Texas Sites

Radio Program | Hot Well Fact Sheet | Printable version

Hot Well Pueblo


Fort Bliss, northeast of El Paso


  • People of the Jornada Branch of the Mogollon Culture, which covered southern New Mexico, western Texas, and northern Chihuahua
  • Early farming culture, growing beans, squash, corn, and other crops
  • Inhabited around 1200-1300; region mostly abandoned by 1400, perhaps because of severe drought

The Site

A one-story pueblo of about 100 rooms. The structure has eroded away, leaving only the foundations, which are buried beneath the shifting dunes. Most of the rooms are aligned east-to-west, with doorways in the south walls. Most rooms were built with central hearths, which probably ventilated through holes in thatched rooms.

Several other pueblos, all of which were inhabited at around the same time, have been discovered in the El Paso region as well.

Astronomical Significance

A room designated Room One is different from the other rooms at Hot Well. It opens to the east, and its hearth is raised. The hearth also is decorated with a possible Sun symbol. Some archaeologists hypothesize that the room served as a solar observatory, because on the dates of the equinoxes, an observer sitting behind the hearth would see the Sun rise directly above the hearth through a notch in the nearby Hueco mountains. Sunrise on the summer and winter solstices could be observed by standing in the corners of the room and looking above the hearth.

Many other pueblo cultures have had designated “sunwatchers” to track the Sun’s annual motion across the horizon. In the case of Hot Well, the typical date of the last freeze is around the time of the spring equinox, so knowing when the equinox occurred could have told the inhabitants that it was safe to plant their crops.

Public Access

Because Hot Well is on a military site, it is not accessible to the public.

The people of Hot Well and other pueblos probably hunted and gathered water, and may have painted glyphs, at nearby Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, 6900 Hueco Tanks Rd. #1, El Paso, 79938, 915-857-1135. The park is located off US 62/180 24 miles east of El Paso, then 8 miles north on FM 2775. Daily guided rock-art tours are offered by reservation. Hueco Tanks is open Wednesday-Sunday, but access is limited.

Exhibits on local Indian cultures are available at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology at Wilderness Park [www.epas.com/museum.htm], 4301 Transmountain Rd., El Paso, 79924, 915-755-4332. Hours: 9-5 Tuesday-Saturday. Free admission (donations welcome).

References, Resources

An El Paso Astronomical Observatory, by Vernon Ralph Brook, in Jornada Mogollon Archaeology, Patrick H. Beckett and Regge N. Wiseman, editors, 1979.

Learn about...Texas Indians, by Georg Zappler; Texas Parks & Wildlife Press, 1996.
A learning and activity book for children.

The Indians of Texas: From Prehistoric to Modern Times, by W.W. Newcomb Jr.; the University of Texas Press, 1961, reprinted 2002.

Texas Beyond History: Firecracker Pueblo
Information on another Jornada Mogollon pueblo near El Paso


Equinox sunrise from Room One

A pottery fragment at Hot Well

Rows of pebbles atop Hot Well ruins

Pottery sherds at Hot Well

Desert vegetation at Hot Well

Made possible by a grant from Humanities Texas, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities

Texas Native Skies is a production of StarDate Online. Copyright ©2004-05 The University of Texas McDonald Observatory