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Salmon Ruins are the excavated ruins of a pre-historic Anasazi settlement located on the northern bank of the San Juan River in New Mexico. Excavated between 1970 and 1978, under the direction of Dr. Cynthia Irwin-Williams, Salmon Ruins was built around 1088 A.D. and is believed to be what archaeologists call a Chacoan outlier. An outlier is one of many distant communities closely associated with the major cultural center of Chaco Canyon, which in Salmon's case lies 45 miles to the south. An ancestral pueblo site, Chacoan influence is easily seen in Salmon's core-and-veneer masonry walls, foundations, doorways, and large symmetrically arranged rooms. In its initial occupation, Salmon consited of three stories comprising 250 rooms and two kivas, one centrally located and one in the plaza. Thanks to midden depositional sequences and diagnostic ceramic types, researchers were able to ascertain that Salmon was virtually abandoned between AD 1130 and AD 1185, at a time when the area experienced a sixty year summer drought. When it was reoccupied, the new tenants were culturally different from the Chacoan Family.

This latest period of occupation, which lasted until approximately 1280 A.D., consisted of peoples from the Mesa Verde and/or San Juan cultural groups. Ceramic assemblages left behind weren't the only clues indicative of a different culture; these people changed everything in the previous Chacoan rooms. The number of kivas increased from two to ten and the formerly large rooms were now subdivided into multiple "apartments". Both groups depended on crops grown nearby, including the usual staples for prehistoric Native Americans i.e.,corn, beans and squash. Local game like rabbit and deer and wild edible plants helped sustain families in good times and may very well have been the demise of same in bad times. End the end, "environmental deterioration and climatic change" were the major reasons this site was abandoned.

Located just west of Bloomfield, New Mexico, Salmon Ruins is named for George Salmon, who owned the property in the late 1800s. In 1969, the San Juan County Museum Association purchased the land and in 1973 the Salmon Ruins Museum opened, followed in 1990 by Heritage Park, which compliments the ruins with outdoor exhibits and reconstructed habitations. Salmon Ruins was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.


Baker, Larry L. 1989 Salmon Ruin Historic Structure Report

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