By Michael Bletzer, Ph.D.
Already so far in 2016, several sessions of wall-tracing, mapping, and excavation tests at the Ancestral A’tzi-em/Piro pueblo of Tzelaqui/Sevilleta have yielded some surprising results, most notably the discovery of a compound of Spanish buildings that most likely represent the remains of the mission of San Luis Obispo, established in 1627/28 and destroyed in 1681.
The Spanish compound is located on the southwestern periphery of the pueblo’s main plaza, about 100 m away from the mound traditionally thought to have been the mission. That mound instead has turned out to be a pueblo roomblock, somewhat isolated from and built later than the rest of pueblo (all the ceramics on that mound date to the mid- to later 1600s) and containing some rooms with Spanish features.
The likely mission compound comprises a rectangular structure with adobe-mortared rock walls, which measures 13×5 m on the inside on an east-west alignment, and a large building just to the west, which contains about 10 to 15 rooms and whose walls contain both rocks and mold-made adobe bricks. A rock wall connects the two buildings. With a possible eastern entrance and apparent lack of interior cross-walls, the first structure (labeled IIIE) has the appearance of a small church or chapel with a simple single-nave rectangular layout. An initial small excavation test inside this structure already has produced a posthole with a burnt post measuring 19 cm in diameter. Wall-tracing also shows that the chapel sits at least partly on top of an earlier adobe wall, which perhaps represent some older pueblo rooms.
The adjacent structure (labeled Area III) is probably the convento associated with the chapel. The corner of one room in this structure appears to be defined by an adobe-collared fireplace. Fill in some rooms contains possible sheep/goat bones. All the ceramics associated with these structures are of 17th-century association.
I’m planning another weekend session for May 7/8 to continue mapping and trace more walls. I’d also like to define the entrance to the chapel and do a little experiment with the copious wall rubble. The plan for the latter is to stack rocks south of the chapel on one or more 10m-lines as wide as the chapel walls. By measuring volume, we will have some idea as to how high the chapel walls may have been built primarily of rocks.
For more information, including photos of this and other projects, see the facebook page “La provincia de los Piros” at www.facebook.com/Atzigues. Reports, papers, and suchlike relating to the Piro research can be found at www.researchgate.net/profile/Michael_Bletzer