Danielle Gilbert, Preservation Archaeology Field School Student
Preservation, excavation, and education are just a few of the goals of the Preservation Archaeology Field School, and after only three weeks in the field, I feel that I have a new appreciation and understanding of these concepts. I have seen and learned many things through working at the Dinwidde site, lab analysis, and evening lectures, but I think that our most recent field trip has given me a more complete understanding of things that, until now, I had only learned about through textbooks and PowerPoint presentations.
“Road trip!” is what I thought as we embarked on an eight-hour drive to Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico. After five years of studying Southwestern archaeology, I was ready to experience the concentration of pueblos pictured in so many of my textbooks. As we drove down the dirt road toward Chaco Canyon, Fajada Butte came into view and we all felt compelled to stop and take pictures of the majestic landmark. This was the first of about 400 pictures I would take on the trip!
After the initial shock of the beauty of the canyon itself, a lesson in archaeoastonomy at the visitor center, and telescope views of Saturn and Mars, I proceeded to dive into Chacoan architecture and culture. It was all around us! Our guide, Paul Reed, took us on an educational journey around most of the great houses and masonry structures in the area. We walked our way through the remaining architecture of Wijiji, Chetro Ketl, and, of course, Pueblo Bonito—to name a few. After exploring the ancient rooms, great kivas, corner windows, and tiny doorways of the pueblos, we hiked 650 feet up an intimidating trail to the top of the canyon. The view was priceless, to say the least, and I couldn’t help but take a moment to acknowledge those who had stood there before me.
Seeing is believing, and in this case, seeing was fulfilling, educational, and motivating. It was inspiring to see the efforts that archaeologists have made to preserve Chaco Canyon for future generations and for those who still hold it to be a sacred place. Let’s hear it for field trips!