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.
I have been remiss in not disclosing that our group dined - and well - while in Mexico. No photos were taken of the excellent seafood restaurant our guide Luis introduced us to in Janos; but we had a more traditional lunch experience in a small hotel in Mata Ortiz that had little trouble in providing our group of 16 gabachos with a classic lunch of chiles rellenos, tacos, and much, much more. (h/t Marcia Corl for the dining photo up there on the left; webmaster focused instead on the chile ristras along the garden portal.)
Day 3: May 4, 2018. We arrived in Paquimé. The site's thick adobe walls may be slowly dissolving back into the earth, but it remains an awe-inspiring sight to look out over Paquimé's grand plaza, its ceremonial structures, and its residential areas comprising some 1700 rooms.
Archaeologists have often observed heavily-worn teeth - in fact, teeth worn down to the gum line - in the remains of Mimbres-Mogollon people. They have concluded that the extreme teeth wear had been caused by a lifetime's diet of ground corn that had been heavily contaminated with fine bits of stone from the mano-and-metate corn grinding process. However, archaeologists have seen that almost none of these burials throughout the entire Mimbres-Mogollon region show signs of trauma (from warfare or other forms of violence) or of the types of diseases that leave their marks on bones (malnutrition, leprosy, etc.). Thus, in most cases it remains somewhat of a mystery as to what exactly the causes of death were for these individuals, who represent both genders and all age groups.
Perhaps there is a clue in a recent archaeological find halfway across the world, in Italy. Investigators there unearthed a burial from 1300-1500 years ago, of a man who'd lived with a prosthesis after his right hand had been amputated. Fun fact: the prosthesis was not an artificial hand...but a long knife! What makes this relevant to Grant County, New Mexico, is the article's brief discussion on how this man's pattern of teeth wear may have caused a serious if not fatal bacterial infection. Perhaps our ancient Mimbres-Mogollon people may have frequently succumbed to bacterial infections that began in exposed tooth pulp?