Archaeologists recently discovered what may well be one of Santa Fe’s earliest streets – dating from the 1600s – while working on a dig downtown.

The New Mexico office of Archaeological Studies became involved with an area a couple of blocks east of Santa Fe Plaza, an area that Drury Southwest, a hotel chain, plans to redevelop from its former life as the St. Vincent Hospital complex. During the redevelopment process in 2008, an excavation discovered a cobbled surface four feet below grade which represents four feet and four centuries of accumulated civilization. Today’s Cienega Street area was once a spring-fed marsh.

A second archaeological dig of the area commenced in September of this year and ended on October 20th with the reburying of the site. The dig determined that the cobbled surface was a street which ran mainly north-south. The original name of the street is unknown, as are its beginning and ending points, but archaeologists believe the street ran along the path of today’s Otero Street. They surmise that street may have led to Santa Fe’s initial parroquia – a parish church. The street is not seen on the first known map of Santa Fe in 1766.

The dig exposed roughly half of what they believe to be a thoroughfare with a standard Spanish width of 7-1/2 varas (21 feet). It could be Santa Fe’s oldest street, but archaeologist Jim Moore indicated that the cobblestone is unlike European or Spanish paving techniques. “It just looks like somebody brought in a couple of loads of gravel and dumped them on the road to create a nice solid surface,” said Moore. (Santa Fe New Mexican, October 19, 2011)

Interestingly, archaeologists discovered portions of Pueblo Indian pottery, some of it glazed ware from Galisteo Pueblo and other southern villages that was no longer produced after the early 1700s. They also found types of majolica pottery from Puebla, Mexico of a type that was discontinued after the 1600s; the interpretation of these finds is that the avenue was used during Santa Fe’s first century as a Spanish city.

Another excavation a few meters away from the road surface explored a garbage pit. Several different types of objects were found, including a piece of Chinese porcelain which may have been made a century earlier than Santa Fe’s founding. Archaeologists estimate that it may have been acquired in the Philippines and was then taken by Spanish galleon to Mexico and later brought to Santa Fe by wagon along the Camino Real.

Drury Southwest is expected to retain some of the artifacts to display inside its new hotel.

Santa Fe History 101

When many people think of Santa Fe, New Mexico they think of amazing artwork, beautiful countryside, great outdoor activities and astonishingly spectacular restaurants. All of these attributes are incredibly true of Santa Fe, but were you aware that it's the oldest U.S. capital city? Dating back 400 years to its elevation to capital city status, it's filled with historic ambiance and culture. But even though Santa Fe's 400 year old road ties into the city’s prominence in the past, the city’s history is actually much richer and older.

Going back to approximately 1050 A.D., the area was originally occupied by Pueblo Indian villagers. Archaeologists concur that these villages were essentially abandoned (for unknown reasons) as early as 200 years prior to the conquistador Coronado's arrival in 1540. He claimed the area for the Spanish crown, and he didn't stop there. Coronado and his men also are credited with having discovered the Great Plains and the Grand Canyon.

Eight Indian Pueblos still exist north of Santa Fe, and there are a total of 19 pueblos across New Mexico. The rich cultural legacy of Native Americans is still in great evidence here - whether expressed in beautiful hand-crafted works of art, jewelry and clothing in local stores, via some of the many festivals which take place, or through delicious Native cuisine and their hauntingly lovely music - you can enjoy all of those aspects in modern day Santa Fe, year-round.

Fun, Cultural & Outdoor Activities and More! 

In addition to art galleries, festivals and amazing restaurants, there are several museums which can magically transport you back to a simpler day and age. Many of these offer classes, workshops, educational programs and fascinating community events. One of the city's many free walking tours is an excellent way to enlighten yourself about Santa Fe's history as well as its modern day offerings.

The area is filled with excellent outdoor activities including world-class golf and skiing & snowboarding; there's exciting river rafting; great hiking, camping and fishing; bicycling paths; numerous parks and recreation areas and more. You'll find many kids activities here, too, so there's truly something for everyone, no matter their age or interests.  Like great shopping, resorts, bed & breakfasts, performing arts centers....the list goes on.

Yes, Santa Fe's more than 400 year old history beckons you to come visit or live, learn, and enjoy its many modern day amenities.