Marc Simmons: How Pueblos stayed warm during Little Ice Age

"During the severely low temperatures this past February, I began to wonder how the Pueblo Indians long ago managed to get by when they experienced even harsher conditions. A little investigation on my part turned up some answers.

A time or two in this column, I have written about what scientists now call the "Little Ice Age" that blanketed New Mexico and upper North America during the entire colonial period. But here, I want to focus on specific ways that the Pueblo people responded to these prolonged weather crises.

The best sources of information come from 16th- and 17th-century Spanish chroniclers. They left us valuable comments on the bitter cold that beset the New Mexico province.

The first question that comes to mind is: How effective were the multi-storied adobe dwellings of the Indians in providing shelter from the pervasive cold?

With an abundance of fuel, the small apartments in a pueblo could have been made bearable. However, after generations of residents had drawn upon local resources, the land round-about a village tended to be stripped of trees and woody shrubs.

That meant extended hikes to distant areas for firewood. Lacking draft animals and carts, the Pueblos were obliged to carry home the harvested wood on their backs. The early Spanish colonists relieved that burden by making available donkeys and ox carts."

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Marc Simmons: How the Pueblos kept warm (The Santa Fe New Mexican 4/2)

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