Jaye Smith, Robinson Collection Project Team Lead
(July 1, 2022)—When working on a legacy collection, it is hard to envision the context of the excavations conducted from just the notes and artifact assemblages. As the Robinson Collection Project Team conducts their preliminary research and rehousing of the immense artifact collection assembled by Ray Robinson during the 1950s and 1960s, we often take time out to ponder and muse about the where’s and how’s without the benefit of visual aids—all of Ray’s documentations are handwritten notes or created on a historic instrument called a typewriter with more than a few misaligned or missing keys.
During the Archaeology Southwest/University of Arizona Preservation Archaeology Field School, the Robinson Project Team was invited to visit and participate in the ongoing excavation at the Gila River Farm site, which has a major Salado component similar to the artifact assemblages the Team is encountering within the Robinson Collection.
For two of our team, it was their first experience in an active, ongoing excavation. For the rest of us, as we watched the excitement of our virgin explorers, it brought back those fond members of that first trowel of dirt moved, or that first ceramic uncovered in the screen and carefully bagged as if it was THE most important sherd of the day. Robinson Project Team member Phil Hunger, during his first excavation experience at the Gila River Farm Site, stated it very succinctly:
“Also please thank all the students for the time they spent explaining the site and work they were doing. And for their patience as I played in the dirt or more correctly mud as they were trying to do real work. It was a great day and something I have been looking forward to for a long time. For the few hours we were there it really did help me understand what excavating a site is about. Reading a report is helpful but being there is more meaningful.”
For the Team, who have conjoined many a large plain ware olla, corrugated jar, or Salado decorated bowl, to see this same type of artifact in situ was a very unique pleasure—and keeping me away from one particular Maverick Mountain decorated jar was especially challenging!
The Robinson Collection Project Team gives our sincere thanks to Karen Schollmeyer and her entire crew for their hospitality during our visit and, more importantly, for the opportunity to get down and dirty!