This is a fascinating place partly because it is on a fuzzy boundary between the ancestral Mogollon and the ancestral Puebloan peoples. Even more interesting is it was reported to have been constructed atop a Chaco (http://www.nps.gov/chcu/index.htm ) era site. The Dittert site was also reported to be occupied in the 13th century until 1276 C.E. at which time a region-wide mega-drought occurred. At the same time Aztec Ruins National Monument ( http://www.nps.gov/azru/index.htm ), the sequel to Chaco NHP, also depopulates. Hard to access mesa-top and cliff sites also appear throughout the area around this time.
The ruin is an L-shaped masonry structure that was originally two stories high and consisted of 30-35 rooms and a circular room. The site was named after Alfred "Ed" Dittert Jr. who along with R.J. Ruppe Jr. excavated it between 1947 and 1949. The two men recorded eight rooms and a "kiva". All the rooms were built close together, with the kiva incorporated into the building. The walls are made of compound masonry with "pecked" sandstone (worked by hand so the rocks are uniform). Is the Dittert Site a Chacoan Great House? Dr. Dittert thought not.
This site may well have been occupied in Chaco times (900 - 1100 CE). Some believe some of the adjacent Acoma ancestors migrated from Chaco and settled here resulting in higher populations in the 1200s. Aztec and this site may be related. Why did the site depopulate? Some say ancestral puebloans migrated, as they had for thousands of years. Others add that the severe drought of the 1270s may have ended a Chaco/Aztec style hierarchy and its resource intensive society - including Great Houses. Some suggest a revolt against this heirarchy and a subsequent change to egalitarian life more like the modern puebloans.
One researcher suggested that the Chaco elites moved north to Aztec around the 1130s, then south along a nearly perfect north-south line in the 1270s, and eventually arrived in northern Chihuahua to impact the great site of Paquime in the 14th century. This line passes right through this area. Do you think Chacoan migrations may have passed or stayed here? Mexican native stories and Ancestral Puebloan stories both refer to migrations out of this area and into Mexico.
The law requires all archaeological sites be left undisturbed. Even moving or possessing a tiny pot sherd is illegal. Everything in the site is protected. By leaving everything undisturbed future and present researchers can find valuable clues to how these ancestors survived amid drought and social upheaval. Visit with respect ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJXh9fFCpOs ). Leave it as you find it, so modern peoples can learn and benefit.
Those that are interested in wilderness will find the wildflowers and birding rewarding. Those that like to explore wilderness will enjoy the easy access, the nearby sandstone cliffs and the Armijo Canyon. Once finished exploring the Dittert site, the opportunities are boundless for hiking off trail in wilderness.
Safety There is the possibility of encountering cactus, rattlesnakes, and other wildlife on the hike. Watch where you step. The ground can be unstable - especially crossing a large arroyo. This area is not recommended when there is the possibility of flash flooding. If the arroyo fills, wait until it empties before crossing. Wear clothing and sturdy footwear to protect from the elements and carry water. The walk is slightly sloped.
Directions From I-40 exit 89 head south on State Road 117 past the campground then the arch for a total of 26 miles to County road 41 (dirt). Turn at the Wild Horse Estates sign and leave the pavement. (If this turn is missed, you will curve to the west and in 2 miles see the Chain of Craters Back country Byway sign for County Road 42. Turn around and go back to CR 41. Head south for 3.5 miles on maintained gravel road. Opposite the York Ranch sign and headquarters entrance head east past the Armijo Canyon sign on a sandy unmaintained 2-track . Drivers with low clearance, 2 wheel drive should be skilled in driving on un-maintained 2 track. There are a few rutted places with mushy sand. Go 1.3 miles to the wilderness boundary fence and park. The Dittert site is visible on a 45 degree bearing about 400 yards away. (the wilderness boundary fence runs north - south. Bicycles and motorized vehicles are prohibited in wilderness.