Museum of New Mexico Media Center Press Release

Rewriting the History of the Ancient Village of Kuaua

Coronado Historic Site

June 15, 2016


A Talk Presented by Coronado Historic Site Ranger Ethan Ortega

Tuesday, June 21 at 7:30pm

Albuquerque Museum of Art and History

Free with refreshments served afterward

Brief: Coronado Historic Site Ranger Ethan Ortega will present the findings from the Kuaua Research Initiative this year at the Albuquerque Archaeological Society. The lecture is free and open to the public. Ortega will also present artifact photos and will demonstrate the new “Sim-Pueblo” interactive exhibit.

Synopsis: The story of the Ancient Village of Kuaua has been shared with the public for over 75 years at Coronado Historic Site, and for even longer in the oral traditions of the local Pueblos. We know that there is more detail to the story so we turned to the artifacts, our direct physical link to the people who inhabited this unique community, to learn more. The majority of the objects in the Kuaua Pueblo collection were excavated during various New Deal projects directed by Dr. Edgar Lee Hewett between 1934 and 1939. The goals of the excavations were to confirm that the Coronado Expedition (1540-1541) wintered at the village of Kuaua, and then to create a monument to the well-known explorer. As a result, the early history and archaeological interpretations of Kuaua were often biased and even fanciful. Some of these misconceptions have since been clarified. For example: Coronado’s winter camp was likely identified during excavations in 1985 at another village over a mile south of Kuaua, although the name “Coronado” has remained with Kuaua. Most of the focus of research over the last 80 plus years has revolved around the murals that were recovered from Kiva III. These were a revolutionary find in terms of prehistoric culture and ideology in the pueblo world, but the murals cast a shadow over all the other artifacts and information that was collected from the village - virtually every other aspect of village life was forgotten about. It is clear that some of these biases still exist and are still influencing the interpretation of Kuaua.

To shed light on the site’s history our staff and dedicated volunteers have created a research program called the Kuaua Research Initiative. Over the last few years, the group has inventoried and documented over 50,000 objects including complete ceramic vessels, stone tools, jewelry, bone tools, and pottery sherds. A large portion of these items have been photographed in detail to aid in their research and study, and eventually the images will be made available online. Over 2,000 pages of historic documents have been scanned and digitized including field notes, artifact catalogs, and correspondence relating to the New Deal programs. All of this information has been combined into a database housed at Coronado Historic Site and will one day be available to researchers interested in studying the village. To make this large data set more useful, a computer mapping program has been utilized to layout the structure of the ancient village and denote the original location where the objects were found. The digital map allows researchers to click on any excavated room of the village and all known artifacts, documents, and photographs pertaining to that room will be displayed. Fortunately the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology and the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology have diligently curated the artifacts of Kuaua Pueblo for over 80 years, and the contextual information just needs to be reconnected. With our renewed interest, new perspectives, and crew of volunteers, we intend to utilize these objects for the benefit of the public.

About the Speaker: Ethan Ortega is a ranger at Coronado Historic site, and he specializes in archaeology and interpretation. He gained a B.S. in anthropology and applied archaeology from Eastern New Mexico University, and is currently taking graduate courses in museum studies at the University of New Mexico. He has participated in archaeological projects in the American Southwest as well as various parts of Spain, sites of note include: Blackwater Draw, Salmon Pueblo, Kuaua Pueblo, the Roman City of Pintia, and the Basillica of Son Peretó. Ethan’s goal is to make the archaeology and collections of Coronado Historic Site more accessible to the public through new technologies, exhibits, as well as online.

Location: Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, 2000 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104, Phone: 505-242-4600.


Media Contacts: Ethan Ortega, Historic Site Ranger, Coronado Historic Site,, 505-867-5351; Steve Cantrell, PR Manager, 505-476-1144,


A Brief History of Coronado Historic Site: Coronado Historic Site includes the partially reconstructed ruins of the ancient Pueblo of Kuaua, a Tiwa word for "evergreen." This monument is named for Francisco Vasquez de Coronado who is thought to have camped near this site with his soldiers in 1540 while searching for the fabled Cities of Gold. The Pueblo was occupied from 1300 AD and abandoned near the end of the 16th century. Excavated at the site in the 1930s is a kiva, whose painted figures are considered the finest example of pre-contact mural art in the United States. Today inside this kiva, you will find mural reproductions of Pueblo life depicting animal figures and human images. The Kuaua Mural Hall houses 15 panels of the original murals excavated out of one of the rectangle kivas. Native American and Spanish Colonial artifacts are on display in the John Gaw Meem-designed visitor center. 


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