By Deborah L. Huntley, Preservation Archaeologist
Nathan Thrapp summarizes this season’s field school:
With the field school coming to an end today, I thought a short summary of our shared experiences at Mule Creek would be fitting. Starting our journey in Tucson, Arizona, eleven strangers were put together to accomplish a task. We broke the ice over pizza and drinks and shared stories of our homes in different states. From Tucson, we headed out to Mule Creek, New Mexico, on Tuesday, May 29, where we established our home for the next five and a half weeks and began acclimating to our new environment. The next day, Wednesday, we visited the site and learned to lay out excavation units with two of our teachers, Rob Jones and Danny Welch. At 7:00 a.m. on Thursday, we began the season’s excavations at the Fornholt site, starting off at a steady pace. We were busy the first few days as we learned excavation techniques, artifact identification, and general archaeology etiquette.
The tempo continued to increase as the days went by and we each developed our own style of excavating. As we got deeper and closer to the features we were looking for, we became more and more excited. We were finding artifacts with origins from all over western New Mexico, including St. Johns Polychrome ceramics, as well as flaked stone artifacts made from a raw material found in the Zuni region. We hope that these artifacts will help inform Katherine Dungan’s dissertation research.
Each excavation unit was exciting in its own way. In the pithouse, we searched for (and found) the entranceway of the former structure. In the storage room block, we uncovered multiple floor features that showed the length of occupation, remodeling techniques, and lifestyles of the site’s former inhabitants. At the center of the possible kiva structure, we found evidence of a covered pit. And along the western edge of that structure, we discovered multiple walls in a puzzling configuration. While sometimes confusing, it is because of these intriguing unknowns that we chose to become archaeologists. The excavation process was full of surprises, and the time here seemed to fly by faster than I would have liked. Regardless of the rate at which time moved, the weeks we spent were unbelievably fun.
Our time here was not all work-related. Throughout the field school, we went on field trips to relevant locations, such as the Gila Cliff Dwellings, Zuni Pueblo, Chaco Canyon, Acoma Pueblo, and local museums. We had opportunities to share both the scientific and day-to-day work of an archaeologist with kids and adults from the local communities. In addition to field trips and outreach programs, we spent time hanging out at the laundromat or the Javalina Coffee House, window shopping the local stores, and eating gelato in Silver City on Sundays. In our free time, many of the students would hang out by the creek or make the trip to the Gila River for some relief from the summer heat. Finally, we had a Fourth of July party. Our generous hosts were gracious enough to prepare a delicious meal for us. Archaeology Southwest’s President and CEO, Bill Doelle, as well as Deputy Director Linda Pierce, joined us for the end-of-season festivities to thank us for the hard work we had done during the season. They also brought us all the gift of knowledge. We each received a three-volume report on Salmon Ruins.
To wrap up, the entire field school was fantastic! My first swing at archaeology was one of the most memorable events thus far in my life. Meeting new people and getting to do something I have wanted to do since I was six years old fulfilled me more than I could have hoped. I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone I have met, and I can’t wait to do this again next year.