Experimental Archaeology 101 or Building Old School

A hallmark of a Mimbres archeological site is masonry construction.  While other cultural groups built with adobe, the Mimbres built with stone that was covered in stucco.  Evidence of this stucco was recovered from the presumptive Mimbres hamlet discovered at the Painted Pony Resort and in an effort to understand the building techniques used a replica wall was built around the wellhead and pressure tank at the Rustic Cabin on the estate.

The first step in the process was to find a suitable source of rock for the walls.  This was located at the outflow of a large arroyo on the property and a number of trips were made collecting and transporting rock to the Rustic Cabin.  The next step involved making small (1/4-1/2") gravel for inclusion in stucco mix.  Surface material from a sandy arroyo provided the starting material and after sifting out the sand, the residual small rock was collected.  Although clay pits were located, commercially prepared stucco/mortar mix was chosen as the binding/filling agent because of its longevity as opposed to using local clay which would require constant maintenance.

The site chosen for the replica walls was the well head and pressure tank at the Rustic Cabin.  After running electricity to the site for pipe heating tape, a free standing rock wall was constructed from the rocks collected previously. After a first pass on building the wall it was noted a number of openings and spaces existed.  These spaces were filled with smaller rock before applying the stucco.  Stucco was made using the small gravel mixed with mortar mix (at a ratio of 2:1, mortar to rock) and then applied by hand to all exposed cracks between the rocks inside and out.  The results of replicating a Mimbres style rock wall indicate that building rooms was a slow laborious process and partially explains the location chosen for the hamlet, with access to building materials and clay found on the east side of the San Simon riverbed.  The amount of effort taken to build this small reproduction also suggests the quality of workmanship should vary from the Mimbres field houses and hamlets when compared with the larger classic period villages.  It is only hoped the reproduction wall will be around in 800 years like the hamlet.

Stucco from the hamlet.  Note the inclusion of small rocks creating a clay based concrete.
rustic cabin well
Well head and pressure tank site

building with rocks
Free standing wall around the well head and pressure tank

rock wall
The free standing Mimbres style rock wall with locally produced rock stucco filling open spaces.


  1. Looks like you have it figured all out, what will you be up to next?

  2. Yes, the experiment in Mimbres style wall construction worked out well. The amount of rock that was required was amazing and a single person or family would have invested a significant amount of energy in building even a small room, so I suspect this was an ongoing process and included multiple families. I got side tracked on locating survey markers that define the old wolfsong ranch just to the east of PPR, which is how I found Apan.

  3. I found your blog while searching in search engines, and it is a wonderful one.

  4. Thank you, I'm pleased you enjoyed reading about life in the San Simon Valley and the Painted Pony Resort.

  5. Always love to read your blog. It's about time we headed to your side of the mountain. Do you have a contact number on your blog for reservations or maybe I should just click on the link now that I think about it.Take care and we might see soon.

  6. Glad to here ya'll enjoy the posts. The east side of the Chiricahua mountains has a slightly different flavor since the San Simon Valley is narrower than Sulphur Springs Valley, it is more personal and intimate (well as intimate as big lanscape can get). Hope to see ya'll on this side of the mountains soon.