimes they are located directly upon the bottom land, more often they occupy low swells next the cliff, rising perhaps 10 feet above the general level and affording a fine view over it. Sometimes they are found in alcoves at the base of the cliff, but they always rest on the bottom land which extends into them; these merge insensibly into the next class—village ruins on defensible sites—and the distinction between them is partly an arbitrary one, as is also that between the last mentioned and the cliff ruins proper.

Figure 1 is a ground plan of a small ruin located in Del Muerto, on the bottom lands near its mouth. No standing walls now remain, but there is no doubt that the village at one time covered much more ground than that shown on the plan. There are now remains of sixteen rooms on the ground, in addition to two kivas. There is a shallow alcove in the cliff at the ground level, and the overhanging cliff gave the village some protection overhead. Plate XLV shows another example in Del Muerto, the largest in that canyon. The walls are still standing to a height of three stories in one place, and the masonry is of high class. The back cliff has not entered into the plan here to the same extent that it generally does. Figure 2, a ground plan, exhibits only that portion of the area of the ruin on which walls are still standing. It shows about 20 rooms on the ground, exclusive of three or perhaps four kivas. The rooms are small as a rule, rectangular, and arranged with a more than ordinary degree of regularity. One room still carries its roof intact, as shown on the plan. In the center of the ruin are the remains of a very large kiva, over 36 feet in diameter. It is now so much broken down that but little can be inferred as to its former condition, except that there was probably no interior bench, as no remains of such a structure can now be distinguished. The size of this kiva is exceptional, and it is very probable that it was never roofed. The structures within the kiva, shown on the ground plan, are Navaho burial cists. West of the large kiva there were two others, less than 20 feet in diameter. One of these was circular; the other was irregular in shape, perhaps more nearly approaching an oval form. At no fewer than five places within the ruin there are comparatively recent Navaho burials.

Figure 3 is a ground plan of a small and very compact village, situated on the south side of the canyon at the point marked 28 on the detailed map. It is located on a slightly raised part of the bottom, commanding an outlook over a large area now under cultivation by the Navaho. The wall lines are remarkably, although not perfectly, regular, and show at least 25 rooms; there were probably others to the northward and eastward. The rooms are now almost filled with debris, but two of them are still intact, being kept in order by the Navaho and used for the storage of corn. The roofs of both these rooms are now on the ground level. The covered room nearest the cliff, shown on the plan, has been divided into two small compartments by a wall through the middle; access to each of these is obtained by a framed trapdoor in the roof about a foot square. This dividing wall is probably of Navaho origin, as the separate rooms formed by it are too small for habitation and the masonry is very rough. A short distance to the north along the cliff there is a Navaho house, roughly rectangular in plan, which was constructed of stone obtained from this site. The masonry of the ruin presents a very good face, not due to chinking, however, which was but slightly practiced, but to the careful selection of material. Some of the stones show surface pecking.

About 300 feet above or southeast of this ruin there are the remains of two small rooms which were placed against the cliff. They are of the same general character as those described, and doubtless formed part of the same settlement. Between the two occurs a curious feature. A large slab of rock, 280 feet long and not more than 12 feet thick at any point, has split off from the cliff and dropped down to the ground, where it remains on edge. This slab is triangular in elevation and about 50 feet high at the apex. Between it and the cliff, in the upper part, there is a space from 2 to 21/2 feet wide. This is easily accessible from the north, on the edge of the slab, and can be reached from the southern end, but with much difficulty. Figure 4 shows this feature and its relation to the ruin. There is no doubt that this was a granary or huge storage bin, and probably the two rooms on the south were placed there to guard that end; the northern end, of more easy access, being protected by the village itself. It was well adapted to this purpose—a fact that the Navaho have not been slow to appreciate. They have constructed small bins near the northern end, shown on the plan, and beyond this timbers have been wedged in so as to furnish a means of closing the cleft. In the cleft itself cross walls have been constructed, dividing it into several compartments. The interior forms a convenient dry, airy space, and at the time it was visited the floor was covered with a litter of cornhusks.

Almost directly opposite this ruin, on the other side of the canyon, are the remains of a village that might properly be called a cave village. At this point a large rock stands out from the cliff and in it there is a cavity shaped almost like a quarter sphere. Its greatest diameter is 45 feet and its height about 20 feet. The bottom land here is 10 or 12 feet above the stream bed and slopes up gradually toward the cliff, forming the bottom of the cave, which is perhaps 18 or 20 feet above the stream and some distance from it. The cave commands an extensive outlook over the cultivable lands below it and those extending up a branch canyon a little above.

The whole bottom of the cave is covered by remains of rooms, shown in plan in figure 5. The population could not have been greater than 10 or 12 persons, yet the remains of two kivas are clearly shown. Both were in the front of the cave, adjoining but not connected with each other, and were about 12 feet in diameter. Both had interior benches, extending in one perhaps completely around, in the other only partly around. The rooms are very irregular in shape and in size, ranging from 8 by 10 feet to 3 by 4 feet, but the latter could be used only for storage. The masonry is not of fine grade, although good; but not much detail can be made out, as the place has been used as a sheepfold by the Navaho and the ground surface has been filled up and smoothed over.

The largest ruin in the canyons is that shown in plan in figure 6. It is situated in Del Muerto, on the canyon bottom at the base of a cliff, and is known to the Navaho as Pakashi-izini (the blue cow). The name was derived probably from a pictograph of a cow done in blue paint on the canyon wall back of the ruin. Traces of walls extend over a narrow belt against the cliffs about 400 feet long and not over 40 feet wide, and over this area many walls are still standing. Scattered over the site are a number of large bowlders. No attempt to remove these was made, but walls were carried over and under them, and in some cases the direction of a wall was modified to correspond with a face of a bowlder.

The settlement may have consisted of two separate portions, divided by a row or cluster of large bowlders. The group shown on the right of the plan was very compactly built, in one place being four rooms deep, but no traces of a kiva can be seen in it, nor does there appear to be any place where a kiva could be built within the house area or immediately adjacent to it. At present 14 or 15 rooms may be traced on the ground and the whole structure may have comprised 30 rooms. The wall lines are not regular. In the western end of the structure there is a narrow passageway into a large room in the center. Such passageways, while often seen in the valley pueblos, are rare in these canyons. The three rooms to the south of the passageway appear to have been added after the rest of the structure was completed, and diminished in size regularly by a series of steps or insets in the northern or passage wall.

The other portion of the ruin shows the remains of about 40 rooms on the ground, in addition to three kivas; there may have been 60 rooms in this part of the settlement, or 85 or 90 rooms altogether. The population could not have been over 55 or 60 persons, or about 12 families. In other words, it appears that, owing to the peculiarities of conditions under which they lived, and of the ground plan which resulted, the largest settlement of this class in the canyons, extending over 400 feet in one direction, provided homes for a very limited number of people. As it is probable that each family had one or more outlooks, occupied in connection with their horticultural operations, it will readily be seen that only a small number of inhabitants might leave a large number of house remains, and that it is not necessary to assume either a large population or a long period of occupancy.

The kivas are clustered in the lower end of the settlement, and all appear to have been inclosed within walls or other buildings. Two of them are fairly well preserved; of the third only a fragment remains. The inclosure of the kivas is a suggestive feature, which will be discussed later, as will also the square shaft shown on the plan as attached to the principal kiva.

It will be noticed that in several places where bowlders occur within the limits of the settlement they have been incorporated into the walls and form part of them. In two places they have altered the direction of walls and produced irregularities in the plan. Elsewhere the face of a rock has been prolonged by a wall carried out to continue it, as in the front wall of the principal kiva apartment. This apartment appears to have been entered from the west through a passageway. This is an anomalous feature and suggests modernness.

Figure 7 is a ground plan of another ruin in Del Muerto. There is a slight cove or bay in the cliff at the point where the ruin occurs, and the ground, which is on the level of the bottom lands, is strewn with large bowlders, as in the example last described. But few remains of walls are now observable, and there are traces of only one kiva. This was situated near the outer edge of the settlement. The wall lines are irregular and the disposition and size of the bowlders are such that it is improbable that this site was ever occupied by a large cluster of rooms. On the left of the plan will be seen a small room or storage cist still intact. At the point marked > in the center of the site a burial cist was found and excavated in 1884 by Mr Thomas V. Keam. It contained the remains of a child, almost perfectly desiccated. It is said that when the remains were first removed the color of the iris could be distinguished. The specimen was subsequently deposited in the National Museum.

A ruin which occurs in Tse-on-i-tso-si canyon, near the mouth of De Chelly, is shown in plan in figure 8. There were two kivas, one of which was benched. The number of rooms connected with them is remarkably small—there could not have been more than six, if there were that many—and the character of the site is such as to preclude the possibility of other rooms in the immediate vicinity. Some of the walls are still standing, and exhibit a fair degree of skill in masonry.

A type of which there are many examples is shown in plan in figure 9. These ruins occur on the flat, next the cliff, which is seldom bayed and overhangs but slightly. They are usually so much obliterated that only careful scrutiny reveals the presence of wall lines, and walls standing to a height of 6 inches above the ground are rare. In the example illustrated no traces of a kiva can be found, but the almost complete destruction of the walls might account for this. There is every reason to suppose that these ruins are of the same class as those described above, the remains of home villages located without reference to defense, and no reason to suppose otherwise. They are probably instances where, owing to exposed situation, early abandonment, and possibly also proximity to later establishments, destruction has proceeded at a greater rate than in other examples.

Ruins of the class under discussion were not confined to any part of the canyons, but were located wherever the conditions were favorable. An example which occurs in the lower part of the canyon, at the point marked 3 on the map, is shown in plan in figure 10. It occurs at the back of a deep cove in a little branch canyon, and was at one time quite an extensive village. It was located on a slight slope or raised place next the cliffs and overhung by them. A stone dropped from the top of the cliffs would fall 45 or 50 feet out from their base. There are remains of three kivas. The central one, which was 12 feet in diameter, still shows nearly all its periphery, and the wall is in one place 3 feet high. The western kiva is now almost obliterated, but it can still be made out, and shows a diameter of 15 feet. It is 50 feet west of the central kiva and on a level about 8 feet below it, being only about 3 feet above the bottom land. East of the central kiva, and between it and a large bowlder, there was another, of which only a part now remains.

North of the central kiva, and extending nearly to the cliff behind, there are remains of rooms. One corner is still standing to a height of 3 to 4 feet. The western wall was smoothly plastered outside and was pierced by a narrow notched doorway. The northern wall has an opening still intact, shown in plate LVIII; it is 2 feet high and 14 inches wide, with a lintel composed of six small sticks about an inch in diameter, laid side by side. The sticks are surmounted by a flat stone, very roughly shaped and separated from them by an inch of mud plaster or mortar. The masonry is exceptionally well executed, that of the northern wall being composed of large stones carefully chinked and rubbed down. The chinking appears to have been carried through in bands, producing a decorative effect, resembling some of the masonry of the Chaco ruins. The western wall is composed of larger stones laid up more roughly with less chinking, and appears to have been a later addition. On the back wall of the cave are marks of walls showing a number of additional rooms, and there is no doubt that at one time there was quite an extensive settlement here.

Around the corner from the last example, as it were (at the point marked 4 on the map), and at the mouth of a little canyon that opens out from the head of the cove, the ruin shown in plate XLVI occurs. The village was located on the canyon bottom, in a shallow cove hardly 25 feet deep, but the view over the bottom is almost closed by a large sand dune, bare on top and but scantily covered on the sides with grass and weeds. Were it not for this dune, the site of the ruin would command one of the best areas of cultivable land in the canyon, but apparently an extensive outlook was not a desideratum. The slight elevation of the site above the level of the bottom lands is shown in the illustration.

The village was not a large one, having been occupied probably by only two families, yet there are traces of two kivas. That on the west is so far obliterated that its outline can be made out only with difficulty. That on the east still shows a part of its wall to a height of about a foot. The plan, figure 11, shows the general arrangement. Some of the walls are still standing to a height of 2 or 3 feet, and at the eastern end of the ruin there is a room with walls 6 feet high. More than the usual amount of mud mortar was used in the construction of the walls of this room, and the interstices were filled with this, chinking with small stones being but slightly practiced. The masonry of the other walls is rougher, with even less chinking, and some of them show later additions which did not follow the main lines. The eastern room had two openings and the tops of the walls are apparently finished, for there are no marks of roof timbers. The room may have been roofless, but the same effect might have been produced by recent Navaho repairs and alterations. In the exterior wall, at the southeastern corner, there is a series of hand-holes, as though access to the interior were sometimes had in this way, but the hand-holes are later than the wall. On the back wall of the cove there are a number of pictographs.

Just above the mouth of Del Muerto and on the opposite side of the main canyon, at the point marked 17 on the map, there was a village on the canyon bottom. It overlooked a fine stretch of cultivable land on both sides of the canyon. There is a large isolated mass of rock here, nearly as high as the cliffs on either side, and connected with those back of it by a slope of talus and debris, partly bare rock, partly covered with sand dunes. At the point where the ruin occurs the rock is bare and about 40 feet high, partly overhanging the site. The remains, shown in plan in figure 12, occupy the summit of a hill about 10 feet high, composed principally of debris of walls. Only a few faint traces now remain, but two kivas are still clearly distinguishable. The one on the south had an interior bench, which apparently extended around it. The other shows walls 2 feet high, and has been plastered with a number of successive coats. The small wall on the extreme right of the plan is composed of almost pure mud.

There are a number of ruins in the canyons of the type shown in figure 13. They are generally located directly on the bottom, and seldom as much as 5 feet above it, within coves or under overhanging cliffs; they are always of small area, and generally so far obliterated that no walls or wall remains are now visible. The obliteration is due not so much to antiquity, which may or may not have been a cause, but to the character of the site they occupied. They are always in sheltered situations, and being on the canyon bottom are much used by the Navaho as sheepfolds and have been so used for years. Sometimes, although rarely, faint traces of kivas can be made out.

The example illustrated occurs at the point marked 43 on the map. It is situated in a cove in a point of rock jutting out from the main cliff. The rock is about 60 feet high and the cove about 30 feet deep, and the remains are but a few feet above the level of the bottom land outside. The walls are composed of rather small stones; the interstices were chinked with spawls, and the masonry was laid up with an abundance of mud mortar. The back wall of the cove is considerably blackened by smoke.

One of the most striking and most important ruins in the canyon is shown in plan in figures 14 and 15. This is the ruin seen by Lieutenant Simpson in 1849 and subsequently called Casa Blanca. It is also known under the equivalent Navaho term, Kini-na e-kai or White House. The general character of the ruin is shown in plate XLVII, which is from a photograph. At first sight this ruin appears not to belong to this class, or rather to belong both to this class and the succeeding one composed of villages located with reference to defense; but, as will appear later, it has nothing in common with the latter.

In its present condition the ruin consists of two distinct parts—a lower part, comprising a large cluster of rooms on the bottom land against the vertical cliff, and an upper part which was much smaller and occupied a cave directly over the lower portion and was separated from it only by some 35 feet of vertical cliff. There is evidence, however, that some of the houses in the lower settlement were four stories high against the cliff, and in fact that the structures were practically continuous; but for convenience of description we may regard the ruin as composed of two.

The lower ruin covers an area of about 150 by 50 feet, raised but a few feet above the bottom land, probably by its own debris. Within this area there are remains of 45 rooms on the ground, in addition to a circular kiva. On the east side there are walls still standing to a height of 12 and 14 feet. It is probable that the lower ruin comprised about 60 rooms, which, with a liberal allowance for the rooms in the cave, would make a total of 80. This would furnish accommodations for a maximum of 10 or 12 families or a total population of 50 or 60 persons. It is probable, however, that this estimate is excessive and that the total population at any one time did not exceed 30 or 40 persons.

The ground plans shown are the result of a very careful survey, plotted on the ground on a large scale (10 feet to 1 inch—1:120), and the irregularities shown were carefully noted and put down at the time. These irregularities, which are commonly ignored in the preparation of plans of ruins, are of the highest importance. From them the sequence of construction can often be determined.

The walls of the lower ruin are somewhat obscured by loose debris, of which a large amount is lying about. Roof debris is especially abundant; it consists of small twigs and lumps of clay, with ends of beams projecting here and there. The principal walls occur in the eastern part, where some of them are 2 feet thick and still standing to a height of 10 and 12 and in one place of 14 feet. An inspection of the plan will show that, as is invariably the case where a wall rises to a height of more than one story, the lower part is massive and the upper wall sets back 5 or 6 inches, reducing its thickness by that amount. All the heavy walls occur either about the kiva or east of it. Apparently these walls were built first especially heavy and massive, and afterward, when upper stories were added, it was not found necessary to carry them up the full thickness. It will be noticed that the wall extending eastward from the corner of the kiva, and which is from a foot to 6 feet high at the present time, extends through the heavy wall which crosses it 33 feet to the east, and is continuous to its termination about 50 feet east, against another heavy wall. The last-mentioned wall is also continuous from the cliff out to the front of the ruin, a distance of about 46 feet.

The heavy walls of the lower ruin are immediately under the upper cave. Back of them the cliff presents an almost smooth face of rock, 35 feet high and slightly overhanging. On this rock face there are marks which show that formerly there were upper stories, the rooms of which are outlined upon it. The rock surface was coated in places with a thin wash of clay, doubtless to correspond with the other walls of the rooms, but this coating was necessarily omitted where the partition walls and roofs and floors abutted on the rock. This is shown in plate XLVII. Although the marks are now so faint as to be easily overlooked, at a certain hour in the day, when the light falls obliquely on the rock, they can be clearly made out. At a point about 50 feet east of the kiva the structure was three stories higher than it is now. The roof of the upper story was within 4 feet of the floor of the cave, and under the gap or gateway in front of the main room above. West of this point there are the marks of but two stories additional. Farther west the structure rose again, but not to the height attained on the east.

The kiva was placed directly against the cliff. This is an unusual arrangement; but it will be noticed that the walls in front of it are of a different character from those on the east, and it is probable that when the kiva was built it opened to the air. The kiva is also anomalous in its construction. It presents the usual features of the inner circular chamber and an inclosing rectangular wall, but in this case the intermediate space was filled in solidly, and perhaps was so constructed. The kiva is still 6 feet deep inside, which must be nearly its maximum depth, and the roof was probably placed at a level not more than a foot or two above the present top. Whether the village was placed on a slight raise, or on the flat, level with the bottom land about it, and subsequently filled up with the debris of masonry, etc, can not be determined without excavation; but the top of the kiva is now 16 feet above the general level of the bottom land, and its bottom 10 feet above that level. It is possible that the kiva was much deeper than now appears, as no sign of the usual interior bench can be seen above the present ground surface, nor can any connection with the chimney-like structure to the south of it be determined, yet such connection must have existed. Probably not only this kiva but the whole ruin would well repay excavation.

The interior of the kiva was not exactly circular, being a little elongated northeast and southwest. The inclosing wall on the east is still standing in one place to a height of 5 feet above the top of the kiva structure, and about a foot above that level is marked by a setback, which reduces its thickness. Apparently the upper part was added at a date some time subsequent to the completion of the kiva structure, as the wall on the south, now some 3 feet above the level mentioned, does not conform to the lower exterior wall on which it was placed. On the western side there is another fragment of the upper inclosing wall. Both this wall and the one on the south are less than 15 inches in thickness.

West of the kiva there are remains of other stone walls which differ in character from those on the east. They are now usually less than 3 feet high; they were 12 to 15 inches thick, and the lines are very irregular. South of the kiva, in the center of the ruin, there are other stone walls even thinner and more irregularly placed than those on the west, but most of the walls here are of adobe. As the use of adobe blocks is not an aboriginal feature, the occurrence of these walls is a matter of much interest, especially as they are so intimately associated with the stonework that it is not always an easy matter to separate them.

The occurrence and distribution of adobe walls is shown on the ground plan. They are not found as subordinate walls, dividing larger rooms, except perhaps in one instance; but apparently this method of construction was employed when it was desired to add new rooms to those already constructed. No room with walls constructed wholly of adobe can be made out, but walls of this character closing one side of a room are common, and rooms with two or even three sides of adobe are not uncommon. There are some instances in which part of a wall is stone and part adobe, and also instances in which the lower wall, complete in itself, is of stone, while the upper part, evidently a later addition, is of adobe; such, for example, is the cross wall in the eastern tier, about 30 feet from the cliff.

The mere occurrence of adobe here is evidence of the occupancy of this site at a period subsequent to the sixteenth century—we might almost say subsequent to the middle of the seventeenth; but its occurrence in this way and in such intimate association with the stone walls indicates that the occupancy was continuous from a time prior to the introduction of adobe construction to a period some time subsequent to it. This hypothesis is supported by other evidence, which will appear later. Attention may here be directed to the fact that there are four chimney-like structures in the lower ruin, all of adobe, and all, except the one which pertains to the kiva, attached to adobe walls.

On the western margin of the ruin, and nowhere else within it, there are traces of another kind of construction which was not found elsewhere within the canyon. This method is known to the Mexicans as "jacal," and much used by them. It consists of a row of sticks or thin poles set vertically in the ground and heavily plastered with mud. At present not one of these walls remains to a height of 6 inches above the ground, but the lines of poles broken off at the ground level are still visible. The ground at this point is but 3 or 4 feet above the general level of the bottom. The ground plan shows the occurrence of these wall remains on the western edge of the site. They are all outside of but attached to what was formerly the exterior wall on that side.

There are remains of four Navaho burial cists in the lower ruin, at the points shown on the ground plan. These are constructed of stones and mud roughly put together in the ordinary manner, forming thin, rounded walls; but these can not be confounded with the other methods of construction described. Three of the cists have long been in ruins and broken down; the one on the east is but a few years old.

Access to the upper ruin can now be had only with much difficulty. In the western end of the cave there is a single room placed on the cliff edge, and between this and the end of a wall to the right a small stick has been embedded in the masonry at a height of about 2 feet from the rock. The cliff here is vertical and affords no footing, but by throwing a rope over the stick a man can ascend hand over hand. During the period when the houses were occupied, access was had in another and much easier way, through a doorway or passageway nearly in the center of the ruin and directly over the point where the lower village was four stories high. The roof of the lower structure was less than 4 feet below the floor of the cave; yet there is no doubt that a doorway or passageway existed also at the western end of the cave, as the western end of the wall on the right of the stick is neatly finished and apparently complete.

The principal room in the upper ruin is situated nearly in the center of the cave, and is the one that has given the whole ruin its name. The walls are 2 feet thick, constructed of stone, 12 feet high in front and 7 feet high on the sides and inside. The exterior was finished with a coat of whitewash, with a decorative band in yellow; hence the name of Casa Blanca or White House. West of the principal room there is a smaller one, which appears to be a later addition. The walls of this room are only 7 inches thick, of adobe on the sides and back and of small stones in front. The top of the wall is about 2 feet below the top of the wall on the east. The coat of whitewash and the yellow decorative band are continuous over both rooms, but the white coat was also applied to the exterior western wall of the main room. In the main room there is a series of small sticks, about half an inch in diameter, projecting 8 inches from the wall and on a line 3 or 4 inches under where the roof was.

The small room in the eastern end of the cave was located on a kind of bench or upper level, and was constructed partly of stone and partly of adobe. The stone part is the upper portion of the eastern half. On the west there is a small opening or window, with an appliance for closing it. It is probable that this room was used only for storage. In the western end of the cave there is another single room, which is clearly shown in plate XLVII. The front wall is 11 feet high outside and 5 feet high inside. The lower portion is stone, the upper part and sides are adobe, and the side walls rest on nearly 2 feet of straw, ashes, etc. The buttress shown in the illustration is of stone and the front wall that it supports is slightly battened. A close inspection of the illustration will show that this wall rests partly on horizontal timber work, a feature which is repeated in several walls in the main cluster of the ruins.

The use of timber laid horizontally under a wall is not uncommon, and as it will be discussed at greater length in another place, it may be dismissed here with the statement that as a rule it failed to accomplish the purpose intended. But the use of the buttress is an anomalous feature which it is difficult to believe was of aboriginal conception. Its occurrence in this ruin together with so many other unaboriginal features is suggestive.

The walls of the principal room and of the rooms immediately in front of it are constructed of stone; all the other walls in the upper ruin are of adobe or have adobe in them. The two rooms on the east and two walls of the room adjoining on the west are wholly of adobe, about 7 inches thick and now 3 and 4 feet high. In the southeast corner of the second room from the east there is an opening through the front wall which may have been a drain. It is on the floor level, round, 5 inches in diameter, and smoothly plastered. In the fourth room from the east there is a similar hole. Both of these discharge on the edge of the cliff, and it is difficult to imagine their purpose unless they were expedients for draining the rooms; but this would imply that the rooms were not roofed. Although the cliff above is probably 500 feet high, and overhangs to the degree that a rock pushed over its edge falls 15 feet or more outside of the outermost wall remains, and over 70 feet from the foot of the cliff, still a driving storm of rain or snow would leave considerable quantities of water in the front rooms if they were not roofed, and some means would have to be provided to carry it off.

In the same room, the fourth from the east, there are the remains of a chimney-like structure, the only one in the upper ruin. It is in the northeast corner, at a point where the wall has fallen and been replaced by a Navaho burial cist also fallen in ruin, and was constructed of stone. There is no doubt that it was added some time after the walls were built, as it has cracked off from the wall on the east, which shows at that point its original finish. In the eastern wall of this room there is a well-finished opening, and at the corresponding point in the wall of the room on the right, the third wall from the east, there is another. The latter wall is of adobe, or rather there are two adobe walls built side by side; one, the eastern, considerably thinner than the other. The opening extends through both walls; it was neatly finished and was closed by a thin slab of stone plastered in with mud. It has the appliance for closing mentioned above and described later (page 165). Most of the openings in the walls appear to have been closed up at the time the houses were abandoned.

The front wall of the main room is 12 feet high in front and was stepped back 6 inches at half its height from the ground. The stepback is continued through the front wall of the small room on the west. Near the center of the main room there is a well-finished doorway, directly over the point where a cross wall in front of it comes in. This opening was originally a double-notched or T-shape doorway, but at a later period was filled up so as to leave only a rectangular orifice. The principal entrance to the upper ruin was in front of this opening and a little to the left of it. It will be noticed from an inspection of the plan that the room into which this entrance opened was divided at a point about 4 feet back from the cliff edge by a stone wall not more than half the thickness of the walls on either side of it. This cross wall is still 6 feet high on the side nearest the cliff, but there is no evidence of a doorway or opening through it. The back rooms must have been reached by a ladder in front, thence over the roof of the room. The cliff entrance was a narrow doorway left in the front wall. The ends of the walls on either side were smoothly finished, as in the western doorway.

There are many lumps of clay scattered about on the ground, some showing impressions of small sticks. Apparently they are the debris of roofs. There are also some fragments of pottery, principally corrugated ware. The adobe walls in the upper ruin rest generally on rock, sometimes on ashes and loose debris; in the lower ruin they rest usually on stone foundations. The occurrence in this ruin of many features that are not aboriginal suggests that it was one of the last to be abandoned in the canyon, but there are certain features which make it seem probable that the upper portion continued to be inhabited for some time after the lower portion. The contrivance for closing openings is identical with examples found in the Mesa Verde region, and it is probable that an intimate connection between the two existed.


The distinction between home villages located on bottom lands absolutely without reference to the defensive value of the site, and other villages located on defensive sites, is to some extent an arbitrary one. The former, which are always located at the base of or under an overhanging cliff, sometimes occupy slightly raised ground which overlooks the adjacent land, and the latter are sometimes so slightly raised above the bottoms they overlook as hardly to come within the classification. Moreover, ruins in their present condition sometimes belong to both classes, as in the example last described. Yet a general distinction may be drawn between the classes, in that the former are generally located directly upon the bottom land and invariably without thought or regard to the defensive value of the site, while in the latter the effect of this requirement is always apparent.

The class of ruins which has been designated as the remains of villages located for defense comprises all the most striking remains in the canyon, many of which may properly be termed cliff ruins. The characteristics of the class are: A site more or less difficult of access—generally an elaborate ground plan, although sometimes they consist of only a few rooms—and the invariable presence of the kiva or estufa, here always circular in form. The largest ruin of this class occurs in Del Muerto, and is known as Mummy Cave ruin. It is called by the Navajo Tse-i-ya-kin. It is situated in the upper part of the canyon, near the junction of a small branch, and has an extensive outlook.

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