The San Juan County Historical Society and Aztec Museum & Pioneer Village are partnering together to present “Message in a Viga: Historic Inscriptions at the Aztec West Great House.” This is a free program presented by Fred Blackburn with Victoria Atkins and Logan Dean on Wednesday, November 15, 2023 at 6pm at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington Street, Farmington, NM.
Since 1986, Colorado historian and author Fred Blackburn has researched historical inscriptions throughout the Four Corners. Sometimes thought of as graffiti, inscriptions within an historic context can offer invaluable insights into the history of archeological investigations as well as public visitation and regional settlement.
At his current project at Aztec Ruins National Monument, Blackburn and his team have so far documented approximately 1,800 inscriptions on the wooden roof beams--vigas--and stone walls of the 12th century Aztec West great house. In addition to establishing a contextual database with photographs, the end goal is to track down biographic details of the inscribers, many of whom based their homes in San Juan County. These inscriptions create a unique time capsule of 19th and 20th-century San Juan County.
Celebrating its centennial this year, Aztec Ruins National Monument is made up of 400 masonry rooms and is an ancestral pueblo structure that dates back to the 11th to the 13th centuries. White settlers named them after mistakingly believing they were built by the Aztecs from central Mexico. When early visitors gained entry into rooms, scattering debris several feet deep, they could stand and leave inscriptions with a quill pen and ink or lead pencil on the vigas or latillas that make up the ceilings. As the ruins have since been excavated and restored, those inscriptions are difficult for today’s visitors to see. Blackburn’s team will cover the challenges and their methods to overcome them while completing the project.
The stories and scientific research by Blackburn’s team is providing an important legacy of information about that era of settlers and visitors to the ruins.
For more information, contact Joan Monninger at the Aztec Museum & Pioneer Village at 505-334-9829 or email email@example.com.
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