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Archaeological Remains, Supposedly Navaho, from Chaco Canyon, New Mexico1

  • Roy L. Malcolm (a1)

Until recently there has been little attempt to trace the early history of the Navaho in the Southwest through their archaeological remains. While some investigators were studying Pueblo archaeology, they did record certain discoveries which tend to throw some light here and there on the earlier history of the Navaho. In the summer of 1937 a reconnaisance of archaeological sites, putatively Navaho, was made in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. The sites were mainly on, or at the base of western Chacra Mesa, some eight miles east of Pueblo Bonito. Interesting information was gathered, particularly in regard to house types, pottery, burials, textiles, and certain other items of material culture which may be correlated with ethnological data on the Navaho.

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This project was financed by the Division of Anthropology of Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. The writer is indebted to the Division for its aid in this work and to Dr. Clyde Kluckhohn for his assistance and advice in handling the material. The writer is also indebted to the Field School of the Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, for assistance in carrying on the work in the field.

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3 For information on the genesis of the Navaho, based upon ethnological, linguistic, and legendary testimony, one may turn to the following references: (1) F. W. Hodge, The Early Navaho and Apache. American Anthropologist, Vol. 8, 1895; (2) Washington Matthews, Navaho Legends. Memoirs of the American Folklore Society, 1897; (3) C. A. Amsden, Navaho Origins. New Mexico Historical Review, Vol. 7, No. 3, July, 1932;(4) Paul S. Martin, Origin of the Navaho. Field Museum News, Vol. 7, No. 9, Chicago, 1936, p. 2. In reviewing the evidence brought forth by Hodge, Matthews, Amsden, and Martin, and through subsequent investigations by the writer, it would seem that the Navaho appeared in the Southwest sometime between 1200 A.D. and 1500 A.D.

4 Cosmos Mindeleff, Navaho Houses. Seventeenth Annual Report, Bureau of American Ethnology, 1898.

5 R. W. Shufeldt, The Evolution of House Building Among the Navaho Indians. Proceedings of the U. S. National Museum, Vol. 15, 1892, pp. 279–282.

6 The Franciscan Fathers, An Ethnologic Dictionary of the Navaho Language. Saint Michael's, Arizona, 1929

7 From a Spanish manuscript entitled, “Original Depositions Sent to the Superior Government of the Most Excellent Count of Fuenclara, Viceroy, Governor, and Captain General of this New Spain.” by Sergeant Major Don Joachin Codallos y Rabal, Governor and Captain General of New Mexico in conformity with the order of His Excellence in his dispatch of October 3, 1744. Information on this was received from Mr. Arthur Woodward and Dr. W. W. Hill.

8 From a newspaper article which appeared in the Missiouri Intelligencer for April 3, 1824, and was entitled “Nabijos.” It was written by Nathaniel Patten, editor of the paper, who had obtained his information from James Purcel or Pursley, an American who had resided in New Mexico for a number of years, being the man Zebulon Pike found in Santa Fe when he made the trip in 1804. I am indebted to Mr. Arthur A. Woodward of the Los Angeles County Museum for this information.

9 U. S. Hollister, The Navajo and His Blanket. Denver, Colorado, 1903, pp. 70–71, illustration on page 74.

10 Schoolcraft, History of the American Indian Tribes, Part I, page 519, footnote. This note referring to “Navahoes” and “Moques” alike, states that, “These tribes are represented as occupying stone dwellings without roofs, and raising sheep, but still of preditory habits, and formidable enemies.”

11 Washington Matthews, Navaho Legends. Memoirs of the American Folklore Society, 1897, page 15.

For additional references to Navahos and stone houses, see Samuel G. Drake, The Book of the Indians, 8th ed. Boston, 1841, p. ix, Rufus B. Sage, Scenes in the Rocky Mountains, Philadelphia, 1846, pp. 180–181

12 H. S. Colton noted a similar type of structure in the “Cliff Dweller” region of Central Arizona. There were a number of dwellings found in his survey, both single and double units, rectangular and possessing vestibule entrances facing the east. In one instance a double circle was found. There was some indication that these structures may have been connected with the Navaho.—H. S. Colton, Did the So-Called Cliff Dwellers of Central Arizona also build Hogans? American Anthropologist, Vol. 22, N.S., 1920, pp. 298–301.

13 I am indebted to Mr. Richard Van Valkenburgh of the U. S. Indian Service, who has explored northwestern New Mexico extensively for several years, for descriptions of stone hogan-like ruins from this region, and for collections of associated potsherds.

14 A. F. Bandelier, Investigations among the Indians of the Southwestern United States, carried on mainly in the years from 1880 to 1885. Papers of the Archaeological Institute of America, American Series III, Final Report, Part I, 1890, pp. 175–176.

15 A. V. Kidder, Ruins of the Historic Period in the Upper San Juan Valley, New Mexico. American Anthropologist, Vol. 22, N.S., 1924, p. 325.

16 From personal interview with Mr. Frank Hibben of the University of New Mexico. Also, see: F. C. Hibben, The Gallina Phase, American Antiquity, Vol. 4, No. 2, 1938, pp. 131–136.

17 H. P. Mera, Some Aspects of the Largo Cultural Phase, Northern New Mexico, AMERICAN ANTIQUITY, Vol. 3, No. 3, 1938, pp. 236–243.

18 Gordon B. Page, Navajo House Types. Museum Notes, Museum of Northern Arizona, No. 9, 1937.

19 Dr. Clyde Kluckhohn, during the course of a reconnaissance of regions near the Chaco Canyon in the summer of 1938, noted numerous stone hogans closely resembling those discovered in the Chaco Survey. Several were of recent construction, with a few still occupied. Several hogans between Burnham's store and Tsaya were found that could be matched almost exactly, in measurements and general features of construction, by those discovered in the Chaco.

20 Several pieces of pinyon wood were removed from certain hogan ruins. In one case three small pinyon logs were found partially buried in the soil of the hogan floor next to the walls. These specimens were found by Dr. Florence Hawley to have outside dates of 1888, 1895, and 1898. Dates were checked by Emil Haury, H. P. Getty, and Dr. A. E. Douglass. There was some indication of loss of a few rings from the outside of the specimens, so that dates from this hogan would probably indicate a time close to 1895 or 1900. The hogan involved was of the type pictured in Plate II, Figure 1. Another pinyon specimen was obtained from the rectangular hogan, mentioned previously in the body of this article, located approximately two hundred yards from the hogan where the other wood specimens were found. The piece was partially buried in the soil of the hogan floor with one end lodged between parts of the masonry. The rings of this specimen were so crowded that determination of a certain date, without other wood specimens from the hogan to be used as a check, was impossible.

21 W. W. Hill, Navaho Pottery Manufacture. The University of New Mexico Bulletin, Whole Number 317, Anthropological Series, Vol. 2, No. 3, December 1, 1937.

22 I am indebted to Dr. H. P. Mera of the Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe, N.M., for identifying these Pueblo polychrome wares and for verifying the identification of the Navaho painted ware.

23 I am indebted to Dr. Florence Hawley for aid in identifying Pueblo sherds and for verification of the Navaho unpainted utility ware. The writer is also indebted for information and verification received from Prof. Leslie Spier, Lyndon Hargrave, Dale King, and Frank Hibben.

24 A. V. Kidder, op. cit.

25 W. W. Hill says of the Navaho storage habits, “Natural caves (or cists) in were used for storage. Walls of stone were built across the door. These were then covered with flat stones rubbed with moss to hide the place. Corn, beans, dried squash, and dried melon were the articles generally stored. ” W. W. Hill, Agricultural and Hunting Methods of the Navaho Indians. Yale University publications in Anthropology, No. 18,1938.

26 Information from personal interview.

27 Chas. A. Amsden and L. C. Wyman, A Patchwork Cloak. The Masterkey, Vol. 8, No. S, Los Angeles, September, 1934.

28 Examination and measurements of the cave were accomplished with the assistance of William Mulloy of the University of Utah. The skeleton, removed by Donovan Senter and the writer, was further examined and measured. From Senter's total measurements and observations the following have been taken:

  • 1)

    1) Cranial—The skull, that of an old adult male of 55 to 65 yrs., showed medium development of the eye-brow ridges and general muscularity. There was a slight artificial Umboidal deformation; the forehead was medium in height with a slight slope. There was medium alveolar prognathism and the malars showed a medium lateral projection and a large anterior projection. The cranial serrations were almost entirely obliterated, an important clue to age. The mandible was medium in size, with a bilateral chin form with medium chin projection. The skull had a glabello-occipital length of 169 mm. and a maximum width of 141 mm., giving the brachycephalic index of 83.

  • 2)

    2) Upper Extremity and Pectoral Girdle—The left and right humerus were each 314 mm. in length, with a minimum width of IS mm., and showed no perforation of the olecranon fossa. The right and left radii were 236 mm. and 228 mm. respectively. The right and left ulnae were 259 mm. and 254 mm. long respectively. There were pronounced atrophic patches in right and left scapulae which measured 150 mm. and 152 mm. in height, and 106 mm. and 107 mm. respectively in breadth. The clavicles were quite large with the right being 162 mm. long and the left 157 mm.

  • 3)

    3) Lower Extremity—The femurs possessed no third trochanters and torsion was medium, and bowing submedium. The right was 436 mm. long and the left 440 mm. with middle lateral width being 26 mm. and 27 mm. respectively. Right and left tibia possessed squatting facets and were 363 mm. and 360 mm. long respectively. The right and left fibulae were 362 mm. and 357 mm. long.

  • 4)

    4) Pelvis and Foot—The pelvis as whole was narrow, with a heart-shaped brim, and a total breadth of 295 mm. The sacrum possessed five segments, had a pronounced curve and was homobasal in type. In the right and left calcaneum the perineal tubercle was very large in contrast to that of the Pueblo which is characteristically small.

29 C. A. Amsden and L. C. Wyman, op. cit.

30 Information from personal interview

31 Chas. A. Amsden, Navaho Weaving. Santa Ana, 1934, Plates 62 and 63.

32 Op cit., Plate 57.

33 Mr. Alden Hayes and other students of the University of New Mexico Field School found under a ledge (close to the vicinity of the writer's investigations) four bat tens, which were identified for Dr. Clyde Kluckhohn as—(be ǹki?nílƛiš) by Navahos of the Chaco Canyon area. These battens were of a type used in weaving narrow belts and stockings. They varied from 58.8 cm. to 68.0 cm. in length and were all roughly 2.5 cm. wide. They were rather flat, being only a few millimeters thick. One of the battens had two pairs of V-shaped notches cut into the sides, about four inches apart, possibly serving as places of attachment for cords to hang the batten from the waist.

34 Washington Matthews describes a Navaho dice game in his book, Navaho Legends, previously cited, on page 219, footnote 47.

35 The rectangular dice measured 39 mm. to 46 mm. in length, and were consistently 14–15 mm. wide. They were generally 5 mm. thick, one being 6 mm. thick, and they all tapered to 2–3 mm. thick at the ends, one being 1 mm. thick at the end. The boatshaped dice were a little flatter, being 2–3 mm. thick at the center and tapering off to 1 mm. at the ends. The length of these varied from 43 mm. to 49 mm. and the width at the center was 12–14 mm. and at the ends, 3–4 mm

1 This project was financed by the Division of Anthropology of Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. The writer is indebted to the Division for its aid in this work and to Dr. Clyde Kluckhohn for his assistance and advice in handling the material. The writer is also indebted to the Field School of the Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, for assistance in carrying on the work in the field.

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American Antiquity
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