New Mexico State University anthropology students spent the summer getting to know the Mimbres people who died more than a thousand years ago and helping to preserve their history.
Eight NMSU students joined community volunteers for four weeks to explore and excavate areas of the South Diamond Creek Pueblo in the Gila Wilderness.
“This dig gave me a better understanding of the Mimbres people, and what living life during these times was like for these people,” said Candice Disque, an anthropology graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences. “It provided insight into possible social dynamics on a household level.”
The Mimbres region includes the southwestern corner of New Mexico and portions of surrounding states. The Mimbres River runs through the area and flows underground near Deming. The Department of Anthropology and University Museum at NMSU sponsored this collaborative research on lands in the Gila National Forest.
Volunteers included K-12 teachers, a retired NMSU engineering professor, and three professional archaeologists.
“The collaborations helped both the NMSU students and Gila National Forest employees recognize the richness of cultural resources and provided crucial information and knowledge about ancient cultures that once existed within the Gila,” said Fumi Arakawa, director of the University Museum at NMSU and associate professor of anthropology.
Students and volunteers explored and assessed the damage from erosion and looting activities in the pueblo abandoned approximately 1,000 years ago. The students excavated two rooms and two storage units.
“The South Diamond Creek Pueblo site was in jeopardy of being lost to erosion, due to the position of the pueblo on top of a canyon rim,” said Trevor Lea, a graduate student who focused on the pueblo for his thesis. “This project was a unique opportunity to help preserve cultural resources.”
There were three main objectives for this project: to gain a better understanding of the occupation period and chronology of the site, to obtain datable materials from documented contexts, and to understand and reconstruct settlement patterns and exchange systems used by the Mimbres people at the pueblo.
“Since this was the salvage project, students were required to learn, recover, and identify several important features, such as walls, floors, and hearths at the site,” said Fumi Arakawa. “By the end of the project, the students were able to understand and reconstruct how the Mimbres people living at the site constructed, used, and abandoned it approximately 1,000 years ago.”
The dig offered students an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get a first-hand look at what it takes to be an anthropologist. They learned time and monetary budgeting concepts while also conducting research.
“I feel that I have a much better understanding of the site. I had many assumptions going in to this project but the material culture that remained after 1,000 years had a different story to tell,” said Lea. “The preservation of the architecture and the artifacts was quite amazing”
For more information, visit anthropology.nmsu.edu
Author: Taylor Vancel – NMSU