The pueblo was immense, close to seventy-five rooms. Several hundred prehistoric people had called this place home sometime around 1000 A.D. The structure was laid out in a long rectangle atop a narrow sandstone hill. It commanded an unobstructed view of the entire ridge. All around was red slickrock with smoothly-polished pothole depressions. These natural cisterns had been used by the Anasazi to catch rainfall, and even now, almost two weeks since the last measurable rain, most of the basins contained at least some water.
Jenny had led some field trips to this pueblo housing complex before; she knew it as the Big Boy site. There was only one other pueblo larger than this, on a rim overlooking the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The walls of this spectacular pueblo had been constructed by skillful masons, using the surrounding sandstone material as their building blocks. With the aid of hard river stones, like quartzite, they hand-chiseled the softer pieces of sandstone into one-foot by six-inch bricks which they laid on top of one another in measured rows. The mortar was muddy clay found along some of the nearby washes, to which they added small pieces of wood and crushed stone to give strength and consistency. The walls were almost twenty feet tall and straight as an arrow. Much care had gone into the making of this magnificent pueblo and its masonry was as good as any brick work done by skilled European craftsmen more than five hundred years later.
Jenny hunched down as she walked through a small doorway which led into the interior of the grand pueblo. The Anasazi were tiny people by modern standards, and rarely grew to be more than five feet tall. The hallway opened on to a small, square plaza. In the center of the plaza was a large circular hole in the ground that had been bricked in like the rest of the building. This was a ceremonial kiva, a combination social hall and church. The kiva was about the size of a small garage and had been dug out nearly fifteen feet underground. The men of the village, the only people allowed into the smoky depths of the kiva, reached the bottom by climbing down a wooden ladder in the center of a mud and thatch roof. The roof and ladder were long gone.
As Jenny carefully looked over the side of the kiva, she could see large holes in the earth where someone had recently been digging. Smashed pieces of pottery lay exposed in the fresh piles of dirt. From where she stood, the bottom of the kiva looked like it had been hit by a hand grenade.
Jenny shook her head with disgust and looked around the gloomy inside of the giant pueblo. There were rooms everywhere she looked. In many places, large sections of the walls had been smashed and she could gaze into the home of an Anasazi family from the time of Christ. Most rooms were no larger than a large closet, and yet had been home to three or four people. Jenny was always reminded of a dog kennel whenever she looked at such cubbyhole houses. The Anasazi had obviously been a very gregarious lot; they liked to live right on top of one another.
Many of the rooms of this pueblo had been previously vandalized. Weathered piles of earth littered the interior, but Jenny didn’t see any fresh signs of digging other than the dirt in the big kiva. But just to be sure, Jenny took an inspection tour of the entire pueblo, checking for signs of recent pothunting. There were none.
She returned to the central kiva and stared into the open pit, searching for a way down into the deep hole. Sure enough, there were muddy footprints along a buckled seam in the wall where some vandal had climbed in. If she was careful and took her time, she could probably use the same route.
As Jenny got down on her hands and knees and then reached her leg tentatively over the edge of the hole, she wondered if this was the smartest thing for her to be doing. What if she fell? What if the pothunters came back? She would be in a very precarious position.
Jenny looked around at the crumbling interior of the pueblo and brushed her long red hair back along her shoulders. She did not have to take this kind of risk; it sure as hell was not in her job description. In the end, she let her indignation get the best of her and she climbed into the kiva. She was going to nail these pothunting bastards.
The climb was easier than she expected; there were plenty of hand holds for her to grab. She jumped down the last couple of feet and landed next to the bottom half of a brightly-decorated water vase. The symmetrical black and white triangles adorning the outside of the jug were clearly the work of the Kayenta Anasazi.
Jenny bent over to pick up the shattered pot and her eyes settled on a large excavation partially uncovering a burial unlike and she had ever encountered. She walked around the dirt that had been shoveled out of the elaborate grave. Inside the tomb was a burial fit for a king. There were the broken tops of water jugs and baskets, stone animal effigies, and grass mats of many colors and sizes. And there were items which Jenny could not even begin to fathom, things she had never seen – not even in pictures. Many of the visible pieces had been smashed by the shovels of the impatient looters. The entire tomb seemed to be packed with ceremonial artifacts, but only the first foot or so had been unearthed.
Why would anyone abandon such a treasure trove of Indian wares? They wouldn’t! Not unless they were interrupted by someone.