Archaeological work continues on and near Santa Cruz deTerrenate presidio in 2008-2009. Last year we uncovered some interesting and
unexpected findings during our work here. Santa Cruz de Terrenate (AZ EE:4:11, ASM) is situated on the San Pedro River in southern Arizona
on Bureau of Land Management property. Officially the occupation of the presidio dates between 1776 and 1780, but some scholars say that
soldiers continued to live there until 1788. Field investigations are also showing that many native groups used this site after its abandonment,
occupying the rooms and camping nearby. This location also served as a prehistoric Archaic and Hohokam settlement, which complicates the
The presidio was made of adobe so the walls are under continual assault from the elements, eroding to the point where eventually there will
be little left. Treasure hunters frequent this site as well, hoping to find something period-specific to place on their mantles, not understanding
that by taking artifacts from the site they have forever truncated the link to genuine knowledge of the past.
The name "Terrenate" is problematic, with many translations suggested. According to the Jesuit missionary Pfefferkorn Terrenate means
"thornbush" in O'odham. More recently it has be argued that it is a hybridization of Spanish and Nahuatl meaning "land the colour of masa"
(which is maize dough; "La palabra Terrenate... constituye un locativo compuesto con vocablos del español y del idioma náhuatl, es un típico
hibridismo que con frecuencia se da en México. De este modo terrenate proviene de la palabra terreno y del apócope náhuatl atexcatl, el
cual, a su vez, deriva de las raíces atl, agua y textli, masa. Así, terrenate significa "terreno de color de masa." See
http://www.tlaxcala.gob.mx/municipios/terrenate/index.html). The name has been applied to many settlements as well as another presidio
upstream on the San Pedro River in Sonora, Mexico.
Terrenate was established after a wide scale inspection of the frontier wherein it was determined that more presidios should be established to
guard against the menace of hostile indigenous groups. Moreover after 1772 regulations were put in place that standardized many aspects of
presidio construction and operation. Current work examines the ways in which Terrenate deviates from the official plan and from the
regulations. On the remote frontier priorities often differed from those held in the comforts of political centers.
Di Peso had excavated Santa Cruz de Terrenate thinking it was the Sobaipuri site of Quiburi before it was developed as the presidio of
Terrenate beginning in 1776 (though plans were made in 1775 and soldiers may have moved there in December 1775). He was inspired in this
notion by the historian Herbert Bolton, who initially made this connection, partially on the basis of a passage by Hugo O'Conor, and repeated
by Teodoro de Croix, that noted Terrenate was established at the "place of Santa Cruz." But Santa Cruz de Terrenate was never a mission.
Terrenate was not Quiburi Mission as is so often indicated in lay publications and on the Internet. Santa Curz was a Sobaipuri siteat one time
that was seperate and distinct from the Sobaipuri site of Quiburi. Quiburi is located in a different place and it has been found. Bolton's and Di
Peso's association between Santa Cruz de Terrenate and Quiburi is in error and was a fabrication in their own mind.
EXCAVATIONS OUTSIDE THE PRESIDIO WALLS
Excavations outside the presidio wall are producing presidio-related items and pre-presidio evidence. Excavation of a number of 2x2 m units
has revealed that this area is heavily disturbed and was likely bulldozed as part of the effort to clear vegetation and prepare a parking lot.
Intact deposits are present as the elevation shifts but these most of these are prehistoric Hohokam. There are two areas that may retain
evidence of Sobaipuri structures but these are so disturbed more work will need to be completed. Few of the deposits on top are intact.
THE MATERIAL ON THIS PAGE IS COPYRIGHTED AND SHOULD BE APPROPRIATELY CITED (C) 2007-2008, Deni Seymour
SANTA CRUZ DE TERRENATE, 2008-2009 Field Season
Sentinel Hill (Serro de la Sentinela; or Cerro de la
Centinela) across the river or east of the presidio
(background of image) served as a lookout station for
soldiers on watch. This is shown on the map above.
The ford is visible from the presidio and, were it
not for the trees, also from Sentinel Hill.
A volunteer walks across the ford which is one of several
areas in this immediate vicinity where cobbles stretch
across the river forming an easy point to walk or ride
across. Another can be seen in the distant background of
From the south end of the presidio bluff the course of the
river can be see until a large bend takes the river from
view. The ford occurs before this bend.
The rockiness of this area has created box-like canyons
all along here.
This Geronimo de la Rocha map
from 1780 shows the presidio
and the trail (dotted line) used to
access it from both north and
south. Two fords are shown on
this map south of the presidio.
The second, referred to as
'pedregoso' or 'stony', indicates
that this stoniness is a key factor
in their perception of an
appropriate ford. This is
consistent with the crossing just
above (south of) Terrenate.
Fords are to the north of
Terrenate on this map (not
shown) but not for miles below
(downriver from) the presidio.
The characteristics that made
this valley downstream suitable
for agriculture made it less
suitable for crossing.
Excavations inside this Spanish Colonial presidio are focusing on the western wall of apartments, which were the officers' and soldiers' quarters, and on
the captains house. Last fall and spring we excavated Room 28. This year we are focusing on Room 27 before moving on to Room 137. Each of these
rooms compose the Lieutenant's quarters, which was a four-room apartment. This is in contrast to the other officers who only had two-room apartments.
The captain also had a multi-rooom apartment probably consisting of 6 or more rooms and a central courtyard.
The Room 27 excavations are proceeding as expected. They have the same fill sequence as Room 28. The room was abandoned and gradually the walls
eroded onto the floor as rainwater, carrying heavy particulates, came in the door and as the roof leaked. Then the roof burned and collapsed onto the
floor and fill. Prior to this and later mobile groups and others came and stayed inside the walls for protection from the elements.
As in Room 28 the Room 27 roof seems to have been a viga and latilla style construction, with adobe and rocks placed on top. Many pebbles and cobbles
are laying on top of and intermixed with the burned adobe, ash, and charcoal from the roof. Many of these are burned and have ash adhering to their
undersides indicating that they were on top of whatever burned, which was likely thatch or reeds laid on top of the wood elements and in or under the
adobe or clay-rich earth.
Regrettably Di Peso had not backfilled the rooms he excavated, as was common for the period. As a result the wall that separates Room 27 and Room 138
has almost completely eroded and collapsed so that the fill on this side of this room has eroded away. This is an on-going process at the presidio, which
is one of the reasons these excavations are so important to salvage information before it is totally lost to erosion and vandalism. These excavations are
the only way that the record of presidio use and this chapter of history will be updated, and as we have seen, earlier versions of this history are faulty.
EXCAVATIONS IN THE POSSIBLE OPATA LOCUS
It is known from the documentary record that between 10 and 50 indigenous men served as scouts and auxilaries at any one time. The auxilaries
helped to build the presidio when they were not serving as soldiers, and perhaps the scouts did as well. There is some indication from the roles that
the scouts were Opata while the auxilaries may have been both Opata and Sobaipuri. It has been surmised that these non-Spanish participants lived
outside the presidio walls or that at least their families did so. Rank and race were carefully observed during these times and cultural differences
would have reinforced these differences. These people probably had their families with them, given the long-term nature of the engagement.
Unusual pottery suggests that the Opata are visible in these peripheral areas of the site, beyond the presidio walls. A recent trip to the Opata-area of
Sonora provided some indication of what the Opata pottery looks like. This information is useful for isolating the pottery found on San Pedro Sobaipuri
sites that might have been traded from that area and for isolating the Opata presence at Terrenate. The high degree of disturbance from roads and
bulldozing for a parking lot and lab tent area during the original excavations means that little of this has been preserved. There are hints, however,
that were are pursuring.
EXCAVATIONS IN THE ADOBE-WALLED STRUCTURES SOUTH OF THE PRESIDIO WALL
Di Peso had excavated some adobe-walled structures outside the presidio walls. He attributed these to the Sobaipuri occupation during
Father Kino's time, thinking that this was the 1690s Sobaipuri settlement of San Pablo de Quiburi and the early eighteenth century Santa Ana
del Quiburi. This notion has been thorougly discredited; many historians and archaeologists have argued that these were not Sobaipuri
structures or structures built for Father Kino. Some clearly have stone foundations while in others the base of the walls is covered with
melted adobe and therefore obscured.
These structures are likley those occupied by settlers--those of Spanish blood (and perhaps some who were of Opata descent) who had
adopted Spanish ways. According to Inspector Roque Medina, some adobe bricks had been illegally diverted from presidio construction to
build private structures. Had these structures been built inside the presidio walls their construction would have been in conformance with the
law. This passage and the presence of adobe-walled structures outside the presidio walls suggest that these structures visble on the site
were build for and by the vicinos (citizens). These are the same people that were routed from their homes, as noted in 1777 when the
captain of Santa Cruz presidio reported its crops burned, the settlers’ houses fired, and the settlers scattered.
Excavations will focus on reexposing a portion of the walls and floors of these rooms. The intent is to obtain a sample of artifacts from this
room that might have been discarded in the mounded dirt piles around the perimeter. If this is like the adobe-walled structure excavated by
Di Peso at Santa Cruz del Pitaitutgam the backfill would have been mounded immediately outside the room. Examination of Di Peso's Plates
24 a, d, and e suggests that this is the case. It seems that Di Peso did not screen, or if he did, many items were left behind so there is an
expectation for a good sample to be obtained.
These scans of Plates 24 a, d, and e show mounds of
backdirt behind the feature walls. This suggests that
these mounds can be screened to retrieve artifacts
that Di Peso did not collect or curate. This should
give us some idea of the activities conducted in the
structures and perhaps who was living in them.
Mounds of dirt around the perimeter of Feature 132
are visible today. These are likely remnants of these
backdirt piles. Erosion of the backdirt back into the
structure through the years has probably helped to
preserve the floor and wall bases which will allow us
to reexamine and reevaluate Di Peso's conclusions.
Sherds from two of the four to five vessels represented in
the images above. One is a bowl with paint on the interior,
the other a jar with red paint on a brown body that has been
fired to produce a black background.
The southern portion of the ford, looking north or down stream.
Search crew standing at ford in the middle of the San Pedro.
The presidio from Sentinel Hill.
Rock ring on top of second hill, behind Sentinel Hill.
Views from Sentinel Hill
The presidio from Sentinel Hill and the trail down to the river at the ford.
NATIVE CEMETERY FOR AUXILARIES, SCOUTS, AND THEIR FAMILIES?
When the Spanish soldiers died they were buried in the campo santo, the sacred ground around and beneath the chapel. The chapel is
located inside the presidio walls. Di Peso had excavated only 44 burials of soldiers and their kinsmen who died here. But what happened
with the native auxilaries and scouts that died in the service of the crown? Where were the native family members buried?
Burial-looking features have been found in the general vicinity of the presidio. The one shown herehas 11 sherds of late organic-tempered
redware suggesting that in the local indigenous tradition theses auxilaries and scouts were buried away from the settlement. The records
do not record the lives and deaths of the native auxilaries and scouts or their families, but they would have had to have been buried
somewhere. These features will not be disturbed out of respect for their descendants and also consistent with state and federal laws.
Di Peso did not save most of the artifacts excavated so there are few available for study. One of the goals of current research is
to obtain samples of artifacts from a variety of feature types and contexts so that they can be studied and presidio occupation
understood more completely. These images show collection of surface artifacts in the midden in front of the gatehouse, outside
the presidio walls. This is the primary trash area at the site, although middens are also present in a barrow pit on the west side
and along the outside of the presidio walls where trash seems to have been dumped over from the inside.
Surface collection is taking place before a trench is cut into the midden. This provides an idea of artifact density and diversity
across the entire midden. The trench will provide some indication as to whether there is a difference through time in the nature
of items discarded.
IN SEARCH OF THE BATTLE SITE "LAS MESITAS" WHERE CAPTAIN TOVAR WAS KILLED: SETTING THE STAGE
On July 7, 1776, Captain Tovar had ordered his men to ready themselves and their horses for an offensive later in the day. In the mean time a
sentinel (probably stationed on Sentinel Hill) had seen a large group of Apache cross the San Pedro at a ford (vado). Tovar responded quickly and
ordered the men to advance on foot. The horses were not ready, the ground was muddy and wet, and he did not want the Apache to get away while
men spent time mounting up. The fact that the soldiers were able to pursue, encounter the Apache, and carry out the attack on foot, rather than on
horses, at a nearby ford suggests the location of the ford and the battle was near the presidio. The attacking group included soldiers, Opata scouts, a
retired soldier, some workers who were probably Opata or O'odham, and civilians, including a merchant.
The battle ensued on the banks of the river at the ford and then moved away from the river. The soldiers were repulsed three times at the ford and
then they finally succeeded in crossing the river. As they advanced the Apache fell back into a position in a nearby box-like canyon. Tovar was one
of the first of 25 killed by Apache arrows (assumption or fact noted in document?). No one from the presidio came to their aid, even though two
returned to the presidio to plead for assistance.
The bodies lay there in the hot July sun until two days later. When on July 9 soldiers and settlers went to the battle site they were confronted with
bodies that had been stripped of their clothing and equipment by the victorious Apache. Having roasted in the searing July sun it was not
reasonable for them to transport the bodies back to the presidio for burial so instead they buried the remains, potentially in a common grave, in a
nearby canyon. This surviving account of this disaster was written down by Viceroy Bucareli.
People have looked for this location without success, but they focused on the area to the north of the presidio. This is because the colorful account
of the event by Jack Williams indicates that the battle took place down river (Chapter 5 page 27). I think this may reflect an error in assumptions and
also perhaps in translation. No actual translation by Williams was provided so it has not been possible to tell for sure, until now. An incorrect citation
for this battle description by Williams meant that we were initally unable to locate the original document to make our own translation. (Homer Thiel
also attempted to locate the document and the battle site but had no success owing to William's citation problem and probable misinterpretations
and improper embelishments.)
A MAP FROM 1780
From the map shown below drafted by Geronimo de la Rocha it is possible to see that only one location was viewed as a viable ford and this is
south of the presidio, as shown in the photos below.
The 1780 map shows an L-shaped alignment on top of one fo
the hills in the area north of Sentinel Hill. Is this this rock
feature or is something else being depicted?
Exposure of some of the interior walls of structure Di Peso thought was the 1757 Jesuit church demonstrates that the bricks are made the same
way and the wall constructed in the same fashion as the presidio itself. This suggests that it might be this structure that was referenced when
an inspector commented that settlers were stealing bricks for use in their personal housing. "Some adobe bricks had been illegally diverted
from presidio construction to build private structures." –Inspector Roque Medina
In 1777 “The captain of Santa Cruz presidio reported its crops burned, the settlers’ houses fired, and the settlers scattered…”
This small square structure (Feature 132) shows evidence of buring all around the interior edge of the floor agains the walls.
The exterior wall is constructed in a different way, perhaps poured
adobe, suggesting that this could have been built at a different time or
by different people or, once they were caught diverting bricks and the
Captain reprimanded, the outside walls had to be constructed differently.
The walls collapsed outward on the west and north sides of the structure leaving broad surfaces of adobe outside the walls foundations.
The walls are constructed in a very different way than described by Di Peso. These walls are underlaid by a stone foundation and covered
with wet-laid adobe. At regular intervals cobbles were laid perpendicular to the course of the wall, and fallen rocks outside the room
indicate that rocks were arranged like this for the height of the wall. Cobbles are also clustered at the edge of the doorway as shown
below on the right.
Cobbles were placed in a narrow mixture of wet adobe,
arranged perpendicular to the length of the wall. The
adobe for the wall seems to have been laid in thin layers
and in clumps because thin adobe layers and clumps
peel off the wall.
The corners are reinforced with cobbles, pebbles, and
gravel, much like Di Peso described for the
adobe-walled structure at Pitaitutgam (and which I
confirmed through reexcavation) and this trait mirrors
the construction technique used by the Sobaipuri for
the base of their structures. Some of the corners have
a fair amount of cobble rubble collapsed outside the
structure, again indicating that the corner stones were
incorporated for the height of the wall. These unique
characteristics of wall construction suggest that this
structure might not have been Spanish-made but that
(1) it could be Sobaipuri-made from Kino's time, (2)
could have been constructed by the O'odham
auxilaries at the presidio, or, (3) another possibility,
based on th artifacts found in the surrounding fill, is
that this is a post-presidio feature constructed (or at
least reused) in the 1800s or perhaps early 1900s. Wall
mud was extracted and is being luminescence dated.
Samples of each of the two types of walls were
collected as chronometric samples. Luminescence
dating will tell when each wall type was built and
will determine whether this structure was built
during the presidio occupation, or earlier, as Di
Excavations begin by defining the interior edge of the room's walls.
The room was then divided into two units.
Part way through excavation the adobe melt and wall
fragments can be seen in the fill, forming somewhat of a cap
to the underlying floor.
Excavation is now complete revealing the nature of the doorway, floor, and floor features.
The floor is packed earth or adobe that had a smoothed surface,
probably as a result of being wet and tamped down.
Captain's quarters: next year
All around the interior edge of the room the floor is flat and intersects with the wall at right angles. Evidence of an adobe collar,
similar to floor boards, is present along the base of each of the four walls. This was plastered against the adobe bricks and curved
onto the floor or, as along the east wall, onto the foundation rocks that project from under the wall. Paster found in the upper fill
suggests that perhaps the interior walls of this room were finished with a coating of paster.
This perspective of the room shows many of the floor features.
The rocks from the foundation underlying the north-south
bearing walls are visible along the east edge of the room, under
the east wall. These rocks were incorporated into the room
design in Room 28 where they were made into a bench, on
which a broken vessel was found. In Room 27 the bench was not
so clear. It seems that perhaps the rocks were covered with a
sloping coating of plaster to disguise their presence, which
would form a sloped interface between the wall and the floor.
Two postholes are present in the southeastern
quadrant of the room. These were not likely
structural as the roof would have rested on the
adobe walls. The site was occupied for such a
short period that is it not likely that they were
added later to support a sagging roof. Instead, it
is suggested that they are an equipment rack or
perhaps a wood bench.
The entryway is indicated by an intentional break in the wall
between Room 127 and 138.
As in Room 28 this room has a burned patch of adobe on the
floor with fire-cracked rocks and some rocks that are not
heat altered. There were two locations on the floor with this
type of thermal feature. This one, in the Southwest quadrant
of the room, is the largest and is similarily position to the
one in Room 28. This could have been a impromptu fire area
used by the residents, but more likely represents a fire area
used by later mobile groups or squatters at the site or it may
simply be an area where the burned roofing material settled
deeper and burned hotter.
Although difficult to see, this alignment of gravel and
pebbles is simlar to disturbed Sobaipuri house outlines
seen at Santa Cruz del Pitaitutgam where the larger
rocks have also been kicked and eroded out of place.
This might have been what this small
adobe-walled structure (Feature 132)
looked like with rocks reinforcing the
doorway and corners. A structure similar in
size and construction is found at Tubac.