Dicke, Robert J. (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume XLIV (1955)
McCabe, Robert A.
The prehistoric engineer-farmers of Chihuahua, pp. 75-90 PDF (6.1 MB)
78 Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters [Vol. 44 Gavilan".8 Other writers, Carl Lumholtz,9 Henry A. Carey1° and W. J. McGee," have also observed these structures and recorded their presence. Lumholtz, in his two volume work Unknown Mexico, gives a rough descriptive outline of where these trincheras occur in northwest Mexico. It appears that our Gavilan camp was in the center of the trinchera country. One could not travel long in the Gavilan watershed without encountering these landmarks. They were built on all types of slope. Those in narrow steep-sided ravines were necessarily narrow and taller (3 to 4 feet) than those found in places of low gradient where the dams were often very long but only 1 to 2 feet high. There was a remnant of a dam about a mile down the river from our camp where only the anchor ends of the structure remained. It may well have been part of an impounding wall that cut across the main river channel. It was the only one to suggest that such dams may have been employed to hold water. Frequently the dams were constructed in a series one behind the other, creating between them a terrace effect reminiscent of the ancient Inca terraces. In one instance on a large mesa above our camp I found a series of four dams protruding above the turf to the height of one stone. Behind these dams was a pear-shaped meadow of about 10—15 acres surrounded by tall yellow pines. Another series on the same mesa in a somewhat narrow draw had spacing between the dams of 8, 16, and 34 feet. This doubling of the spacing was hardly accidental. In several instances a large heap of stones of the size used in dam building was found at the base of a ravine in the side of a mesa. It is possible, because of the steep slopes, that some time in the past one of the dams washed out. One needs only to be caught in the torrential downpours that drench this country during the rainy season to be convinced that such is likely. Once dislodged the building stones could roll down the ravine like so much talus. I found no such stones that could have been considered natural talus. This heap of like-sized stones might also be the remains of a lookout hut built on the mesa edge and washed into the ravine by the slow erosion of the mesa rim. Several ruins of possible dwellings or shelters were found at vantage points on mesa tops and 8Aldo Leopold. A Sand County Almanac, Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 1949, pp. 149—154. ° Carl Lumholtz. Unknown Mexico. 2 vols. Charles Scribners Sons, New York, 1 902. 10Henry A. Carey. "An analysis of northwestern Chihuahua culture", Am. Anthropologist, Vol. 33, 1931. "Lumholtz (ibid., p. 22, vol. 1) states that W. J. McGee saw them on his expedition of 1895. The reference was not explicit and I was unable to locate it for a direct quotation.
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