Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pueblo Revolt Treasure Caches in New Mexico?

Intrepid Adventurers but Cruel Taskmasters

By 1598 the Spanish had already established a number of small colonies in New Mexico with those at modern-day Albuquerque (Central New Mexico) and Santa Fe (Northern New Mexico) being the most significant. Always intrepid adventurers and fearless warriors, the Spanish could be (and in many instances were) harshly cruel taskmasters who held native peoples in low regard and often did their best to stamp out native Indian religions and culture.

In Northern and Central New Mexico the Spanish seized Indian land and crops, controlling the local Pueblo tribes with an iron fist and embarking them on a sad journey that often included forced labor (if not outright enslavement in certain instances) and a range of cultural and personal depredations. Early attempts at revolt by the various Pueblo tribes strung out along the Rio Grande River were suppressed quickly, efficiently, and brutally by the Spanish.

The Pueblo Revolt of 1680

On August 10, 1680, all the Pueblo tribes except one revolted under Pope's plan and leadership. They attacked all the northern settlements, killed every Spaniard they came across (including women and children), destroyed homes and farms, took horses and guns, and burned churches along the way. For a short while Spanish survivors huddled within the adobe walls of the larger settlement at Santa Fe, but fled south when the Indians approached.

Treasure Hunting
Gold Concentrators
Metal Detectors

It would be another 12 years before the Spanish returned in force to Central and Northern New Mexico, but this time they had learned a hard lesson and were not so quick to assume their previous extraordinarily harsh rule over the Pueblos.

Many Small Caches were Buried

Although the Spanish living in the smaller settlements of Northern and Central New Mexico were mostly poor and living on hunting and subsistence farming, there were "wealthier" citizens (including the governor) living in Santa Fe and in Albuquerque. As Pope and his warriors approached everyone fled south, each individual carrying only what they could on their person or, if they were more fortunate, what items could be lashed to a horse or a carreta, or cart.

Undoubtedly, the Spanish settlers buried many small-to-medium sized caches near homesites or other nearby locations in their haste to flee the vengeful Pueblo tribes. What sort of caches? Heirlooms brought from Spain, some jewelry, a few silver and gold coins, personal items of meaning and value, documents, you name it. Granted, nothing on the monetary scale of, say, a Victorio Peak treasure, but from the archaeological and historical perspectives such items could prove "priceless" to those who ultimately hold possession of them.

Where to Look

The obvious question to ask about the possibility of finding a Pueblo Revolt treasure cache is "where do I look?" Obviously, the odds of coming across such a cache by sheer luck is slim indeed without the prime ingredient for any treasure hunt. Research. Yep, there's that word again. But like it or not, research is once again the key to success, especially in this context.

If I were interested (and I am) in researching leads for a possible Pueblo Revolt treasure cache where would I start my research? In the State of New Mexico Archives and Library in Santa Fe (by the way, the Historical Archives contain records dating back to 1621). Can't drive, fly, or walk to my neck of the woods (I live just outside Santa Fe)? Then follow this link (sorry, but you'll have to copy and paste this URL):

Who knows what you may turn up through diligent research on the subject of the Pueblo Revolt and the rapid flight of the Spanish from Northern and Central New Mexico....

Good hunting!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Spanish Silver and Gold in Cass County, Missouri"

(c) J.R. 2008

Questions? E-mail me at