1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Casas Grandes

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CASAS GRANDES (“Great Houses”), a small village of Mexico, in the state of Chihuahua, situated on the Casas Grandes or San Miguel river, about 35 m. S. of Llanos and 150 m. N.W. of the city of Chihuahua. The railway from Ciudad Juarez to Terrazas passes through the town. It is celebrated for the ruins of early aboriginal buildings still extant, about half a mile from its present site. They are built of “sun-dried blocks of mud and gravel, about 22 in. thick, and of irregular length, generally about 3 ft., probably formed and dried in situ.” The walls are in some places about 5 ft. thick, and they seem to have been plastered both inside and outside. The principal edifice extends 800 ft. from north to south, and 250 ft. east to west; its general outline is rectangular, and it appears to have consisted of three separate piles united by galleries or lines of lower buildings. The exact plan of the whole is obscure, but the apartments evidently varied in size from mere closets to extensive courts. The walls still stand at many of the angles with a height of from 40 to 50 ft., and indicate an original elevation of several storeys, perhaps six or seven. At a distance of about 450 ft. from the main building are the substructions of a smaller edifice, consisting of a series of rooms ranged round a square court, so that there are seven to each side besides a larger apartment at each corner. The age of these buildings is unknown, as they were already in ruins at the time of the Spanish Conquest. The whole district of Casas Grandes is further studded with artificial mounds, from which are excavated from time to time large numbers of stone axes, metates or corn-grinders, and earthern vessels of various kinds. These last have a white or reddish ground, with ornamentation in blue, red, brown or black, and are of much better manufacture than the modern pottery of the country. Similar ruins to those of Casas Grandes exist near the Gila, the Salinas, and the Colorado and it is probable that they are all the erections of one people. Bancroft is disposed to assign them to the Moquis.

See vol. iv. of H. H. Bancroft’s The Native Races of the Pacific States of North America, of which the principal authorities are the Noticias del Estado de Chihuahua of Escudero, who visited the ruins in 1819; an article in the first volume of the Album Mexicano, the author of which was at Casas Grandes in 1842; and the Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora and Chihuahua (1854), by John Russell Bartlett, who explored the locality in 1851.