Lowry Pueblo will undergo stabilization work this month in collaboration with the Zuni Tribe, Canyons of Ancients National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park.
The 1,000-year-old Great Kiva and Great House have a peculiar moisture problem that has caused erosion at its base.
Stone blocks will be replaced, and new mortar will be added.
The issue rose from an unintended consequence of installing a roof structure above the site in 2003, said monument archaeologist Vince MacMillan.
While the roof effectively protected the pueblo from the elements, it created a “dry sink” that has slowly drawn in moisture from beyond the roof line.
“Over time, the moisture has passed through the basal masonry stones, bringing salt with it,” MacMillan said.
The salt deposits and effects of freeze-and-thaw cycles have slowly caused decay of the stones and mortar at the base layers of walls in the Great Kiva and Great House.
Crews will also reattach capstones on walls that came loose after the big snowfalls of the 2018-2019 winter. Vegetation that has taken root inside the structure also will be removed.
The project has a budget of $40,000.
Mortar will be made on-site from soils, just as Ancestral Puebloans would have done. Masonry stones will be replaced with other stones previously excavated from the site.
The project is expected to last three to four weeks and involve archaeologists and masons from Mesa Verde National Park, monument staff and Zuni youths in the Ancestral Lands Southwest Conservation Corp.
Involving the Zuni Tribe, which has ancestral ties to prehistoric sites on the monument, is a big part of the project, MacMillan said.
“Our goal is to reestablish tribal relations with monument resources,” he said. “They are the descendants of this area, and working to preserve these sites provides a more personal experience than looking at a place on a map.”
The monument regularly consults with elders and tribal leaders with ties to the area. Focusing on youth participation is key to passing on the historical significance of Native American culture.
“Involving tribal youths has a positive impact on their identity,” MacMillan said. “They visit sites where their ancestors invented farming techniques, water engineering and villages.”
Lowry Ruin is one of 13 sites the public is encouraged to visit when they visit the monument. The interpretive site will remain open as stabilization work is done, but certain areas will be blocked off.
Stabilization workers will practice COVID-19 protection protocols, and additional portable potties will be used to reduce their exposure to visiting tourists.