Living on the Los Alamos Plateau always brings forth curiosities, but some of the biggest ones are our local Ancestral Puebloan Sites. No matter where you are in town you will be within a several hundred-foot proximity to ones of these sites, or at least where one used to be. Excavations and preservation efforts have been conducted in Los Alamos for over 100 years.
One of the largest sites within our county is the Ancestral Puebloan Site named Otowi, also claimed to have been called Potsuwi’I which means ‘gap where the water sinks’. Acquired from some old newspaper publications, one of the first excavations of this location started in 1915 by a woman named Lucy Langdon Williams Wilson. She was the principal of a school in Philadelphia and her husband ran the Philadelphia Commercial Museum. With some basic paperwork and a 3-year governmental permit, they set out west to excavate Otowi.
In January on Facebook we're going #InsideTheArchives to enjoy one of the treasures of Los Alamos history through the years. Following the Tsankawi Trail, you have a great overlook of what is now known as Duchess Castle. While this weathered structure is on National Park Service's Bandelier National Monument land its history impacts the Pajarito Plateau and continues to capture imaginations today.
This photo accompanied the 1959 article in the LASL Community News and shows the fenced area. The boys and their dog are Dick Lilienthal, 12; Dick Baker, 10; Chip Lilienthal, 10; and Shag, Courtesy/LASL Community News
By SHARON SNYDER
I’ve walked past the Ancestral Puebloan site in our historic district often since I moved back to Los Alamos in 2014, and I’ve sometimes wondered why I never noticed it when I was growing up here in the late 1950s and 1960s. Then, while doing research in our archives one afternoon, I noticed a story and photograph on the front page of the LASL Community News of Aug. 13, 1959. The picture showed that the pueblo remnants were behind a chain link fence and obscured by overgrown weeds and tall grasses.
The only structure visible in the scene behind the fence was a small stone building that had been part of the Los Alamos Ranch School campus. It was built in the 1920s by Severo Gonzales Sr., a homesteader hired by the school’s director, A.J. Connell, to build a stone storage structure to store firefighting equipment for extinguishing fires that might result from droughts or the use of wood burning stoves. Unfortunately, the stones used for that building came from the Ancestral Puebloan site, a common practice in the years before such structures were seriously studied and revered.
In this photo, María and Marcos Gomez are revisiting the site of their homestead on Two-Mile Mesa. Behind them is what was left of a corral. (Los Alamos Historical Society Photo Archives.)
By Aimee Slaughter
Los Alamos Historical Society
How did people in the Pajarito Plateau’s past get their water? How did they live in a dry environment like ours?
Ancestral Pueblo people who lived here hundreds of years ago used ingenious dryland farming techniques, and homesteading farmers at the turn of the twentieth century also conserved water for their farms and families. The Los Alamos Ranch School had to provide water for students, staff, and animals at the school. When the Manhattan Project took over the area, a rapidly growing population strained infrastructure, and providing enough water to homes was a constant concern. For hundreds of years, people have solved the challenges of finding water in a dry environment and have created diverse and vibrant communities here on the Pajarito Plateau.
These articles are written by the Los Alamos Historical Society Staff. Many of these articles were originally published by the