(June 7, 2016)—The 2016 field season brings several exciting changes for the Preservation Archaeology Field School. One of the biggest changes for us is a new excavation site. We finished our fieldwork at the Cliff phase (A.D. 1300–1450+) Dinwiddie site last summer, and have moved a few miles northeast to another Cliff phase site called Gila River Farm.
Work at this new site will complement what we’ve learned from our previous work in the Upper Gila area in several ways. One important avenue of research is improving our understanding the role of Kayenta migrants in creating Cliff phase communities in this area. Our previous field schools found evidence of Kayenta presence at the 3-Up site (where we worked from 2008–2009), but not at Dinwiddie, so we are looking forward to seeing whether the Gila River Farm site shows evidence of a strong Kayenta presence or not.
We also look forward to examining how influences from earlier Mogollon traditions in the area, such as interior smudging on pottery vessels, were incorporated into Cliff phase Salado material culture at the site. The Gila River Farm site is also just upstream from the famous Cliff phase site of Kwilleylekia, a nexus of tantalizing rumors about things like late 1400s pottery and destruction by a catastrophic flood that were sadly never fully documented or published by its excavators. We would love to find datable materials at Gila River Farm that might confirm some of these stories about Kwilleylekia and allow us to tighten up the dates for Cliff phase sites in the area.
Our field camp has also moved east to the town of Cliff. Although we loved the higher-elevation beauty of Mule Creek, we also appreciate the much shorter commute to the site from Cliff each day. Our new campsite surrounds a former church building whose large central room is a perfect space for lab work and lectures. The building’s generous owners have joined us for a few fun events in camp already, and we’re all enjoying getting to know one another. We’re just across the highway from our cook Julie’s house, so we enjoy a short walk back and forth for dinner each night.
Our archaeological survey work for 2016 has expanded to include examinations of some of the Nature Conservancy’s properties along the Gila and Mimbres Rivers. We’ll also be continuing to survey on private land in the Burro Mountains to the southeast. Our survey work has already located new sites from several different archaeological time periods. This work helps the landowners plan water and riparian conservation projects on their properties in ways that will also protect these newly discovered archaeological sites.
Our experimental archaeology work also brings a mix of favorite activities and new projects. Students continue to make projectile points and to craft and use atlatls, but we’re exploring some new building projects, and have some fun new kids’ programs for local libraries in the works.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that our staff and students will be sharing their experiences with blog posts every few days throughout the field season. We’re looking forward to sharing the results of our new discoveries with you over the next several weeks.