A reassembled Payupki Polychrome bowl with animal and geometric designs inside
A Payupki Polychrome bowl

The Rio Grande pueblos were in turmoil after the success of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. That turmoil was aggravated every time the Spanish came back, and they came back in 1681, 1682, 1684, 1688 and 1692, each time attacking and burning the pueblo of Sandia. It didn't help either that the other pueblos assumed that the Sandias had been friends of the Spanish because the Spanish stopped at Sandia in their retreat from Santa Fe in 1680. Of course, as the Spanish retreated from New Mexico, they took prisoners and loot and burned the pueblos as they were passing through.

Nearly the entire population of Isleta was taken south by the retreating Spaniards. Many of those formed a pueblo at Ysleta del Sur (now inside the city limits of El Paso, TX). Some of them escaped and headed back to Isleta. Others had escaped earlier and not made the journey south. They banded together with other Tiwa speakers from the middle Rio Grande Valley and made the journey to Tusayan.

In the aftermath of the Pueblo Revolt and after each succeeding attack, whole clans and families left the Middle Rio Grande and made the journey to the Hopi mesas where they hoped to be beyond Spanish control. And they were, for more than 60 years. Then the Franciscans came.

On the Hopi mesas, the Sandias and Isletans were allowed to build a pueblo on a northern finger of Second Mesa. They named the pueblo Payupki, River House. Construction began in the early 1680's and continued for about 20 years as new families and clans arrived. The Spanish finally succeeded in reconquering the pueblos in New Mexico in 1696 and that put an end to most people leaving the Rio Grande area. Only the Southern Tewas left en masse after that.

The Spanish authorities in Santa Fe had no interest in sending troops on a long march across the desert to Tusayan, they had enough problems in New Mexico. The Franciscan fathers, though, they couldn't let it go. So in the early 1740's, a couple missionaries made the trek to find where the missing Sandias and Isletans went to and try to convince them to come back. Their timing was good: there was strife happening between Payupki and the nearby Hopi settlements of Mishongnovi and Shipaulovi. The fathers were able to convince most of the Sandias and Isletans it was time. By 1780 Payupki was completely abandoned. It has never been reoccupied.

Early on in their time at Payupki, Sandia and Isleta potters seem to have been learning from other potters in the area. They got really good at their craft and made a lot of pottery, so much pottery that the ground around their ancient ruin is still littered with pot sherds everywhere. The people of Payupki evolved their own design vocabulary and built on what they learned from the potters of Walpi and Hano. What they left behind was a multitude of new designs that have now been entered into the Hopi lexicon as "Sikyatki" designs, primarily because they were used by Nampeyo of Hano in the late 1800's and early 1900's.

The potters of Payupki also seem to have used a puki similar to that used as a base to work from by many Zuni potters. There's little known about their migration from the Rio Grande Valley to Payupki but it appears that some of them stopped at Zuni for a few years along the way.

It was pretty customary in those days for long journeys to be made between known water sources. Sometimes a group would stop for months, planting and harvesting a crop before moving on. Sometimes that stop might be for several years, and they'd build some kind of structure on the spot. Sometimes pregnant women would layover at a pueblo along the way until they were ready to travel again. Sometimes the ritual specialists accompanying a clan migration might be invited to stay somewhere along the way, too.

A big question that comes up in this is what happened to those Payupki potters who made the journey back to the Rio Grande? Those journeys didn't take years. Led back to the environs of Albuquerque by the Franciscan fathers, they were over in a couple months. And then it was years before either Isleta or Sandia Pueblo were safe to inhabit again. Neither Sandia nor Isleta pottery has reached that quality or plethora of designs and styles since.

Upper photo courtesy of the Museum of Northern Arizona

Sites of the Ancients and approximate dates of occupation:

Atsinna : 1275-1350
Awatovi : 1200-1701
Aztec : 1100-1275
Bandelier : 1200-1500
Betatakin : 1276-1300
Casa Malpais : 1260-1400
Chaco : 850-1145
Cicuye : 800-1838
Fourmile : 1276-1400
Giusewa : 1560-1680
Hawikuh : 1400-1680
Hohokam : 300-1450
Homolovi : 1100-1400
Hovenweep : 50-1350
Jeddito : 800-1700
Kawaika'a : 1375-1580
Keet Seel : 1250-1300
Kuaua : 325-1600
Mesa Verde : 600-1300
Montezuma Castle : 1200-1400
Payupki : 1680-1780
Poshuouingeh : 1375-1500
Pottery Mound : 1320-1550
Puye : 1200-1580
Sikyatki : 1375-1625
Snaketown : 300 BCE-1050
Tonto Basin : 700-1450
Tuzigoot : 1125-1400
Wupatki/Wukoki : 500-1225
Wupatupqa : 1100-1250
Yucca House : 1100-1300