NEXT MEETING: Wednesday, May 18, 2022, 6PM: the GCAS is thrilled to announce this year's first general meeting IN PERSON at the Roundup Lodge in San Lorenzo (Mimbres Valley) near the junction of Highways 152 and 35! Start at 6PM with your own plates/utensils/beverage & a dish for yourself or to share. Brief general meeting at 6:45 PM. Skip social time if you like but our Featured Speaker, the WNMU Museum's new Director and archaeologist, Danielle Romero, makes her presentation on Elk Ridge Ceramics at 7PM sharp. Danielle, a ceramics specialist with years of investigating Mimbres and other sites, will make her topic most engaging. Read more about Danielle here. In order to offer our members a safe and comfortable experience the GCAS follows CDC and New Mexico Department of Health guidelines for indoor gatherings including masking, distancing, and vaccinations. We recommend all attendees follow the same.

NEXT FIELD TRIP: Sunday, June 5, 2022 - Park Service-guided visit to TJ Ruin at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Meet at the Cliff Dwellings Visitor Center parking lot no later than 10:50 am, tour to begin at 11:00 am. Drive north on Highway 15/Pinos Altos Rd for about 45 miles from US 180 in Silver City. Drive can take as much as 2 hours! Site is reached via a short hike to the top of a 100 ft bluff. Site is not shaded! Dogs are not allowed on the site and cannot be left in vehicles or tied up in the parking lot. NOTE: the area is currently experiencing heavy smoke impacts from the Black Fire. Check this website and the Park Service website at https://www.nps.gov/gicl/index.htm (Alerts) the day before/morning of the field trip to see current status of the field trip and area conditions. Remember, to protect vulnerable resources we offer our field trips to members only. Members’ invited guests are welcome, as long as they ride in that member’s vehicle.

Field Trip to Indian Wells - the Petroglyph Part
How Did Mimbreño Language Sound?

Still More DNA News

image from c8.alamy.comThe GCAS prefers to restrict our blog posts to the US Southwest/Northwestern Mexico region on this here website, but we always make an exception for advances in DNA technology. From a Washington Post article dated March 15, 2019:

"One day about 200 years ago, a woman enslaved on a tobacco plantation near Annapolis tossed aside the broken stem of the clay pipe she was smoking in the slave quarters where she lived....the stem bore marks where she had clenched it in her teeth as she worked. But the stem bore something else she could never have imagined: her DNA.

This week, experts announced that DNA had been gleaned from the pipe stem and linked back to modern-day Sierra Leone, in West Africa, and probably to the Mende people who have lived there for centuries. It may be the first time a physical connection has been suggested between an ancient artifact, an American slave, and the African group from which she may have come, experts said."

Little to no documentation remains, or ever existed, about the people like her who arrived in our country by force and in chains. This new forensic breakthrough is working to restore the legacy of these Americans and inform their descendant communities about their lives. What does this have to do with amateur archaeology in the US Southwest? These advances in DNA technology may soon be applied to even older artifacts from our region, where people migrated in and out for centuries with little to no documentation of their own paths. It is exciting to consider that our area's Native communities may one day benefit from new knowledge about who their ancestors were and what may have become of them.

Today's scientists no longer need a large quantity of DNA to obtain a large amount of information. They can extract DNA from a nanogram of material; by comparison a single grain of salt comprises about 58,000 nanograms. The only remaining hurdle seems to be how old a sample of material can be, without being too degraded for DNA analysis.

100_9954This Washington Post article also illustrates why it is so important to leave artifacts where you find them. Had a casual visitor picked up the fragments of that 18th-Century woman's clay pipe and taken them home for a temporary curiosity before throwing them away, all the information that forensic scientists obtained from the pieces would have been lost forever. The next broken clay pipe, potsherd, or arrow point might help identify a member of one of the many cultures here in the Americas, where they came from, and where they went.

Science is so cool.

/s/ webmaster [That image of a clay pipe up at the beginning of this post is not the clay pipe in question, but shows what a contemporaneous clay pipe may have looked like. The second image, of the potsherd, is legit local and once photographed was put right back where it had been picked up.]

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