Thursday, October 27, 2011

Student Anna Salzman in New Mexico

For six weeks this summer, I participated in the Totah Archaeological Project (TAP) through San Juan College in Farmington New Mexico. This area, located at the intersection of the Animas, the San Juan, and the La Plata rivers, appears to have been a hub of Anasazi culture. Since the excavations of nearby Chaco Canyon in the late 19th century, archaeologists have been looking for settlements elsewhere that mimic the Chacoan architecture. Sites near Farmington known as Salmon ruins and Aztec ruins, as well as the site I was working on, have been thought to have been built by descendants of the inhabitants of Chaco Canyon.

The site I worked on was located on the 12,000 acre B- Square Ranch owned by Tommy Bolack. Tommy has been interested in archaeology since the early 1960s when he happened upon an Anasazi burial literally in his backyard on the ranch. Our site was named the Point Site and it had been partially excavated during the 2009 field school. Most of the group started excavating the kiva, a large round room used for ceremonial purposes, which had been partially uncovered in the previous season, and the surrounding walls. My partner and I were sent a couple hundred yards away from everyone else to look for a wall surrounding the area. After several very disappointing levels and absolutely no sign of a wall, we started finding charcoal, dozens of pottery sherds, and animal bones. It turns out we were actually in a midden that dated to the time of the kiva’s construction and possibly earlier. Linda Wheelbarger, our site director, will be sending off some of the burnt corncobs we found for AMS dating. We washed, sorted, and catalogued artifacts every week and attended several GIS classes throughout the six weeks. In addition to excavation, we took several field trips to Mesa Verde, the La Plata mountains, and Chaco Canyon. Working with TAP was an enriching and rewarding experience that definitely helped broaden my understanding and appreciation of southwest archaeology.