Sometimes we avocational archaeologists are keen to participate in an official archaeological excavation but cannot afford the fees nor tolerate a month's tent-camping in hot, pestiferous conditions. Or possess the gear and the nerves of steel to scuba dive in a pitch black cenote. [Photo by Melisa French via Archaeology Magazine.]
The next GCAS monthly meeting will be held just two days from now on Wednesday, September 18, 2019. Everyone is welcome to join us at the Roundup Lodge at 91 Aklin Hill Road in San Lorenzo/Mimbres, New Mexico. Our featured speaker is Karl W. Laumbach, archaeologist and Associate Director of Human Systems Research in Las Cruces. He plans to share details with us about his personal experiences in investigating and preserving a significant Mimbres Valley archaeological site, known today as Elk Ridge. Read some interesting details about Laumbach's talk here, and even more interesting details about Laumbach himself, here.
Our final potluck of the season begins on September 18 at 6:00 PM followed by our GCAS general meeting. Karl Laumbach will present his talk at about 7:00 PM. We'll see you there!
/s/ webmaster [photo on left, via Human Systems Research. Photo on right, by Bob Gamboa]
Here we see GCAS members Marianne Smith and Josh Reeves recreating Grant Wood's iconic masterpiece as they model the activewear that the fashion-forward consumer values for the ultimate in protection from sun and dust. Those in the know understand that this gear is not only handy for some serious volunteering on an archaeological excavation, but also for more casual events like GCAS field trips or community projects.
It's easy to spot Josh and Marianne when they're out and about. Be sure to ask them who they're wearing. Thanks, you two!
These days there are no lavish budgets for archaeological excavations, and paid crew positions are few (very few) and far (very far) between. With no money for lodging, the crew tend to camp out at or near the site for the duration of the project. Feeding the crew on a tight budget may involve a lot of pre-frozen mini-burritos.
The excavation has a Directing Archaeologist in charge of the project. Often there will be one or more other archaeologists supporting the Director by excavating and/or performing other essential work such as cataloguing artifacts, recording data, and performing materials analysis. Graduate and undergraduate students participating in the excavation gain hands-on experience in as many aspects of the work as they can. Sometimes - but not always - they earn class credits. However, on many excavations there are too few students available to get all the work done in the time allotted.
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.
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.
It's a busy summer for all levels of the archaeologically inclined. Pull out your calendars and fill 'em up with one or more of the following:
Monday, July 1, 2019, 7:00 PM: the Archaeology Southwest Lecture Series in Cliff, NM, concludes with Archaeology Southwest's own Allen Denoyer speaking about "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Mule Creek Obsidian." Location is 8179 Hwy 180 W, Cliff, New Mexico. Look for the cream building with blue portable toilets on the north side of Hwy 180 just east of Shields Canyon Road and the highway yard. (This is 2.2 miles west of the 180-211 junction in Cliff.)
Sunday, July 7, 2019, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM: A second GCAS July field trip! One time only! View the storied Croteau Collection of Elk Ridge artifacts at the Mimbres Culture Heritage Site in the Wood House's panic room.
On June 30, 2018, assorted GCAS members joined the general public in Cliff, New Mexico, to visit the Gila River Farm's open house and 2018 Archaeology Fair presented by the University of Arizona field school and Archaeology Southwest. The field school had prepared a number of informational displays that described all aspects of this year's excavation, including plant analysis, lithic typology, ceramics identification, and much more. Visitors were even encouraged to use a replica stone axe to try shaping wood for a post. We learned that it takes practice. Good times were had by all and sundry.
The June 10, 2018, GCAS field trip to the UNLV Field School's final season of excavation at Elk Ridge in the Mimbres River Valley was brief due to the warm summer temperatures, but our guides shared some of their findings that their excavations has yielded to date. Skidmore College assistant professor Katie Baustian (left, in photo) and UNLV graduate student Daniel Perez (second from left) discussed with us certain features of the Elk Ridge pueblo ruins that appear consistent with other sites; and other features they uncovered that seem less common.
The Elk Ridge archaeological site comprises a large Classic Mimbres (1000-1130 CE) pueblo containing more than 200 rooms, making Elk Ridge the most significant site of the upper Mimbres River Valley. Karl Laumbach of the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society describes that, "Prior to the spring of 1989, no one knew that a large intact Mimbres Pueblo lay buried under alluvium on the West Fork of the Mimbres River. For the 90 days before the law took effect, the landowner used heavy equipment to extract as many pots as possible but the sheer depth of the deposits prevented complete destruction...." Eyewitnesses to the bulldozing reported at the time that each day, buyers from around the world would park their cars along a nearby road and bid on each artifact as it was removed from the ground. (Reports are that the bidders' cars were parked along the same road as you see by the vehicles in the background of that photo up on the right, just a few yards uphill from that test trench and archaeologist Darrell Creel.)
Elk Ridge's ceramics and other antiquities are undoubtedly still scattered in private collections around the world.