The ancestral Apache and contemporaneous mobile peoples used Otero Mesa and the surrounding basins and mountain ranges throughout the late prehistoric and historic periods.
Because of its remote location the mesa represents a special part of the Apachean landscape. Otero Mesa possesses some of the most unique feature types known for these groups because of its geographic placement. The sites and features identified here have been instrumental in understanding the early presence of Apache in the Southern Southwest, in identifying new uniquely Apache feature types, and isolating changes in rock art through time. The landscape is fragile, its features rare, its remoteness astonishing.
As seventeenth-century Spanish settlers looked north from their riverside settlements they saw flickers of light in the surrounding mountains. Though no brighter than the stars in the clear desert sky, they were far more ominous because these settlers knew what they represented: fires in the encampments of the enemy — the Apache and their allies.