The Hudson Ranch Sites

Back to Projects
The Logan Museum of Anthropology at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, is fortunate to possess a superb collection of artifacts from the ancient Southwest. The vast majority were collected during excavations undertaken by the Museum in the 1930s under the direction of Paul Nesbitt. From 1931 to 1939 focus shifted to another group of Mogollon sites located on the Hudson Ranch in the Reserve area of New Mexico. Work at the main site, the Starkweather Ruin, was supplemented by exploratory digs at the Hudson and Wheatley Ridge Ruins. These sites yielded a large number of Mogollon artifacts of all types. 
The Starkweather Ruin was published by Nesbitt in 1938, at a time when the concept of "Mogollon" was in its extreme infancy. This project involves the publication of the artifacts from these sites in the light of subsequent discoveries.
In 1935 the Logan Museum began field work at the Starkweather Ruin just west of Reserve, New Mexico. Over the next two seasons, 32 rooms were uncovered, twenty pitrooms and twelve pueblo surface houses. The pitrooms were irregularly situated about the site, while the pueblo rooms formed a distinct block. Fifty-five burials were unearthed, most being associated with the surface dwelling phase. All but nine of these burials contained mortuary offerings. Numerous stone implements were recovered, as well as a small number of utensils and jewelry items. 

The Starkweather site is situated in the heart of prehistoric Southwestern culture. As such, we find the influences of nearly every group reflected in the material remains. The pithouses were found to be of four distinct types, relating to different phases in the occupation of the site. These correspond with the Georgetown, San Francisco and Three Circle phases of Mogollon culture. Material remains from these period were limited - only five complete or partial vessels were located among thousands of sherds. As such, I have treated the entire pitroom phase as a single entity.

The surface phase yielded 302 complete vessels and thousands of sherds, most from the outlying burial ground but some from the rooms themselves. The pottery styles are much more like contemporary Anasazi types than Mogollon, reflecting the increasing pressure of the Anasazi in the region. Most of the jewelry and all of the figural pieces date to the surface phase, and are treated in that portion of the exhibition. 

In his publication of the excavations, Paul Nesbitt divided the black-on-white wares into two categories, Reserve Black-on-White and Tularosa Black-on-White. Reserve was the earlier form and although Nesbitt considered it ancestral to Tularosa ware, it seems that the latter was imported into the region and ultimately replaced the former. Even so, the tremendous diversity of design types found on the vessels from Starkweather forced me to consider whether these two divisions were sufficient. Virtually every known design element from the Anasazi world appears in some form or other in the pottery of Starkweather. If these were all locally produced, it reflects a tremendous freedom in adopting foreigns forms. More likely, trade in pottery brought new elements into an existing repertoire, and many of the Starkweather vessels may in fact be imported wares. The preponderance of "Reserve" and "Tularosa" designs in the pottery of their respective periods suggests local tendancies in design, while the numerous exceptions during each period indicate a considerable amount of trade. 

In 1938 and 1939 the Logan Museum conducted field work at the Wheatley Ridge Ruin, 4 miles west of Reserve, New Mexico. Over these two seasons, 9 pitrooms and one surface pueblo were uncovered. The pitrooms were irregularly situated about the site, while the surface room was located at some distance from the rest. Fourteen burials were unearthed, four being definitely associated with the pithouses, although the remainder were also dispersed in the area of the pitrooms, away from the surface structure. Only three of these burials contained mortuary offerings. Numerous stone artifacts were recovered, as well as a small number of utensils and jewelry items.

Unfortunately, none of the field notes for the excavations remain in the archives of the Logan Museum, and the only evidence we have for reconstructing the site is the artifacts, the original accession catalog entries, and a preliminary draft of the MA thesis of Chandler Rowe, one of the students involved in the excavation of the site. However, to further complicate matters, Rowe's thesis refers to Houses 1, 1A, 2, 3, 3A, 4, 6, 7, and 8, while the boxes containing the artifacts are labeled 1, 2, 3, 3A, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 8A. Rowe also speaks of tree-ring dates for houses 2, 3, 4, and 5, while the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research lists samples for Houses 1, 3A, 4, and 5. So, at present, it is not even possible to reconstruct which artifacts belong to which of Rowe's house designations, let alone determine the layout of the site. We are currently attempting to obtain a final copy of Rowe's thesis, which may yield additional information, and an upcoming visit to the area could also be fruitful. For now, I am relying on the information contained in Rowe's thesis and my own personal observations of the artifacts for the analysis provided in this web site. 

The pithouses at the Wheatley Ridge site were found to be of three distinct types, relating to different phases in the occupation of the site. These correspond with the Georgetown, San Francisco and Three Circle phases of Mogollon culture. Unlike the Starkweather Ruin, where pithouses existed but material remains from this phase were few, the Wheatley Ridge site yielded a multitude of pithouse phase artifacts, and as such serves as a fine compliment to the  Starkweather site. The most recent tree-ring dating for Wheatley Ridge places the major construction phase from 850 to 900 AD. 

House VII was apparently a communal room, and its size - 36 feet by 31 feet - suggests that the community was considerably larger than the nine pithouses excavated. It is hoped that an upcoming visit to the site will provide an answer to this tantalizing question.

The surface phase is represented by a single room, identified as a "Pueblo kiva" by Rowe. House IX was located some distance from the pithouses, and as it was both culturally and geographically distinct from the rest, it was not treated in Rowe's paper. However, it was quite evident in sifting through the artifacts that at least one and possibly two of the pithouses were used as refuse dumps during the surface phase, as these contained "intrusive" sherds which were no doubt discarded by the later inhabitants of the site.

Until the preparation of this component of the Logan Museum web site, the early pottery types of the Mogollon had not been well represented. The 'rediscovery' of the Wheatley Ridge artifacts has filled this void admirably, and has shed considerable light on the ceramic complex of the Three Circle phase. Apart from several of the Alma series of plainwares, Three Circle Neck corrugated was well represented. San Francisco Red was also prevalent. Of the painted types, Mogollon Red-on-Brown, Three Circle Red-on-White and Boldface Black-on-White were found in significant numbers.

At the time that the Starkweather and Wheatley Ridge excavations were under way, work was being done at a site called simply "The Hudson Ruin". The records for this site are extremely scanty, indicating only that the site was somewhere on the Hudson Ranch, and perhaps close to the ranch house. I have not yet identified the exact location of this ruin. 
The artifacts recovered from the site consist almost entirely of plain wares and tools. These appear to be consistent in date with the other sites.
The Hudson Ruin will be placed within the context of the other two sites.