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The Pueblo

Firecracker Pueblo as reconstructed by artist George Nelson. Courtesy of the artist and the Institute of Texan Cultures.
Firecracker Pueblo as reconstructed by artist George Nelson. Courtesy of the artist and the Institute of Texan Cultures.

There was little evidence of modification or maintenance of rooms, suggesting that the pueblo was not long-lived.

Room 1 contained a variety of floor features including a hearth near the center of the south wall, two primary roof supports on an east-west axis, and rows of smaller postholes that probably supported a raised platform. This is an average-sized habitation room of about 12 square meters that probably also served a variety of functions.
Room 1 contained a variety of floor features including a hearth near the center of the south wall, two primary roof supports on an east-west axis, and rows of smaller postholes that probably supported a raised platform. This is an average-sized habitation room of about 12 square meters that probably also served a variety of functions.
In the foreground is Room 3, a small room on the north side of Room 1 that had a hearth, two postholes, and various floor pits. This room probably served a more limited range of functions than Room 1 and other habitation rooms. Rooms of this size (7 square meters or less) were probably used for storage. Room 1 is in the background and has an adobe step against its south wall. These were once thought to be altars but are now believed to be nothing more than steps into rooms that were below ground level.
In the foreground is Room 3, a small room on the north side of Room 1 that had a hearth, two postholes, and various floor pits. This room probably served a more limited range of functions than Room 1 and other habitation rooms. Rooms of this size (7 square meters or less) were probably used for storage. Room 1 is in the background and has an adobe step against its south wall. These were once thought to be altars but are now believed to be nothing more than steps into rooms that were below ground level.
Another view of Room 6, the largest room of the pueblo, taken in different light.
Another view of Room 6, the largest room of the pueblo, taken in different light.

When the Firecracker investigations began, it was assumed that Firecracker Pueblo would prove to be like many other pueblos of the Jornada region. By 1980 when excavations began, a total of nearly 300 rooms had been excavated from over two dozen Jornada pueblo sites. In general, these rooms are relatively large in size, have hearths near the center of southern or exterior walls, and various patterns of postholes left by roof support posts. Pueblo rooms usually have the same features regardless of whether the site contains one or over 100 rooms. Smaller rooms often have two primary roof supports along the east-west axis of rooms, and larger rooms frequently have four primary roof supports located toward room corners. About one out of every six to ten rooms is much larger than the others and usually has multiple floor features including two hearths and other small pits along the north-south axis. These are thought to have served a special function as suggested by the names applied to them: kivas, communal rooms, and clan rooms. While some of the largest pueblos have rooms arranged around a central plaza, the majority of Jornada pueblo sites consist of one or more room blocks oriented east-west with a single or sometimes a double tier of rooms.

The Firecracker excavations revealed a pueblo with the expected architectural details, although it proved to be larger than foretold by the surface evidence. The pueblo consisted of 15 to 17 rooms in a one- to two-room-wide, linear, east-west room block. The exact number of rooms is uncertain because the walls and floors in the west central portion of the pueblo were badly eroded. The walls were made of coursed adobe, while the floors were plastered caliche.The roofs were probably made of a combination of materials including wood, grass thatch, adobe, and mud plaster. Most rooms ranged in size from 8 to 20 square meters, had hearths near the center of the south wall, and possessed two primary postholes. The largest room is probably a communal room and had four primary postholes, two hearths and small pits along the north-south axis, and a floor area of 54 square meters.

Secondary postholes and miscellaneous pits were encountered in some of the rooms. Posts and beams were of juniper and cottonwood, and secondary posts and smaller beams were of mesquite. Roof materials included mesquite, dropseed grass, reed, and stalks of yucca, agave, and sotol. There was little evidence of modification or maintenance of rooms, suggesting that the pueblo was not long-lived. The construction of the pueblo had begun with a core of two or four rooms, and then more rooms were added to the east and west. Relatively few artifacts were found on the floors, suggesting that Firecracker Pueblo was abandoned in an unhurried manner.

Excavations outside of the room block led to the discovery of a tiny room against the south side of the pueblo. It had an unplastered floor and lacked floor features. A similar room was located 8 meters south of the center of the pueblo room block. Its position above an earlier structure and several outside features suggested that it belonged to the same occupation as the pueblo room block. These "closets" were probably used for storage. Previous excavations in the Jornada region have rarely encountered such rooms, no doubt because most work has focused exclusively on the pueblo rooms proper.

Excavation outside the pueblo also led to the finding of an isolated room that was at the western edge of the site. Certain of its construction details and associated artifacts suggest that it is contemporary with the pueblo room block. This room differed from earlier structures in that it was nearly square in plan, had square corners and substantial adobe walls, was not superimposed by other structures or features, and was not trash-filled. This room had a floor area of 9.4 square meters, no primary roof support, a sealed hearth near the center of the east wall, and another hearth near the center of the south wall. Although not common, isolated rooms have been reported for other Jornada pueblos.


View west across first four rooms of pueblo to be excavated. The adobe walls and contiguous rooms are clearly evident.
View west across first four rooms of pueblo to be excavated. The adobe walls and contiguous rooms are clearly evident.

Click images to enlarge  

Plan map of Firecracker pueblo showing pueblo rooms (shaded in gray) and pithouse rooms (black).
Plan map of Firecracker pueblo showing pueblo rooms (shaded in gray) and pithouse rooms (black).
Room 6, the largest room of the pueblo.
Room 6, the largest room of the pueblo. It is over 50 square meters in size or about four times larger than an average habitation room. It also has multiple features, including several hearths on the north-south axis and four primary roof supports. Like Room 1, there are alignments of secondary posts that either supported roof beams or a bench or platform. This photo shows the lower of two floors as well as several pits over which the room was constructed. Rooms of this size are thought to have had a special function and have been called kivas, ceremonial rooms, communal rooms, clan rooms, etc. Caches of shell jewelry have been found beneath floors of some of these large rooms.
Broken ceramic bowl and grinding stone on floor of Room 11 around the as-yet unexcavated plastered hearth
Broken ceramic bowl and grinding stone on floor of Room 11 around the as-yet unexcavated plastered hearth.