History

Map of the Galisteo Basin Pueblos

The "Spirits are all around us."

That's what the Tewa elder murmured as we wandered through the stone and adobe ruins of San Lazaro Pueblo. He spoke with such deep feeling and eloquence that I could almost feel the spirits' presence. It was in May of 1993 when we had met and talked at the site. "I am sure my people are from this place," he said "but of another time, long ago." It had been 316 years to be exact, when most of the Tewas had abandoned this pueblo and eventually moved to the village of Hano on the Hopi reservation in Arizona, while a few of the families remained located along the Santa Cruz River north of Santa Fe. The elder, who was pleased that we were working on this book, said, "Be sure and tell them the spirits are happy with you." I promised we would.

If you visited the site today, you might fail to recognize it among the rolling pinon-and-juniper-spotted hills of the Galisteo Basin, eighteen miles southeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Only cholla-covered mounds of stone and sandy soil remain of what was once a sprawling apartment complex. No intact structures are visible now to hint that centuries ago this was a beautifully placed village that was cradled in along the trickle of Del Chorro Creek, where and enormous sky still surrounds an endless reach of land and rock.

The Galisteo Basin is home to eight large pueblo ruins of which San Lazaro, a Tano pueblo, is the largest. Some archaeologists think there may be as many as 5,000 historic and prehistoric rooms in its twenty-seven room blocks that cover more than fifty-seven acres. It is a huge site measuring 1,438 feet north to south and 1,738 feet east to west.

San Lazaro Pueblo was first inhabited around 1150 AD, and the first stone and adobe rooms were built in the last part of the twelfth century in Buildings VII and IX.

The first archaeologist to visit San Lazaro was Adolph Bandelier who, in the 1890's published a brief description of the historic side of the pueblo. Then, in 1912, Nels C. Nelson, an archaeologist working for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, excavated about sixty rooms at the site. To him, the place looked pretty bleak, so he referred to it as an eroded, treeless depression. When he was there, 232 years after the pueblo had been abandoned, the nearby forested areas and other burnable foliage had not yet recovered from over four centuries of heavy use.

Today this site is privately owned and continues to be excavated. More information can be found in the book by Forrest Fenn, The Secrets of San Lazaro Pueblo.

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