Nature and Culture, Fire and Ice: The Caves of El Malpais National Monument


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2019: General Sessions" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Cave surveys and archaeological inventories conducted over the course of six months of over 40 caves at El Malpais National Monument have revealed both ritualistic and utilitarian purposes. Located in northwestern New Mexico, the monument, largely composed of multiple lava fields is within the larger Zuni-Bandera volcanic flow. Hundreds of recorded archaeological sites ranging from prehistoric campsites and stone circles to elaborate Chacoan-style greathouses and kivas have been identified within the monument. There are over 300 recorded lava tubes, consisting of unique microclimates, habitats, geological features, and are valuable sources for other climatic, natural, and cultural data. These caves, in particular those containing perennial ice, host an array of rock alignments, pottery and lithic scatters, were utilized for water collection, refrigeration, and ritualistic uses. Looking at the larger archaeological picture, there is a clear connection between many cave and surface sites, and a difference in cave usage practices depending on where a site is in the park. The region is steeped in native creation legends and a rich archaeological history that is little understood as to how it directly relates to the park's geological and cultural landscapes, the caves, and the nearby sacred site of Mount Taylor.

Cite this Record

Nature and Culture, Fire and Ice: The Caves of El Malpais National Monument. Jennifer McCrackan, Nick Poister, Charles P. Jackson, Eric Weaver. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449728)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -124.365; min lat: 25.958 ; max long: -93.428; max lat: 41.902 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 25759