Back to Back to Back Field Trip Reports - Part IV: Gila River Farm's Excavation
Our previous post featured the fine work that Archaeology Southwest Field School students display as part of their public outreach duties. The second portion of the June 29, 2019, GCAS field trip to the Gila River Farm included a tour of this season's Field School excavations. Of particular interest was evidence the Field School uncovered of cultural convergence. In a multi-room pueblo complex, the crew found artifacts of various 14th-Century Puebloan cultures including Mimbres-Mogollon (with their distinctive wall and floor construction features), and Kayenta (with their unique ceramics including Kayenta perforated plates). It became clear from the excavations that people of different cultures, practices, and languages, migrating in and out of the region, found ways to live and work together long-term. We in the 21st Century could take a lesson.
Directing Preservation Archaeologist Karen Schollmeyer PhD and Preservation Fellow Leslie Aragon aptly demonstrated to the crowd the concept of preservation archaeology with their tour of this season's Field School excavations. Their crew meticulously excavated only select portions of the site so that future archaeologists have the opportunity to examine undisturbed areas and arrive at their own conclusions from their own research. The 2019 Field School will re-bury materials they have excavated instead of simply transporting everything they uncover to a museum for storage. In this way future archaeologists will have access to the same artifacts and features for study. The most valuable aspect of preservation archaeology, we learned, is the compilation of comprehensive and detailed research data so that in addition to materials left in situ, future archaeologists will have an evidentiary baseline upon which to agree - or disagree - with the archaeologists of the past.
[Above photos, L to R:] 1. Here, one partially-excavated room reveals a stone platform typical in Mimbres-Mogollon pueblos for supporting a granary (large covered pottery jar for storing grain). 2. Another room's wall base shows the Mimbres-Mogollon construction of the era, in which large stones (cemientos) were held together with adobe mud. 3. Leslie Aragon explains to the group the significance of the various layers of soil deposits, and that the crew excavated below floor level to confirm that the pueblo was built on native soil instead of any earlier habitations. 4. In another partially-excavated room, a hearth was found to have contained ashes that disclosed a wealth of information about the occupants' diet and lifestyle. 5. Moreover, Kayenta-style pottery in the form of perforated plates were uncovered in this room indicating that at least two different cultures lived in this pueblo at the same time. 6. A fragment of a well-worn metate, found in an unusually large and elongated pueblo room.
[What a perforated plate looks like. Photo via Archaeology Southwest, not from this excavation. ----> All other photos by M. Smith.]
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