In July, 2019, professor Robert J. Stokes PhD of Eastern New Mexico University in Portales was Directing Archaeologist on an excavation of a small ruined structure located within the boundaries of City of Rocks State Park. The project's goals were to identify its walls, floors, and the overall nature of its construction to help determine its age and the purpose for which it had originally been built. Additionally Dr. Stokes sought to assess the context of the site within the surrounding landscape.
For a full two weeks Dr. Stokes oversaw up to five ENMU students per day, with an equal number of volunteers hailing from the GCAS and elsewhere. Daytime highs between 93F and 102F impelled the crew to take frequent rests and water breaks. Crew members came and went, subject to their various schedules and heat tolerance. Unquestionably the individual working the longest and hardest under the bright New Mexico sun was Dr. Stokes himself.
This site, like so many others throughout New Mexico, showed many signs of past looting. Unsurprisingly the crew uncovered a small number of artifacts, but it appeared that it was not only looters who had picked the site clean. It seemed as if the original occupants had taken with them most everything of value when they decommissioned the structure centuries ago.
There was no evidence that any burning of the structure had occurred, such as one might find in the ritual closure of a typical Mimbres-Mogollon ceremonial structure from the earlier Pithouse Period (about 750CE - 950CE). On the other hand the crew found no evidence such as abundant remnants of charcoal or food that would have suggested the structure had been used as a habitation. However, a small number of black-and-white bowl sherds suggested that this structure dated to the transitional-to-early Classic period between about 950CE - 1060CE when Mimbreños shifted from pithouses to pueblo village construction.
The structure was backfilled after completing excavations with the help of many GCAS volunteers. State Parks may build an interpretive trail with signage at the site to educate the public about its significance and to explain why its preservation is so important.
Observations were made, opinions were exchanged, and preliminary conclusions were reached. Dr. Stokes will make his final assessment once the analyses of all the scientific data are complete, and will prepare a final report for State Parks and present findings at conferences, along with his students. We hope we may include Dr. Stokes's results right here on this website when he announces his findings.
Thank you, Dr. Stokes and crew, and City of Rocks State Park, for allowing the GCAS volunteers to help with this excavation.