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Public invited to Jemez excavation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Hundreds of years ago the ancestors of the Jemez people lived, farmed and died in Gíusewa Pueblo, which is now the Village of Jemez Springs.

A clash with the Spaniards would force them south onto a nearby mesa and eventually to the area that is now Jemez Pueblo. But the outside world knows very little of their history.

State and Pueblo of Jemez officials are inviting the public to participate in the unearthing of the Gíusewa Pueblo’s story. Starting Aug. 16, tribal members, archaeologists and volunteers will begin excavating an approximate 16-by-16-foot area where the Gíusewa people lived.

Highway 4 takes travelers through the village and just off the main road visitors can see the partial remains of a large, old, adobe structure. The building is what’s left of a church. Franciscan missionaries built the church in 1621 in an attempt to convert the pueblo people. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 stalled their efforts but 12 years later the Spanish returned to recolonize the area. Gíusewa Pueblo would battle the Spaniards until 1696 before fleeing south.

Matthew Barbour, regional manager with the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, said most of the archaeological and historical research in that area has focused on the Spanish Mission of San José de los Jemez, which is now part of the Jemez Historic Site. Within the site, just steps from the church, are hundreds of stone and adobe rooms that were once home to the Gíusewa people.

Gíusewa is one of the earliest and longest-occupied villages in the Jemez Mountains and Barbour said it spanned the entire valley. Barbour said much of the Jemez Village is built on top of the old pueblo. There was a total of 1,200 rooms. Excavations began in the early 20th century and uncovered 62 rooms, three Pueblo kivas (underground ceremonial rooms), and two plazas. The dig will help uncover more of these rooms.

This time though, the pueblo will participate in the efforts and the public will get to watch.

The museum inside the site’s visitors center is being transformed into an archaeological lab where workers will sift through the sand and restore the item found at the site. Members of the public can watch both the dig and the work being done in the lab. The dig will take place Wednesday through Sunday through Oct. 6. Rangers will lead tours at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily.

Pueblo of Jemez Gov. Paul Chinana said elders have passed down stories of that time as part of their oral history but it’s not well known to those outside the pueblo. He said his people have many cultural sites throughout the Jemez Mountains but many of them have been lost to development. The dig, he said, is one way to preserve some of that history.

“Gíusewa was our ancestoral lands,” he said. “We believe there are more things to be found there as far as the lifestyle back in the day. We know it was a thriving place where people traded.”

Marlon Magdalena, the instructional coordinator at the site, is also from the pueblo and will help lead the dig. He said in the past the Jemez people were not consulted, leaving an incomplete historical picture.

“It’s our history and we want to have some control over the narrative,” he said. “I’m interested to see what they find and how it will add to or change the story of our ancestors.”

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