Sun Dublan

I have been thinking of writing; my memories of the excavation of the Paquimé ruins by Dr. DiPeso. He was sent by the Amerind Foundation to head the excavation of this big famous site.

I was principal of the Dublan Grade School at that time and met the DiPesos when they came to register their two boys in the school. Their boys David and Corey were about the same age as our two oldest children Kiko and Mary. I mention this because all during the excavation we would take the older grades of the school to visit the ruins. The DiPeso boys were in those two older classes so their father was especially interested in giving us extended tours of the excavation sites and telling us of all of the interesting discoveries that were made in the work.

He told us that the people of Paquimé were a highly developed agricultural community with knowledge of the movements of the Sun, Moon and the Stars. They did all of their planting and harvesting according to the seasons and according to the moon and the stars and showed us the calendar cross or observatory where they made their calculations that governed their daily lives.

He also showed us the ball court with the rock rings on each side. He said that he had his own theory about their ball games but could not tell us anything official of how or why they played their ball games.

He was very excited and interested in the water system they had built and used. They had built an under ground aqueduct lined with flat stones forming a stone aqueduct two bring the water from the hot springs that were located about three miles to the northwest of the ruins. They had engineered this aqueduct bringing it up the valley running southeast while the river ran north and the whole valley sloped north.

On arrival at the ruins there was a big storage area that was filled from the aqueduct. The main line was split into two smaller aqueducts that ran through and under the whole compound with openings at strategic points throughout the houses and big courtyard in the center. Dr. DiPeso suggested that one of these aqueducts was used exclusively for drinking and culinary purposes and the other was used as a garbage disposal. They both came out on the southeast end of the housing area where the water was run into irrigation ditches and used for irrigation on its way to the river.

In one of the inner courtyards these ingenious people had dug a walk in well where they had an emergency water supply of good drinking water. They probably used this water for drinking in the summer since the water from the spring was probably still hot as it came in a covered aqueduct from the hot springs. The walk in well was about twelve feet in diameter and had steps winding down to the water that was about twenty feet down. This well has since been totally filled in for safety purposes and very few people know about it.

On one occasion Dr. DiPeso took us to a site where they had excavated a big round flat rock which had been used as a base for a big pine log pillar or support. This rock had been made especially for the purpose of being the seat or base of a main pillar to support the upper stories. They had excavated carefully and underneath the base they had found the skeleton of an infant wrapped in a woven mat. Evidently this infant had been a sacrifice placed under this main pillar to assure the blessings of the gods on their houses.

In the big main courtyard was where they raised and housed their Turkeys and Guacamayas. Dr. DiPeso explained that apparently they had used these birds for their feathers, especially the bright plumage of the Guacamayas. There were many cages that had a door made from a big rock with a hole in the middle and a long round rock that fit in the hole to close the door. Apparently the parrots had strong beaks that would destroy a wooden door very quickly. Dr. DiPeso suggested that they supplied these feathers to the peoples far to the south north and west. He showed us the little sea shells that they probably used in trade. In one of the inner rooms under the bed they had discovered a big store of these little shells. He said that they had found enough shells to fill three wheelbarrows full. They had found these shells in many other sites but this man seemed to have had the most of any.

They found that the buildings in the center had been as high as five stories high. Each room seemed to be equipped with a small charcoal fire place and niches for lights probably oil lamps. The walls were made by filling wooden forms with rammed earth that set up almost like stone. The forms could be removed immediately after compacting and placed on the next layer up. That way they did not have to wait for the mud to dry which would take a long time in side the buildings. The walls were usually about three feet thick with some of the main walls being even thicher.

I was interested to see the east side where they did not excavate that there was a pillar rising above the mound of the ruins. This pillar had weathered the storms for hundreds of years. Apparently it had been a corner of a high building that had not crumbled with the rest of the walls. When I was a small boy our Primary Teacher Sister Mary Taylor. (Wife of Harvey H. Taylor) took our class on a wagon with gravel and cement up to the ruins. We poured a cement foundation at the base of that pillar hoping that it would last longer because of the foundation. Here thirty five years later that pillar was still standing. Our cement foundation had been completely covered with dirt by the weather through the years but the pillar looked the same as it did when I was a boy.

I remember when the big pit ovens were excavated and Dr. Di Peso explained that they had been used to cook the Sotol heads and the big asparagus looking quiotes that they brought from the mountains. They would burn a hot fire inside the pits for three or four hours then they would fill the pits with whatever they had to cook and cover the pits so that no steam could escape. After twenty four hours they could be opened up and the good mescal could be eaten. This food lasts for many days and is very good and was used as a health food so to speak.

On the south side of big ruin there were some big pillars spaced along what seemed to be the front entrance of the village. Dr. DiPeso said that he had read an account of an early Spanish explorer that came into the Casas Grandes Valley in the late 1500?s. The explorer had expressed surprise as seeing these big pillars fronting the big ruin. It had reminded him of the gleaming pillars of Greece. These pillars at the time we saw them were worn down but still were about four and a half feet in diameter.

Dr. DiPeso told us of the wonderful pottery they were finding and once he told us of finding some tempered copper implements. He also said that he was interested in finding some copper Turtles that he thought were used for worship purposes. I don?t know what ever happened to those copper things because I have never seen them displayed. When we visited the museum that Dr. DiPeso set up in Dragoon I especially looked for any display of copper but found only the pottery and other artifacts that they had meticulously glued together and displayed.

I am very grateful that Dr. DiPeso did such a good job of excavating the Paquimé Ruins and that we were his confidants on our visits from the Dublan School to the ruins. We got to see many things and learn of many discoveries as they went along in the excavation process. He often commented that the only way to preserve these ruins would be to roof all of the main part and leave them as they were uncovered. They were not covered and we watched as the ruins deteriorated. Then we watched in horror at the feeble gestures of restoration ruining what was left of the original excavation. I do not like too visit the ruins as they have them today. I would much rather preserve in my memory the freshly excavated walls and plaster and relive in my minds eye what must have been the thriving happy community of the people of the ancient Paquimé.

11/8/2003 Webmaster: Troy Bowman