Cultural Resource Inventory V: A Mimbres Post Classic Hamlet

The earliest evidence of habitation found on the the Painted Pony Ranch and Resort is a small 30 room presumptive Mimbres hamlet.  At first glance the site appears nothing more than a mass of rocks (photograph 1) but closer examination revealed several stone room outlines with 2 different orientations (photograph 2).  The possibility of a habitation site along the San Simon River was reinforced by an examination of water flow patterns along the riverbed as seen on Google Earth (photograph 3).  Water from the San Simon and the Chiricahua mountains (Horseshoe canyon, Sulphur Canyon, and Cave Creek Canyon) met just upstream of the current location of the hamlet.  This would have ensured a water supply for agricultural activities along this segment of the San Simon River.  A simple survey, using GPS, was initiated on the site locating evidence of room corners and identifying room block outlines (photograph 4).  The room outlines were in 2 distinct orientations.  Three rooms (yellow) were orientated at about 50 degrees while the more numerous room blocks (red) were orientated almost due north.  This is consistent with the reorganization phase of the Mimbres culture after 1150 CE where field houses (yellow rooms) were enlarged and new buildings erected (red room blocks) as the Mimbres moved out of the large villages and dispersed across the landscape.

A number of circular rock features were also observed on the site and when mapped these circular rock features appeared to delineate another room block (photographs 3 and 5).  Mimbres structures were stone whereas other cultural groups relied on adobe as a building material.  A room block with only corners of stone suggest a transition in local building styles in the post classic period in the San Simon Valley.  Either due to possible decreased labor costs in adobe walled buildings or a local adaptation to building techniques used by other cultural groups (perhaps Hohokam) during the reorganization phase.

In addition to presumptive room blocks, 2 clay pits were identified next to the hamlet where material for walls and pottery was mined.  Two digging tools were found in association with these clay pits, both large modified flakes which would allow easy removal of clay used in siding stone walls (photograph 6).

Although no diagnostic pottery was recovered from a surface search, shell, scrapers, and flaking cores were recovered.  The lack of ceramics suggests this site was either a short term occupation or was occupied by a group with little material goods.

Panorama of hamlet. The small rise denotes the hamlet location.

Room outline approximately 15' x 18'.  The yucca may mark the location of the rooms center post.

Drainage patterns upstream of hamlet.

GPS locations showing room block outlines and other features.
mimbres hamlet wall feature
Circular rock feature forming part of a room block outline.
mimbres clay pit
Clay pit with in situ digging tool.


  1. Very interesting! I enjoyed going to the hamlet to see for myself.

  2. As I look out from the hamlet I always wonder what the valley looked like 800 years ago. In any event, it is another project completed, now on to the next idea.