Old Adobe – Kuaua Pueblo

Old adobe – Kuaua Pueblo at Coronado State Monument, just a little north of Albuquerque and just a little west of I-25, is an example of old adobe construction. Built around AD 1300, Coronado encountered this pueblo when he entered the Southwest in AD 1540 searching for the famed Seven Cities of Gold (he was looking for the wrong thing 🙂 )

Coronado State Monument
Coronado State Monument

The major pueblos are often thought of as the Western Pueblos (Hopi, Zuni, Acoma) and the Rio Grande Pueblos, and then further characterized by language groups. In New Mexico, there are living Pueblos along the Rio Grande from Isleta to Taos, and archaeological sites are numerous in the same – and probably somewhat larger – area. It makes sense that people would locate along this major Southwestern waterway. The puebloan peoples were agricultural, and a river location is great for a lot of reasons.

Visitors today can see spectacular views of the river, as well as the Sandia Mountains looking toward the southeast, from Kuaua. This image was taken in the morning, and the mountains are essentially shading themselves. At sunset, the mountains are a totally different color. Often I cannot help remembering one of my old professors, Clara Lee Tanner, who would speak of the “blues, purples, and reds of the mountains and skies of the intermontane valleys of the Desert Southwest” (that was long before those colors had any political significance).

adobe pueblo site
Pueblo location along the Rio Grande River

Kuaua Pueblo was abandoned sometime in the 16th Century (relations and interactions between the pueblos and Spaniards are for discussion in another time and place). It fell into disrepair, and slowly returned to the earth, as adobe will do when not constantly maintained.

weathering adobe
Weathering adobe, returning to the earth

The remains of Kuaua Pueblo were excavated by the WPA in the 1930’s. Found then were some exquisite mural paintings in the square great kiva, and some of these have been carefully preserved and are on display in the beautiful John Gaw Meem designed Visitor Center. The kiva itself has been reconstructed recently, and is open for visitors.

After the excavation was completed by the WPA, the rooms were backfilled (a typical archaeological practice), and portions of the pueblo reconstructed, once again using adobe bricks. This is what the structure looks like today.

adobe walls
Reconstructed pueblo walls

(Did I stay on the trail? Well, as much as any photographer does, and I did not touch the walls in any way, but that was for protection of the adobe. Having said that, I really prefer ruin exploration when the snakes are hibernating!)

These reconstructed adobe walls of Kuaua Pueblo need constant maintenance and repair. The first image below shows where the monument workers are mixing adobe to make bricks, while the second image below shows a stack of adobe bricks stored for use when necessary. They are weathering even in storage.

adobe brick making are
Where new adobe bricks are made
adobe bricks
Adobe bricks

Adobe, made of earth and straw, is found worldwide, and has been for a very long time. As this weathering adobe wall shows, it is a beautiful material, even as it is weathering away.

weathering adobe
Weathering adobe wall