Five seasons of field work were conducted at Arroyo Hondo Pueblo in the early 1970s, one of testing and four involving comprehensive excavation. During the four major seasons of work several complementary field projects also were carried out: a regional survey; contemporary ecological baseline studies; experimental gardens; pollen collections and analysis; and archeomagnetic collections.
Rooms, traditionally the focus of pueblo excavations, provide an important but only partial view of the culture of a community. The goals of the Arroyo Hondo project involved an excavation strategy that included plazas, kivas, and trash middens, in addition to rooms. The sampling design called for the excavation of at least one room in each roomblock and groups of contiguous rooms in five locations. During the field work, and in the months following, laboratory work was also underway, both in the field laboratory and at the School’s laboratory in Santa Fe. This laboratory work and analysis continued for several years after the fieldwork was completed. This underlaid the research and writing of the published monographs, as outlined in the web section on project chronology.
Douglas Schwartz directed a short period of exploratory field work at Arroyo Hondo Pueblo to examine the suitability of the site for a major excavation and complementary research. Tests were made to determine the nature of the overburden, architectural remains, and the time involved and labor involved. Two adjacent roomblocks (11 and 16) were cleared adjacent to their common plaza (C) and an adobe room was excavated in both. While this work was done by manually shovel, it was determined that extensive surface clearing could easily be done by mechanical means. Three masonry rooms in roomblock 11 were reexcavated, following Nels Nelsons’ excavations in the 1920s.
Two test trenches were placed in plaza C, adjacent to roomblocks 11 and 16, to ascertain the nature of plaza fill and to examine the relationship between the plaza and the roomblocks. Plaza fill was found to range from less than one meter deep near the edge by the rooms to 2.5 meters toward the center of the plaza. Both trenches showed that the digging of pits to collect adobe and clay during the original construction had markedly altered the original ground surface. A large number of material cultural and faunal remains and charcoal were recovered from both trenches indicating an extensive use of the plaza for domestic activities and for the deposition of refuse. The original plaza surface was readily definable below the cultural material.