NEXT MEETING: Saturday, October 21, 2023, at 6:00PM: The GCAS’s general meeting IS RESCHEDULED from the usual third Wednesday of the month to the following Saturday, October 21, 2023, beginning at 6:00PM, for a special meeting and potluck dinner at 2045 Memory Lane in Silver City to welcome visiting members of the GCAS's friends and generous supporters of our MAREC project, the Albuquerque Archaeological Society. GCAS members, please bring your finest potluck dishes to share with about 15 members of AAS who would love to meet you. As we get to know one another, there will be a slideshow presentation of either the Rock House Petroglyph Site, the Dragonfly Petroglyph Site, or both. Join us on Saturday! (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, October 22, 2023, at 10:00 AM: Due to lack of a selected destination for the usual field trip on the first Sunday of the month, October's field trip is rescheduled to October 22 when members of the Albuquerque Archaeological Society visit our area. Destination will be either Rock House Petroglyph Site in lower Mimbres Valley (pending permit approval) or Dragonfly Petroglyph Site in Arenas Valley. Watch this space as details develop.

Current Affairs

GCAS Fundraiser for WNMU Museum!

MA14The Grant County Archaeological Society’s regular monthly meeting on July 19, 2023, becomes a special fundraising event for the Western New Mexico University Museum at Fleming Hall, open to GCAS members &the general public in a hybrid in-person and Zoom event! Doors open at 5PM Mountain Daylight (Silver City) Time with a recommended $5.00 minimum donation to the WNMU Museum from in-person attendees and Zoom participants alike.

In-person attendees contribute at the door while Zoom attendees support the Museum via the GCAS's online PayPal payment portal. All donations go to the WNMU Museum.

Beginning at 5PM in-person attendees can view the Museum’s exhibits of Mimbres pottery & other artifacts. Light refreshments provided. Museum’s gift shop is open. At 6:00 PM Mountain Daylight (Silver City) Time, in-person and via Zoom, Featured Speaker USFS District Archaeologist Chris Adams introduces Mimbres Pottery - Feather Imagery. Talk will follow with in-person/online Q&A.

Museum space is limited so reserve an in-person seat or request our Zoom link by contacting the GCAS at [email protected] or by telephoning Marianne Smith at 772-529-2627. Join us in this special fundraising event for the WNMU Museum, and consider becoming a member of the GCAS yourself. The GCAS and the WNMU Museum are grateful for your support.


A Tribute to John Massey Fitch

Southwestern archaeologist Karl Laumbach was a longtime friend and colleague of John Fitch, who recently passed away. Karl has shared with us his special tribute to John Fitch's friendship and his achievements as an avocational archaeologist. Please scroll below to read Karl's remembrance of John Fitch's interesting and productive life:

John Massey Fitch

February 1, 1940 – August 21, 2023

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John Massey Fitch passed away on August 21, 2023, at the age of 83. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on February 1, 1940, John grew up in El Paso, Texas. His father, Massey Lee Fitch, served with the U.S. Immigration Service. His mother, Elizabeth Anne (Harrison) Fitch was a teacher for the elementary schools of the Ysleta Independent School District. John began his life-long fascination with archaeology when he found his first pottery sherds while exploring the desert with his father.

John enjoyed his school years and particularly remembered his 7th grade teacher’s axiom, “Well begun is half done.” John did nothing by half measures. He was always “all in” on anything he committed to.

Excelling in writing during his high school years, he won the award for the best essay in the State of Texas his senior year. Traveling to Austin to receive his prize, he fondly remembered making the trip with Dr. Charles Leland Sonnichsen, a prolific author of books on the history and folklore of the American Southwest.

Following high school he entered Texas Western University (now the University of Texas at El Paso). He graduated with a Bachelors degree in Journalism. Upon graduation, John began the two years of service in the U.S. Army required by his commitment to the ROTC program at Texas Western. He was assigned to an Army Intelligence Division as a 2nd Lieutenant, where he served as an instructor in camera technique.

Completing his commitment to the U.S. Army, John returned to El Paso where he took a job as copy editor for the El Paso Herald Post. It was while he was so employed that he saw an advertisement from the Central Intelligence Agency. He applied and was accepted. His years with the CIA are cloaked in mystery, as one might imagine. We know that for at least two years John served as a liaison for official guests to the Space Command Center in Colorado Springs. Following that assignment, he was a Senior Intelligence Official in Washington, D.C., where he was involved in compiling data and subsequent production of the morning report to the President of the United States. John served in that capacity for four U.S. Presidents (Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.) Always an avid reader of history, John’s knowledge of world affairs was deep and varied.

Retiring from the CIA in 1995, John cast about for where he might retire. He very much wanted to revive his childhood interest in archaeology and so chose Las Cruces, New Mexico. He promptly became a member of the both the Doña Ana County and El Paso Archaeological Societies. John could always be depended to drive his four-wheel drive vehicle on whatever field trip was at hand.

In 1999, he joined the Doña Ana Archeological Society in helping Karl Laumbach of Human Systems Research prepare the Victorio Site at Cañada Alamosa for excavation. The following year he was a member of a second field effort that included the first deep excavations at the Pinnacle Ruin by Dr. Stephen Lekson.

From 2001 through 2011 and beyond, John was the official project photographer, taking thousands of images. John would carefully review the images and provided a detailed photo log when the season was over. He also participated in the laboratory effort associated with the project which included ceramic and lithic analysis as well as the processing of samples of all sorts. In addition to Cañada Alamosa, John participated in a number of projects for Human Systems Research, often as the project photographer. He made friends and interacted with a wide variety of Southwestern archaeologists, assisting in Jacob Sedig’s excavations at Woodrow Ruin and funding radiocarbon dates for sites in the Mimbres Valley. In 2006, John received the Richard A. Bice Award for Archaeological Achievement from the Archaeological Society of New Mexico.

John served as the project photographer for Katy Putsavage’s excavation at the Black Mountain site from 2010 to 2012. Beyond recording the excavations, John was skilled at capturing candid photos of the crew in the field, washing artifacts, and relaxing over a meal. John was fully committed to the project and the crew. When he wasn’t photographing the site and crew, he surveyed the site for diagnostic artifacts, kept the beer fridge stocked, and carted crew and equipment to and from the site. He was a valued member of the team.

An active member and supporter of the Archaeological Society of 'New Mexico, the Grant County Archaeological Society, the Archaeological Conservancy, and Archaeology Southwest, John took part in programs and tours offered by all of the above organizations as well as the Roads Scholar Program. He was also a regular attendee of local, regional, and, occasionally, national archaeological conferences.

John was never more at home than in the field, hiking to an archaeological site or driving the back roads in his 4X4. In many ways, he was able to live his fantasy while contributing almost 30 years of his life to the pursuit of Southwestern archaeology and history. He was a blessing to the field and we miss him.

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Thank you for sharing this heartfelt tribute to John's life with us, Karl. John's passing leaves a void in our community that will be hard to fill.

Download Obituary John Massey Fitch

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Seeking Volunteers For GCAS Booth at Harvest Festival!

Saturday, 10/7/2023, 10AM-4PM,  it's the Mimbres Valley Harvest Festival at San Lorenzo Elementary School, on Hwy 35 in San Lorenzo a short ways north of the junction with Hwy 152. We’re seeking 3 or 4 volunteers to help run the GCAS booth on Saturday & set up the booth on the Friday before. No experience necessary; we'll show you what to do! Please volunteer for a short time or for all day! Step up and email or telephone Marianne at [email protected] or 772-529-2627; or contact Marilyn Markel at [email protected] or 575-536-9337, with times that work best for you. Thank you for helping out!

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A Grant We Can Use

If any GCAS members can step up with ideas for good community projects for us to pursue? Tuesday, October 31, 2023,  is the DEADLINE for a special grant application the GCAS can use: The Site Steward Foundation is offering two $1,000 grant awards in 2023 to individuals and organizations for funding projects supporting the preservation, education, and research of archaeological and cultural resources in New Mexico. The purpose of the H. Wayne Nelson grant program is to encourage and support professionals, students, and volunteers in the fields of archaeology, anthropology, and cultural resource management. The grant application will be evaluated based on the project’s critical need and proposed outcome, including community impact, benefits, and feasibility. The H. Wayne Nelson grant application deadline is October 31, 2023, with the grant award date by December 31, 2023. Please let the GCAS know how you can help move our group forward, and  email Gary Newgent to request a grant application form.

Thank you for helping!

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Our Next Monthly Meeting Features the GCAS's Own Jeff Banfield

Jeff-BanfieldWednesday, September 20, 2023: Join us at our regular monthly meeting as we return to the Roundup Lodge in San Lorenzo (Mimbres Valley) near the junction of Highways 152 and 35 for the last time this year. Potluck starts at 5PM with your own plates/utensils/beverage & a dish for yourself or to share. Brief general meeting will begin at 5:40PM, then at 6PM sharp we welcome our Featured Speaker, GCAS member Jeff Banfield, who will present Hunting for Anasazi (Ancestral Puebloan) Sites in Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. Jeff arrived in the Canyon of the Ancients in an unconventional way: after retiring from the Math Department at Montana State University in 2012, Jeff and Lisa Banfield moved to Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) where Lisa taught at an international school. Since returning to the US they have lived in Tucson, Cortez, and now Silver City. Jeff tells us:

In Santo Domingo I learned to never buy bananas from the street vendors because they always give you your change in bananas. In Tucson I volunteered as a naturalist in Sabino Canyon where I got to see a tarantula and a tarantula hawk battle it out (the wasp won). In Cortez I volunteered at the Anasazi Heritage Center and was able to spend four years wandering through Canyons of the Ancients National Monument looking for Anasazi (Ancestral Puebloan) sites. Now that we live in Silver City, I volunteer at City of Rocks State Park on Mondays and I spend the rest of the week trying to persuade something besides goatheads to grow in the caliche that makes up most of our yard.

We'll see you at the Roundup for a fine meal and to learn from Jeff about Ancestral Puebloan sites in Colorado!

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Now's the Chance to Help Our Junior Site Stewards!

IMG_0299People, here's an opportunity to help our local grade school students do something important. Marilyn Markel needs GCAS volunteers to help at the Mimbres Culture Heritage Site on Wednesday, 9/13/2023, as 16 students from San Lorenzo’s third grade class train to be Junior Site Stewards. No experience necessary; Marilyn will show you the ropes. Contact Marilyn directly at 575-536-9337 to represent the GCAS in the Junior Site Steward program. The third graders will appreciate your help!

/s/ webmaster [photo is of past Junior Site Stewards - good kids, all of them]


In Memoriam: LaVerne Herrington

LaVerneH2020The GCAS reports with great sadness that Silver City native and professional archaeologist, LaVerne Herrington, passed away on Sunday, August 27, 2023. LaVerne was the first professional archaeologist to perform aerial surveys of the ancient irrigation systems of the Mimbres Valley. In 1967, Hattie Cosgrove sold LaVerne and her husband, Red, the Arenas Valley land that contains the Treasure Hill archaeological site. LaVerne ensured that Treasure Hill would be protected in perpetuity by transferring ownership from herself to the Archaeological Conservancy in 2020. LaVerne's funeral services were held on August 31, 2023, at Fort Bayard National Cemetery.

Read more about LaVerne here. With LaVerne's passing, priceless local knowledge has been lost forever. But thanks to her Treasure Hill survives.

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In Memoriam: John Fitch

JohnFitchLongtime GCAS member and supporter, John Fitch, passed away in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on Monday, August 21, 2023. John grew up in El Paso, Texas, graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso, and worked for 30 years with the Federal Government in the Washington, DC, area before returning to the Southwest in 1995. An enthusiastic avocational archaeologist, he assisted for many years with the Cañada Alamosa and other archaeological projects on behalf of Karl and Toni Laubach and Human Systems Research in Las Cruces as well as with the Black Mountain and Woodrow Ruin projects for Colorado University. Memorial and funeral arrangements are still pending as of the date of this publication.

The GCAS misses you, John.

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Repost: Job Opportunities with the Gila National Forest

Logo_of_the_United_States_Forest_Service.svgGila National Forest Supervisor, Camille Howes, reports that her agency is working to find and hire additional staff. She explains,

The National Forests are suffering from the same ‘great resignation’ as other local businesses and government agencies over the past several years. We are looking to fill vacancies with local talent. If you or someone you know is looking for work and loves public land, reach out to learn about opportunities to make a difference in your community and enjoy a lifelong career with the Gila National Forest.

If you or someone you know loves our outdoors and wants to preserve and protect them, please contact the Gila National Forest. Start by calling or visiting the Silver City Ranger District at 575-388-8201, located at 3005 Camino del Bosque in Silver City, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information contact Maribeth Pecotte at 575-388-8211 or via email; or go directly to the Forest Service's Careers web page.

Our public lands need you!

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Save These Dates!

People, archaeologically-flavored events are being scheduled all over the place. In our corner of the Southwest, the action is ramping up during September and gets fast and furious during October. Set aside the following dates and check back to our Events page and to this here blog for details as they develop:

Continue reading "Save These Dates!" »