It seems the whole world has by now heard of Forest Fenn’s Treasure, hidden somewhere north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. A chest full of coins, nuggets, gems, and artifacts. Roll d20 to find out how many healing potions are in there, too.
His is not the only treasure purposely hidden in modern times, with clues given out to spur fortune-seekers into outdoor action in which they might otherwise engage; H Charles Beil is one other guy who I can think of that is also doing this.
Other than perhaps the contents of the caches that folks like Fenn and Beil see fit to conceal, these sort of things are much less interesting to me, personally, since they lack the bite of true historical discovery. Putting together a 200 year old tale with signs from the field – sign me up! Someone like me plunking some coins down in the middle of nowhere within view of some stone arch and then releasing a bunch of clever clues starting at the local 7-Eleven on Brown street – meh.
The publicized treasure hunt scheme is not a new one. Growing up in Central Oregon, there was a recurring radio contest sponsored by Schlitz malt liquor, often aired in conjunction with promotion of the annual rodeo season, that gave out clues to a stash of cash hidden somewhere in the local area. As it turns out, these caches were usually found, so maybe all the Fenn devotees do have a chance.
Well, here is a take on the “Home of Brown” clue from Fenn’s poem that you may or may not have heard yet. You may be surprised that I don’t have a strong take on what the clue means, but the historical context of the information I am about to provide seems to fit to a tee the life orientation of Mr. Fenn, who spent much of his life in the Spanish-speaking Southwest digging up old pueblos and native artifacts. There is also an ironic twist to the information I’ll share, the full depth of which was, admittedly, served up mostly fully-formed by a fellow named Tom Mahood. His site is http://www.otherhand.org/, and he’s been at blogging for quite a while, on a variety of topics.
Home of Brown == Casa Moreno in Spanish, more or less.
As it turns out, this is a pueblo which did not exist.
Let me explain.
The ancient Chaco culture, centered in Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico is definitely something that would have occupied, if not dominated, Mr. Fenn’s thoughts and actions back in his days of active collecting. The Chacoan people left behind some fascinating ruins and some odd things, such as their “roads” which radiate out from their center of activity around Pueblo Bonito, shown below.
My personal favorite feature of the Chacoan style are the occasional intentional imperfections that they build into their otherwise magnificently well-made structures. These imperfections in the walls are minor things like a single, jagged stone protruding or a small hole through which the outside can be seen, and they occur on both interior and exterior walls. Certainly, they must be intentional features, perhaps with mystic implications, as they are so out of character with the majority of the quality of construction. Sometimes they are placed down low, sometimes up high, and there is no apparent pattern to their placement.
Getting back to Mr. Fenn and the treasure that you are probably more interested in, we look at the old map that Tom Mahood dug up depicting the original establishment of the Chaco Monument. The image is low resolution, but you can see that they show a Chacoan outlier named Casa Moreno in T17N R10W, which is of course off-view from the main map. The government went so far as to withdraw this land for other uses and incorporated it into the monument.
So, here is what Tom Mahood figured out: essentially, there is no Casa Moreno ruin! Or, at the very least, the location of Casa Moreno is not where it was officially said to be. Perhaps someone smarter than me studying this angle can use some aspect of the story of Casa Moreno to better interpret that part of Fenn’s poem.
So, wow, the government withdrew a quarter square mile of public land for… nothing. So surprising. If we look at the location in Google Earth today, we see there are no apparent ruins, and since the Casa Moreno ruins were described as being equal to or greater than the Kin Ya-a ruins, this shows that the Casa Moreno ruins, at least as originally located, never existed. It seems that Kin Ya-a is now officially off-limits to us lowly Citizens, so coming up with your own comparison in person is now technically illegal.
Tom’s research dug up, no pun intended, a statement by an archaeologist indicating a theory that the real location of Casa Moreno was supposed to have been a place now called Casamero, 20 miles distant, shown in Google Earth in the image below. This theory seems a bit fishy, but, hey, someone with bureaucratically-anointed authority declared it to be so, and “case closed” now, right?
In conclusion, when Mr. Fenn’s poem “clue” says “put in below the Home of Brown”, what does this mean?
Is the confusion over the phantasmal Casa Moreno Chacoan outlier ruin a clue to ignore this line of the poem, as it may refer to something that at at the very least was confused, or in the limit actually never existed?
Or, is the declared “real” location of Casa Moreno at the present-day Casamero ruin near Thoreau, NM something important to use in trying to solve Fenn’s riddle?
Or, is this just an interesting historical/archaeological tidbit where the name Casa Moreno matching with Home of Brown is merely incidental, and Forrest may not even have been aware of this saga of confusion?
If Forrest was as deep into local archaeology as it seems, then he’s likely aware of the Casa Moreno confusion. Question is: did he use this in his poem? Quien Sabe?
Good luck to the Seekers