Pueblo of Pojoaque, New Mexico

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Road crews widening a highway across tribal land inadvertently destroyed up to 46 percent of a 19th century Spanish colonial settlement early this year, state officials said. A damage assessment by the Museum of New Mexico says the site along U.S. 84-285 was once used as a trash deposit for settlers during the Santa Fe Trail era between 1821 and 1850, and archaeologists consider it a potential treasure trove of information. The assessment found between 39 and 46 percent of the site was damaged in January. The state Highway and Transportation Department is bound by laws against disclosing details of the site to protect it from looters and others who could further damage it, Highway Secretary Pete Rahn said. "It wasn't a burial ground or a living habitat area - it was a junk pile, but the law doesn't give us exemptions." Rahn said the damage was a case of miscommunication. "There was a warning and there has been disciplinary action," said Rahn, who refused to say who had been disciplined or how because of employee confidentiality rules. Rahn said seminars designed to help contractors and state employees avoid culturally sensitive areas are scheduled in June and attendance is required.