Casamero Pueblo was occupied by the Chacoan Anasazi between A.D. 1000 and 1125. It is an excellent example of a Chacoan outlier, containing many of the cultural and architectural traits found at Chaco Canyon. It is believed Casamero was built to exploit the farm land along Casamero Draw. Foods grown and pottery produced at Casamero may have been traded to other outliers or to Chaco Canyon.
Casamero community consists of a Chacoan greathouse, great kiva (large, circular, underground religious structure), parts of two prehistoric roads and several small houses. The Chacoan greathouse is referred to as Casamero Pueblo. It contains 22 ground floor rooms and may have had six second story rooms along the west side. An enclosed kiva is in the northeast portion of the site. The walls were constructed of the local gray limestone and red sandstone. The stones were shaped into tabular slabs and laid in thin horizontal rows. Small stones were placed between the rows creating a banding effect.
An unexcavated great kiva is 200 feet (65 meters) southeast of Casamero Pueblo. The small houses contain two to eight rooms. It is thought that the majority of the population at Casamero lived in the smaller structures.
A prehistoric road connected Casamero to another Chacoan outlier located to the east across Casamero Draw. Another road has been identified extending west from a point south of the great kiva. Although evidence of a road linking Casamero to Chaco Canyon has not yet been found, communication and trade with Chaco was probable.
Chacoan Road System
The large Chacoan Anasazi greathouses located in Chaco Canyon may have been used as political, economic, and/or religious centers for the Anasazi living across much of the Four Corners region. From Chaco Canyon, numerous prehistoric roads radiated to the north, west, southwest, south and east. The roads connected Chaco Canyon to outlying Chacoan sites and communities and connected outlying sites to each other.
These roads were well engineered, as much as 30 feet wide and followed a straight path. When a turn was needed it was often done at a site and at an abrupt angle. Most often the roads did not avoid physical obstacles but went over or through them. Archaeological excavations have revealed evidence that the roads were repaired when damaged by weather.
Several theories have been offered as to why the extensive road system was constructed. The roads may have been used for the transportation of people and goods between sites or for communication, social or religious functions.
Regardless of the purposes for which the roads were constructed, they served to tie the people of Chaco Canyon and outlying sites into a social network that expanded across most of the San Juan Basin and extended into Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.
Outlying sites, like Casamero, exhibit many of the characteristics of the large pueblos in Chaco Canyon. Most of the Chacoan outliers have a Chacoan greathouse and an associated community of small habitations and other features. The Chacoan greathouses and great kivas are believed to have been the social and religious center for the community.
Pottery and artifacts found at the outliers are similar to those at Chaco Canyon. Archaeological research documents that these artifacts have been exchanged throughout the network. Many artifacts were imported into Chaco Canyon from outlying regions. Archaeologists do not know whether people from the canyon actually moved out colonizing other areas by constructing the outliers or whether existing populations were drawn into an expanding network and accepted cultural traits found in Chaco Canyon.
Casamero Pueblo was first recorded by an archaeologist in mid-1960. A portion of the site and many smaller sites were reported to have been vandalized prior to this time. Between 1966 and 1975, most of Casamero Pueblo was excavated by professional archaeologists. Excavated rooms were left open, exposing mud and stone walls to deterioration by rain and snow.
In 1976 and 1977, the Bureau of Land Management completely stabilized Casamero to prevent further deterioration of the walls. Once the stabilization was completed, interpretive signs were placed at the site describing the cultural history of the Chacoan Anasazi and the features present at Casamero. The Bureau of Land Management restabilized Casamero Pueblo in 1986, replacing eroded mortar and loose stones.
Casamero Pueblo is fenced to keep livestock and vehicles from disturbing the site. The site is closed to vehicles. A parking lot is provided along McKinley County Road 19 for visitor use. In 1984, the site was closed to mineral leasing or extraction for a 20-year period. The Bureau of Land Management monitors the site to assess any changes in the site's condition.
Casamero (along with Chaco Culture National Historical Park and six other outliers), is included on the World Heritage List. This a list of world-class cultural and natural properties maintained by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Under this designation, the Bureau of Land Management has set aside the 160 acres containing Casamero for the preservation of the cultural values.
Congress passed Public Law 96-550, Chacoan Legislation, in 1980 to protect Chacoan resources within the San Juan Basin. Although Casamero was not included as one of the original 33 sites designated in the Chaco Archaeological Protection Site System, it has been nominated for inclusion.
How You Can Help
Vandalism permanently destroys the prehistoric record, which can only be found in the remains left behind by their makers. It is a crime to steal or destroy cultural resources on Federal or State land. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 makes stealing and vandalizing antiquities on Federal lands a felony, with penalties of up to $100,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment.
Fight vandalism. Cultural resources need your help. Join the fight to protect artifacts and sites by reporting acts of theft or vandalism. Provide all the information you can as to time, location, license plate number, descriptions, etc. No amount of information is too little. Sometimes a single clue will lead to the arrest and conviction of a thief or vandal. Do not attempt to confront or apprehend the violator. Leave this to professional law enforcement personnel.
If you see or know of any vandalism to cultural resources, contact the nearest BLM office or you nearest Crime Stoppers number.
United States Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
Rio Puerco Resource Area
435 Montano NE
Albuquerque, NM 87107-4935
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication