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Published: April 22nd 2008
"Scenic" New Mexico
Laying out our test pits
December 16th... between the recent changes at home and the TXDot cutbacks, that was the last time I had earned a paycheck. I wasn't a shovelbum at that point, I was just a bum! But not anymore, the drought is finally over!
This past week I was surveying and testing sites on Canon Air Force Base outside of Portales, New Mexico. First off, let me say that northeastern New Mexico is not much more scenic than, say, Lubbock, TX. It is flat, dusty, and makes one realize that when New Mexicans coined the phrase "the Land of Enchantment" they were obviously talking about the other
part of the state. Anywhere but northeastern New Mexico! But it also gives a sense of the determination and perseverance that early pioneers must have had to settle on this land and to carve out a living raising cattle.
Canon AFB is also an active target range and training ground, so several times a day we watched B1 bombers fly overhead and drop their bombs. The bombs were not live, and would hit about a mile from where we were.
The site we worked on the most was a historic farm site, c.
Bison bones left in situ. The excavation area was enclosed in a metal building so visitors could get an idea of the excavation process.
1900. The old corral, well, and windmill was still there, but the house was torn down long ago. In order to locate where it was, we took pin flags and stuck them in the ground wherever we saw an artifact. Most of the artifacts were pieces of glass, dish fragments, nails and screws, and other miscellanous metal debris. After a while, a pattern emerged with the placement of the flags and we could see where the house was located. We dug several test pits of different sizes and found more of the same type of artifacts.
Most days it was hot and dry outside. 6% humidity can do a number on your skin! So can the 20-40 mph winds. In the middle of the week, however, a cold snap came through. I had brought clothes for layering, but this was downright freezing. The morning started off at 39 degrees, and by the end of the day it was 32. It was drizzling most of the day, and the winds kept blowing at about 20 mph. Lucky me I have a great crew chief who packs extra clothes, so he lent me an extra windbreaker and pants made out of the same material. So I was warm after that, and functional again. The next day the temperatures were back up into the 80s. Love those desert extremes!
I was glad to finally work on a historic site. I plan to focus on historic archaeology, and I tend to get much more excited about historic artifacts and interpretation than I do for prehistoric. The only exception being Anasazi pottery, which fascinates me. I think it's because of the possibility that historic sites can occasionally be backed up with documentation, whereas with prehistoric there is more room for subjective interpretation and ambiguity. From what I understand, the two fields differ enough that prehistoric archaeologists like to make fun of historic archaeologists and vice-versa. It's sibling rivalry!
We also took some time to visit the Blackwater Draw archaeological site. This site wasn't very far from our testing area, and is famous for the amount of Clovis and Folsom points found on the site (13-10,000 years old cultures). The area was a natural spring back then, so Clovis and Folsom people would bring their families to the site to camp and hunt the large game that would visit the spring. There are several mammoth kill sites here, but most of the Clovis diet consisted of smaller game like bison, sloths, and a small horse species that is now extinct. Mammoths would have been difficult to kill because they were so massive, and as a professor of mine once said, "it was probably a once in a lifetime kill for a small group of men and then they spent the rest of their lives bragging about it!"
Overall, it's so nice to be working again. The next two projects should start up by the second week of May, and I will either be working on the Garland site or in Victoria.
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