GASPAR CASTAŅO DE SOSA'S TRAIL THROUGH THE CARLSBAD DISTRICT
APACHE AND COMANCHE SITES
CANUTILLO COMPLEX OR TOYAH PHASE: SITES RELATED TO NON-APACHE MOBILE GROUPS
This multiple ring house is divided into two habitation
loci. The first consists of a single tipi ring that is quite
substantial and contains an abundance of very fine
quality and brigthly colored chert flakes and tools. The
second locus that was not originally recognized as a
tipi locus, has six rings siutated between large and
small ring middens.
This is a large tipi ring site that has been encroached by
development and, according to a local rancher, is periodically
inundated (every 30-40 years) when the river floods to 6 or 8
feet deep. Situated on the bank 40-plus tipi rings are paired.
One is large and well made while the second is smaller and
less substantial. A surface collection in and around the tipis
revealed more artifacts than expected, given the site's
discovery decades ago and because it is so widely known
locally. Work continues to define thermal features and outdoor
Dorothy Griffith (right) and Jim Scesenti (left) help
define the full extent of this site north of Roswell that
they found some years ago. Thinking it was Archaic
owing to the presence of large dart points, it was not
until recently that its late association has been
One of our primary goals is to distinguish between the various mobile groups known to have visited and inhabited the
Carlsbad/Hobbs/Roswell area. Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa are some of the groups known to have frequented this region, along
with the Suma, Jumano, and perhaps others. Dozens of sites are known and have been visited over the past decade but recent efforts
focus on intensive recording and artifact collections as well as submission of datable material.
Because the larger tipi rings are most visible they are most often recognized and recorded during compliance work, just as the largest
and most distinctive thermal features are recognized while those that are small and flush with the ground surface often go
unrecognized. Yet, the larger tipi rings may be indicative of a late Apache occupation, rather than an earlier one. The logic used
previously is that small rings were used when the Apache used dogs to pull travois whereas the horse allowed use of larger and
therefore heavier and more unwieldy tipi poles and hides. These larger rings may also suggest a Comanche presence rather than
Apache. The Comanche did not arrive in the area until the 1770s so their sites should be late. As they moved south they pushed
several Apache groups south and so there sould also be a greater admixture of sites from different Apache groups in this area as time
goes on. Details of architecture (rock positions, entryway attributes, interior feature characteristics), associated artifacts, and site
layout will be important in making these distinctions.
One thing that is of interest is that further west in the heart of the American Southwest tipi rings do not seem to appear until the 1800s.
Decades of looking for Apache house features in the Chiricahua and Gila Apache areas failed in part because people were looking for
tipi rings. Instead, Southwestern Apache built wickiups. These were often smaller, sometimes made of brush and often were
positioned in amidst rocks and boulders. They therefore take on a different look. This is one of the many reasons Apache sites in the
American Southwest looks so different from those on the plains, including the Llano Estacado and also in this Trans-Pecos area.
Gaspar Castaņo de Sosa set out toward Santa Fe before obtaining the appropriate permissions to conduct his expedition. His goal
was to settle the far northern frontier. This honor of the first New Mexico colony was left to Don Juan de Oņate in 1598 because
Castaņo de Sosa was apprehended by an adversary and brought back to the south in shackles. Later he was cleared when it became
obvious that his adversary had a personal grudge and that Castaņo de Sosa had followed the rules of discovery and settlement, but
this came too late for him to maintain a place of highest importance with regard to the settlement of New Mexico.
When he traveled north in 1590-1591 he paralleled and criss-crossed the Pecos River. None of his camp sites have been identified nor
has his specific route, although a numer of scholars, including Schroeder and Matson (1965) and Hammond and Rey (1966), have
suggested certain on-the-ground locations as matches for the historically noted places. It is thought that he went directly through
Efforts are underway to locate some of his camp sites--at least those that have not been inundated under the many reservoirs or
destroyed by development. This effort will be a cooperative one, with many people invited to participate. Areas that are checked and
have negative evidence will be placed in a file. Known sites that are investigated for affiliation with this expedition will be listed.
Theories as to route, camp locations, and so on will be noted and through this group effort it is hoped to narrow down the possibilities
as to where this important expedition passed. Participants are encouraged to leave evidence in place so that it can be verified and
evaluated by BLM archaeologists.
The Pecos River and Castaņo de Sosa's route
from the Texas -New Mexico State line to
Close up of Pecos River through Carlsbad.
Southeastern New Mexico falls within the Trans-Pecos region which itself runs through the Llano Estacado and presents a rich and barely tapped
record of the terminal prehistoric and historic periods. Trans-Pecos refers to the region of Texas west of the Pecos River and so in this sense the term is
often considered synonymous with "West Texas," yet this definition is much too narrow. From a New Mexico perspective the Trans-Pecos also includes
portions of southeastern New Mexico, including (apparently) the Guadalupe Mountains, that border both the east and west sides of the Pecos River.
The sliver of New Mexico commonly included in the Trans-Pecos occurs along the Pecos River and east of the basin-and-range physiographic province
that characterizes the southern portion of the American Southwest. This area is part of the Chihuahuan Desert. The Llano Estacado or staked plains
specifies the area to the east of the mountains through which the Pecos River flows.
By some definitions southeastern New Mexico lies within the American Southwest (accounting for the classification of prehistoric occupants within the
Jornada branch of the Mogollon), but by other definitions it lies at the fringe, outside the American Southwest. From the purely trait-based perspective
of early cultural anthropologists who devised these conceptualizations, southeastern New Mexico is most effectively perceived as lying inside the
This area was dominated by native groups that were highly mobile until very late, when finally Hispanic and Anglo-American occupation took hold.
Non-indigenous occupation of this area occurred much later than in many adjacent regions which means that the indigenous pattern survives here
much later. Despite a highly mobile element there are also habitation sites with many structural features and people probably cultivated along the
Pecos and in playas, although whether or not locals actually grew cultigens and produced pottery are key research questions for the area.
Through time this zone received an influx of native populations from surrounding areas. These groups came to utilize the varied resources presented
by the transitional zone between mountains and plains, and to interact with culture groups living further west. Moreover, as groups, such as the
Comanche moved south (beginning in the 1700s) they pushed existing groups south and west until the Comanche also occupied this area. This results
in a historic archaeological melting pot.
Focused research efforts in this region are attemtping to locate, document, and understand the relevant native groups and events of this post-1200s
period. Current and on-going projects include attempts to locate Gaspar Castaņo de Sosa's trail and camp sites, documentation of terminal prehistoric
and historic mobile group sites belonging to the Apache, Comanche, and other groups, and differentiation of sites relating to each of these groups.
IMPACTS AND CUMULATIVE EFFECTS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ON PUBLIC LANDS
SOUTHEASTERN NEW MEXICO ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORY:
ENCOMPASSING THE MOUNTAINOUS SOUTHWEST, THE TRANS-PECOS,
AND THE LLANO ESTACADO
LA 27687--The Seven Rivers Tipi Ring Site
THE MATERIAL ON THIS PAGE IS COPYRIGHTED AND SHOULD BE APPROPRIATELY CITED (C) 2007-2008, Deni Seymour
Macho Draw Tipi Ring Site
LA 43496--Little Box Canyon Tipi Ring Site
HISTORICAL CONTEXT FOR THE LATER PHASES OF USE
A well-considered historical context is desparately needed that focuses on the earlier end of the historic period and the
terminal portion of the late prehistoric. This is sometimes referred to as the "protohistoric" period, although recent
research is showing that the cultural manifestations indicative of this period begin much earlier, in the late prehistoric
period. This is one reason it has been difficult to distinguish the "protohistoric" occupants from the thousands of years of
evidence of other groups. Dates and the introduction of glass and metal artifacts are not helpful in these earlier periods
in drawing a clear distinction between new groups of the protohistoric and the extant mobile populations. Unique
artifacts, features, and landscape use patterns must provide guidance.
Additionally, previous historic contexts for this area have focused on the late historic period and especially on the
Hispanic and Anglo-European occupations. It would be useful to focus effort on the beginning of the Spanish Colonial
period, for example when Castaņo de Sosa ventured through the area. Moreover, overviews and research designs
would do well to consider the unique adaptation of the many Native American groups that occupied this area.
An overview is needed that considers that this period is not just about the Apache, but rather the interaction and use of
different niches by a variety of groups from the Plains and the basin-and-range province of the Southwest. The
dominance of any one group changed through time and popluations intruded upon the territories of others and as
population densities varied.
While many practitioners are quick to assign an Apache association to late sites, in fact, considerable research must be
conducted on sites before the Apache designation is assigned. One of the goals on on-going work, some of which is
reported on this web page, is to identify distinctive attributes that can be used to distinguish the various native groups
residing in the area during these latest phases.
Given the signature of the non-Athapaskan mobile groups it is likely that many of the sites previously designated as
Archaic in fact relate to these non-Athapaskan mobile groups. One such site is reported below and others will be
revisited to update records and study the nature of the material culture assemblage.
Little Walt Mescal Pit Site
Reconstructable Vessel from the Guadaplupe Mountains
Yes, it's a brownware but no, it is not
Jornada or El Paso brown.
Examples of Iron Projectile Points
Artifact collectors were inadvertently chased from this
stone enclosure site as we approached. This was
recorded by H. P. Mera as the Dark Canyon Stone
Circle Site and remains a local favorite among relic
hunters. It is probably a defensive Apache site but has
house rings, mescal pits, and a rock shelter as well as
these defensive features. More obvious sites like this
are subject to routine vandalism, and are not
monitored by state agencies.
PRE-CLOVIS OR CLOVIS FIRST: BEING ADDRESSED IN THE CARLSBAD AREA
TO BE ADDED
LA 104172--Seven Rivers Tipi Ring Site No. 2
A second tipi ring site on Seven Rivers is within view
of LA 27687. It has two sets of paired tipi rings and
some additional features. A previously recorded
nearby lithic scatter is not related, and is separated
from this site by an erosion channel and a substanital
Dark Canyon Stone Circle Site
Wire Horse Site at Berrendo Wash
Hobbs Ring Site
LA 133422--San Simon Sink Tipi Site
A partial tipi ring, metal, glass, and stone artifacts mark
the location of a late Apache occupation near Roswell.
LA 109599--The Bead Site
This site overlooks the Pecos River where large
water-oriented birds frolic near the shores. These
would have been an important food source for those
camping nearby, such as the ancestral Apache who
occupied this site. Artifacts and features show a clear
CULTIVATION IN THE TRANS-PECOS: EVIDENCE FROM CARLSBAD
"Archaeologists seeking to interpret their site plans and the patterning observed at specific sites rarely have very robust prior
knowledge regarding the classes of phenomena they nevertheless interpret."
--- Binford 1990: 120; Mobility, Housing, and Environment: A Comparative Study
Investigating Potential Agricultural Features on the Pecos River
In the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts of southern Arizona, agricultural features are commonplace in the archaeological record.
Crops were produced using varied technologies including irrigation canals, fields, check dams, rock piles that hold moisture in
place, and terraces on gradual slopes for catching sediment and holding moisture. Local food production is still a matter of debate
for the prehistoric and protohistoric occupations of southeastern New Mexico. Some argue that the meager amounts of corn
showing up in excavated contexts are present because people were trading for corn. The documentary record from the 1500s and
1600s indicates that mobile groups went to pueblos to trade plains items, such as bison meat and hides, for corn and
manufactured goods. Others point to agricultural hoes and the corn found in archaeological contexts to argue that locals, possibly
even when highly mobile, were producing corn and other cultivated items.
Resolving this debate requires indisputable e vidence of food production, whether it be simple cultivation or more intensive
agriculture. During a recent foray into the 'wilderness' by George MacDonell and me (see below), we accidentally stumbled across
what may be agricultural terraces and rock piles on the low-lying flats adjacent to the Pecos. The features include two different
linear alignments of cobbles, pebbles, and gravels aligned perpendicular to the slope of the terrain, in an area where runoff
would have been focused from surrounding slopes. These types of areas often do not fall within contract survey tracts and so such
features and sites might not be seen in the normal course of oil patch business.
What needs to happen is the following: (1) review of types of archaeological evidence of agriculture/cultivation in adjacent culture
areas and (2) summary of specific data types that might be found during survey and data recovery (with illustrations and photos for
other researchers to use as resources), (3) identification of portions of the landscape where such features might be expected. This
would involve (4) targeted survey to identify locations adjacent to the Pecos River where additional features of this type might be
found. And if found these types of features need to be treated in ways that have proven informative in surrounding areas: mapping
to discern if they exhibit the proper slope and aspect, testing for evidence of pollen and phytoliths, sample analysis, and
excavation to reveal their character.
Photographs showing two different linear alignments of cobbles, pebbles, and gravels aligned perpendicular to the slope
of the terrain. These are in an area where runoff from the surrounding slopes would have focused.
POPE'S WELL AND POPE'S CAMP; POPE'S EXPEDITION INTO DARK CANYON
CONCEPTS FOR RESEARCH IN THE TRANS-PECOS MOGOLLON REGION
CHUPADERO BLACK-ON-WHITE: LOCAL PRODUCTION OR IMPORTED?
A number of recent studies in the American Southwest have shown that decorated wares were produced locally rather than in
centralize production centers (e.g., Crown 1995; Gilman et al. 1994; Nuezil ). Chupadero Black-on-white was once thought to have
been crafted in the Chupadero Mesa/Gran Quivera region ( ), and while the concept may have originated there, more recent
studies have suggested that this pottery was produced locally (see Lone Mountain Archaeological Services 2001:74-90). Rather
than signifying complex exchange networks or production specialization the widespread distribution of this type may be
explained in part by production in valleys quite distant from the Salinas-Chupadero Mesa area.
POTTERY: CERAMIC CLASSIFICATION IN SE NM
DATING AND CHRONOLOGY
STRUCTURES AND BURIED CULTURAL DEPOSITS
SUBREGIONS WITHIN SOUTHEASTERN NEW MEXICO
Delaware Rock Ring Site No. 2
Delaware Rock Ring Site No. 1
Are hut ring sites with Chupadero and prehistoric brownware
pottery prehistoric sites or are they occupied by many groups
through time, the rings representing the lastest, mobile
occupation during the terminal prehistoric or historic
periods? Or did the terminal prehistoric mobile groups
interact with pottery-making groups or find their pottery in
earlier contexts and reuse them? Unraveling
multi-componentcy is a key problem in the area.
MOBILE PEOPLES OF THE PREHISTORIC PERIOD
LA 159019 -- Red Bluff Stone Enclosure Site
The Apache were not the only group to have occupied southeastern New Mexico during the terminal prehistoric. Other groups
are known to have been present as well. At first recorded contact a number of mobile groups were present that expressed
variable lifeways. Until recently the material cutlure associated with these non-Athapaskan groups has remained
indistinguishable. Yet, in Texas (hill country, coastal plains, and Trans-Pecos) the Toyah phase or horizon, the Cielo Complex,
and Infierno phase have been described for this period and in the American Southwest the Canutillo complex represents the
archaeological manifestation of these terminal prehistoric and historic non-Apache mobile groups. In Southeastern New Mexico
the evidence is distinct.
Southeastern New Mexico lies in an in-between area where similar complexes are expected but these have yet to be fully
defined. Some sites from this region were included in the volume Conquest and Concealment but further research is needed to
ascertain how these sites fit into the overall scheme. What seems initially apparent is that this area contains traits indicative of
both areas further east and west. In the Guadalupe Mountains and mountain ranges to the north, a more westerly adaptation
seems apparent that is typical of groups occuping the basin-and-range. However, this similarity may simply be a result of people
using the terrain and landscape as it was presented to them.
Once dropping out of the mountains and canyons, a clearly plains adaptation is visible on the Llano Estacado. Whether this
relates simply to environmental restrictions placed on available resources and terrain features cannot yet be answered. Yet the
important thing to remember is that the culture area concept was devised in part on the basis of the way culture traits are tied to
environmental parameters. Among mobile groups in particular, the raw materials available for house construction influence
which type of house was contructed. In the mountains were rocky outcrops and abundant brush were present wickiups were
used, whereas on the plains camps might be situated miles from suitable building material so tipi poles and coverings were
transported from place to place. One question that arrises from this is whether people who use tipis adopt wickiup construction
when they come to rocky terrain. This is relevant from the perspective of the Salinas Pueblos, Pecos Pueblo, and the Galisteo
Basin where many more wickiups are visible than tipi rings where where the documentary record indicates groups visited from
the Plains. Some of the tipi rings near the pueblos have been destroyed by later landuse activities and by archaeologists
themselves. But in other instances there is no or little evidence of tipi rings where they might be expected. Some of this may
have to do with definition of archaeological features as the classic tipi ring of later times is large, circular, with distictly place
rocks and is clearly distinct from the earlier house features that are smaller, some of which were probably tipi rings.
Triangular indented-base points (Garza in some
typologies) and small side-notched points were
found at this site, suggesting both ancestral
Apache and non-Apache mobile groups used this
playa after prehistoric groups did so.
Classifications are aids for analysis. They allow the analyst to impose order on observations in the real world. As such classifications
are useful for their intended purpose but may require revision when the objectives of analysis change or as new information is
obtained and new understandings gained. Classifications are an important tool for field technicians with variable training on fast-paced
projects. Use of a common set of observation and descriptors allows a diverse set of practitioners to record consistent observations.
A number of ceramic classifications have been devised in the Carlsbad and Roswell areas and in the Jornada Mogollon region in
general. Knowledge of these classifications and the ceramic types devised (their origins, their basis, their nature) is an essential first
step in assessing the nature of ceramics in the region and for evaluating the usefulness of existing typologies for specific subregions.
Splitting by naming numerous ceramic types has not been based on INAA, petrographic analysis, or other techniques but rather on
observations, often by practitioners who have not been formally trained. This perspective is contrasted with the treatment of the region
as if it were one large homogenous culture area without internal subdivisions or diversity. Some have suggested north-south divisions,
others east-west (on the basis of the east and west of the Pecos River).
We tend to hold the typologies of past researchers in high regard, often assuming that their observations are set in stone. These
typologies may require revision as new knowledge is obtained and new data examined.
Several assumptions attend these classifications. The first is that the Carlsbad/Roswell/Hobbs area is part of a larger Jornada Mogollon
manifestation. This is based first and foremost on the logic that this area is in the Southwest culture area and that brownwares
represent Mogollon, in the sense of the early tripartite ceramic-based culture area classification.
First questions are: (1) Is it useful to conceive of this area as part of the Jornada Mogollon? (2) Is this area part of the Greater
Southwest, Great Plains, or Trans-Pecos culture areas or something distinct or an amalgam of some or all? (3) How does the
cross-roads and frontier nature of this area contribute to this conceptualization? (4) How does this change through time? (5) Is it useful
to consider this entire area in the same way or is part of it Jornada and part not; does part of it have ties to the Southwest and others to
other culture areas?
Understanding plainwares is essential for understanding this area. Plainwares are central to this analysis but decorated wares must be
Rocky Arroyo Tipi Ring Site
It is difficult to determine how large this site might
have been originally. Now a single tipi ring is in
evidence but the area around the site has been
bulldozed. This site provides an example of how
archaeologists are not recognizing these features as
cultural and, as a result, they are being destroyed.
LA 79568--Seven Rivers Tipi Ring Site No. 3
Go to LA 79568