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Ronald Towner

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The Cebolla Creek area of west-central New Mexico is an isolated area of lava flows, pinyon-juniper forests, and flat valley bottoms that is part of the El Malpais National Conservation Area.  Completely depopulated today, in the early 20th century the area was home to Navajo, Hispanic, and Anglo populations who hunted, gathered, and farmed the canyon’s resources.  Research over the past five years has illuminated aspects of interaction and land-use by these groups during a critical time in New Mexico’s history.

In particular, this presentation discusses heretofore unknown early 20th century Navajo sites and the Sue Savage Homestead (LA 74544), a complex of more than 25 structures and features occupied by a widow and her children during the Great Depression. This presentation uses tree-ring data, historical documents, and oral histories to illuminate the hardscrabble life of the area’s occupants and place the occupations in their proper environmental and social contexts. This research has lessons for archaeologists estimating length of occupations and for comparing different data types.