Last week saw the official end of the 2011 field season. We celebrated the 4th of July with a party and drove the students back to Tucson on the 5th. We couldn’t have asked for a better group of students, and we’re very grateful to them, to our hosts in Mule Creek, and to the many other people who helped make this year a success. We have a few more student blog entries to post after the fact, but in the mean time, I thought I’d write a little about what we’ve learned from this year’s excavations.
In setting out to do this research (or any archaeological excavation), we do our best to predict what we’ll find under the surface of the site – this summer (as with any research design) some of our predictions were accurate and others weren’t quite right. And as nice as it is to be proved right, the most exciting part of doing archaeology can come from finding what we did n0t expect.
As you might know from previous blog posts, we began with the assumption that Fornholt’s southern room block was built around a fairly straightforward large kiva, similar to those known from sites to the north. What we actually found is significantly more complex – our excavation units uncovered the corner of a structure inside what we had previously thought were the boundaries of the kiva. It’s going to take a lot of work, both in and out of the field, to figure out exactly what’s going on in this part of the site. With luck, though, we should be able to say something entirely new about community architecture in this part of the southwest.
Our other big surprise was the burned storage room in the southern room block. This room offers some unexpected and very exciting possibilities for tree-ring dates and the analysis of plant remains. It also adds a number of new questions about the site: When did the room burn, and how did the fire start? Are other storage rooms burned? How did this fire relate to the end of Fornholt’s occupation?
Many of our ideas about Fornholt seem to be confirmed by this summer’s work. For example, we now know that the site did have two-story architecture. The masonry wall style, hearth types, and hearth position within rooms all match what we expected from previously excavated sites in the river valleys to the north. And, although detailed artifact analysis will take months to complete, the ceramic sherds recovered this year met our expectations from previous years: the decorated pottery at Fornholt does seem to be a mix of types imported from the north and from the south, suggesting that the people living there had an unusually broad range of long distance trading partners (if you’re curious about our previous work at Fornholt and in Mule Creek, or want more details, you might want to check out the Upper Gila issue of Archaeology Southwest Magazine).
It’s always sad to part ways with everyone at the end of the field season (and to come home to the July heat in Tucson!), and I hope that the students had as much fun – and learned as much – as I did. Of course, for those of us involved in the analysis, the work is only beginning. Stay tuned for more student posts and for regular updates as the analysis progresses.
—Katherine Dungan (Field Director)