Ritual in the Lava: The Las Ventanas Community Landscape Study on the El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico, 2010-12 (TR2013-101) (PDF)

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Ritual in the Lava: The Las Ventanas Community Landscape Study on the El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico, 2010-12 (TR2013-101) (PDF)

The following report, documenting the Las Ventanas Community Landscape Study (LVCLS) is submitted to Steve Baumann, Chief of Heritage Preservation at El Malpais National Monument (ELMA), New Mexico. In compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (as amended) and other applicable regulations, personnel from Archaeology Southwest completed archeological survey, mapping, and analysis at the ancient Las Ventanas Community from October 2010 to July 2013. The project was completed under NMCRIS Activity no. 128750; Archaeology Southwest Project CE06, and El Malpais National Monument Project 2010B. The LVCLS project area is located on the Los Pilares, 1995, 7.5 minute series USGS quadrangle map.

Goals of the project consisted: 1) conduct archaeological survey in the lava field to the west of the Las Ventanas great house; 2) completely map the great house and surrounding features with state-of-the-art GPS/GIS technology; 3) undertake Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA) and petrography on a sample of ceramics from the Las Ventanas community; and 4) complete analysis on a small collection of materials obtained in the early 1980s during salvage excavations in a kiva at the great house.

The findings of the project were astounding. We documented seven extensive trails in the lava west of the Las Ventanas Community and the Sandstone Bluffs area. Hints of trails were apparent before, in this area and across the entire Monument. But, our work has shown the construction and use of trails to have been much more intensive and extensive than previously suspected. Furthermore, we hypothesis that these trails were not built primarily as utilitarian transportation corridors. Rather, most were built as ceremonial byways to access a variety of rituals features in and around the lava flow. We also documented an additional 10 sites including the Las Ventanas Central Community, trail-related sites, a fieldhouse site, an historic camp, a walled alcove, and a large Archaic base camp that abuts Las Ventanas.