(December 31, 2015)—Inspired by a clever post from our friends at the Friends of Cedar Mesa, we decided to compile our own list. So, with a hat-tip to Amanda Nichols and Josh Ewing at FCM, we give you, in no particular order,
Archaeology Southwest’s Most Memorable Moments of 2015
It matters: On December 4, with our partners at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, we released a cultural resources study that makes a case for the national significance of the Great Bend of the Gila, an ancient and historical cultural crossroads in southern Arizona. Aaron Wright, Pat H. Stein, and Bill Doelle compiled the study, which you can download for free here (opens as a PDF). On December 7, Bill and Barnaby Lewis published an opinion editorial in the Arizona Republic sharing the meaning of the place for descendants of native and Euro-American ancestry. In September, Bill and tribal leaders went to Washington, D.C., to personally share these perspectives with legislators.
(Click on any image in the post to enlarge the image.)
Because you never know: Thanks to Allen Denoyer, Karen Schollmeyer, and our staff and field school students, about 120 kids learned to use atlatls in 2015 through our Hands-On Archaeology programming at Steam Pump Ranch in Oro Valley, Arizona, and at public libraries and schools in Arizona and New Mexico. Their skills might not yet be up to those of kids in the distant past, but now they know the basics of how they would have helped feed the family!
Mapped: Pecos National Historical Park. In an astonishing—and at times breathtaking—achievement, Doug Gann (ground photogrammetry), Adriel Heisey (aerial photography transects), and Mike Brack (digital cartography) mapped the entirety of the pre- and post-contact architecture and deposits at Pecos NHP to within 14 millimeters of accuracy. (For public safety, drones and not allowed in our national parks—hence Heisey’s flights.) Doug is using the data to create a 3-D digital visualization of the mission and pueblo. He says he’s not sure which was more breathtaking—seeing the accuracy of the results or looking up to see Adriel deliberately stall his plane to “get the shot”!
Protected: Los Gigantes. In April, we purchased this ancestral Zuni site from the ranching family in the El Morro Valley of west-central New Mexico who had protected it for generations. Los Gigantes is one of the best examples of a Post-Chacoan great house community. The site includes a single-story great house dating from about A.D. 1250–1275, along with a number of smaller houses surrounding the great house. The site also includes a huge great kiva that is more than 30 meters (almost 100 feet) in diameter—bigger than any great kiva in Chaco Canyon! Unlike the earlier Chacoan great kivas, however, this structure never had a roof, and may have enabled people from surrounding villages to come together. The acquisition had personal significance for Matt Peeples (now faculty at ASU), who had worked on the site early in his graduate school days, and has since become an expert on the region’s archaeology. He wrote about Los Gigantes here. Andy Laurenzi shared the story of the family who protected the site here.
We share our stories: Leading up to the International Day of Archaeology on October 17, each of our staff members wrote a blog post about how or why they became an archaeologist, or ultimately came to work in Preservation Archaeology. There were certainly some surprises…and much food for thought.
Advocating for the big picture: When it comes to the cultural landscape of a people, it is not possible for the boundaries of any municipal, state, or federal protective designation to contain its entirety. It is to our nation’s credit that places such as Mesa Verde National Park and Chaco Culture National Historical Park exist, but there are many more places that help tell the stories of Chaco and Mesa Verde. What are the best ways to identify and protect the most important among those, especially as oil and gas development in these regions expands? Throughout 2015, Paul Reed led our participation in a coalition to determine viable solutions to these questions, chairing two public forums, giving numerous media interviews, and serving as an expert commenter in short films on the Greater Chaco Landscape. His favorite moments? “Exploring the majestic Greater Chaco Landscape from above with EcoFlight and on the ground with tribal leaders from Acoma, Tesuque, Santa Ana, and Isleta Pueblos, and meeting Senator Tom Udall at Chaco Canyon. Technically, the flights were late in 2014, but they were in the forefront of my mind throughout 2015, and will remain there for a long time.”
Dungan defends: Since 2008, Katherine Dungan has been an integral part of our research and field school in the Upper Gila River region of southwestern New Mexico. We were there, grinning like proud parents and siblings, for the public portion of her dissertation defense on November 10. Katherine also shared her research at the November 3 Archaeology Café—you can watch that video here. Congratulations, Dr. Dungan!
Funded: On March 23, we were thrilled to learn that the Salmon Pueblo Archaeological Research Collection (SPARC) project would be funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in the amount of $300,000. The project will preserve and make accessible incomparable legacy data from 1970s excavations at Salmon Ruins, the first major colony beyond Chaco Canyon. A collaboration among the Salmon Ruins Museum, Archaeology Southwest, the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia, the project entails three phases: (1) digital acquisition (that is, scanning of the huge collection of data, drawings, photographs, slides, and original field forms); (2) data integration and management; and (3) online preservation of and access to materials. Carrie Heitman of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is the project director, and Paul Reed is co-director. This vast storehouse of data will be uploaded to the Chaco Research Archive and shared with Arizona State University’s online digital archive tDAR. (Believe us, this is major and memorable—there are researchers shaking with anticipation, and NEH support is a rare boon.)
The way forward: On April 30 and May 1, facilitated by Alexander|Carrillo Consulting, our staff and board of directors came together to create a shared vision for Archaeology Southwest’s future. There was sweat, and perhaps tears in private, but no blood. (No, really. But there were caffeine and chocolate and tamales and a little bit of wine.) Work continued through the summer and fall, and the board approved and adopted the final strategic plan on October 7. One of the first implementations of the new plan was the hiring of a Director of Operations. We’ll welcome Kamillia Hoban, formerly of the Southwest Conservation Corps, in two weeks!
Protected and endowed: The Cave Creek Midden/Desperation Ranch site. In the spring of 2015, Archaeology Southwest received the gift of a conservation easement over an important site along Cave Creek, outside of Portal, Arizona, on the east side of the Chiricahua Mountains. People used the location in the Late Archaic and Early Agricultural eras, and there is a 14th-century Salado-era room block at the site. As we were finalizing details for the easement, our friends and supporters (and longtime Arizonans) Eldon, Jean, and Jaye Smith asked how they could help protect the site for the long term. They decided to contribute $20,000 to Archaeology Southwest to build an endowment fund to pay for the site’s easement-monitoring and reporting costs in perpetuity. (What is a conservation easement? Find out here [opens as a PDF].)
Making new friends: This year, we were privileged to meet new friends and supporters in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico, thanks to the Oblique Views exhibition at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the publications of Archaeology Southwest Magazine, Volume 29, No. 1: Ordinary, yet Distinct, on the enigmatic Gallina tradition of northern New Mexico (co-edited by Preservation Fellow Lewis Borck), and Archaeology Southwest Magazine, Volume 29, Nos. 2 & 3: Santa Fe Underground. Linda Pierce, conceiver of the Oblique Views rephotography project, joined aerial photographer Adriel Heisey and curator Maxine McBrinn for an opening on October 25 that was attended by almost 1,000 people! Two weeks later, Bill Doelle, Paul Reed, and I joined John Ware (vice-chair of our board of directors) and Santa Fe Underground guest editors Cherie Schieck and Stephen Post for an informal Q & A with community members and other archaeologists at Collected Works bookstore off the Plaza. What a delightful—and chilly—evening it was! Maxine gave Bill and I a tour of Oblique Views that morning, and we agree that it is not to be missed. Visitors continually stopped Dr. McBrinn to express their appreciation and amazement.
Thanks for walking down memory lane with us, and thanks for everything you did to help make these things possible. With your help, we’ll have many more great moments in 2016, exploring and protecting the past together.