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Unshagi ruins

This is a rather improbable site. It’s just off a main road, with a telephone line running through it. The site really doesn’t look like anything. And if you didn’t know it was there, you’d drive right by it. That, of course, appeals to me!

Unshagi means “Juniper growing place”. It was occupied from the early 1400s until the late 1500s. It’s not an especially large ruin, encompassing perhaps 300 rooms and sits at an elevation of around 6,700’ in the Santa Fe National Forest.

The major excavation of the site occurred between 1928 and 1934 by Paul Reiter for both the University of New Mexico and the School of American Research (SAR). In 1938 Reiter’s work was summarized in a two volume University of New Mexico Bulletin titled, “The Jemez Pueblo of Unshagi, New Mexico”. It’s an outstanding resource. Two of the images below are from that publication.

The site today consists of open grassy slopes, with patches of Cholla cacti. Depressions exist where large rooms or kivas occurred. It looks the way it does today because after the original 1930s era excavation it was backfilled to protect the walls. But the walls are still there, beneath the fill material.

Unshagi - As it appears today

Unshagi - A Kiva depression today

Unshagi - Another Kiva depression as it appears today

Unshagi - During excavations by Reiter (from "The Jemez Pueblo of Unshagi, New Mexico", Paul Reiter, 1938)

Unshagi - Layout by Reiter (from "The Jemez Pueblo of Unshagi, New Mexico", Paul Reiter, 1938)