Wednesday, February 03, 2016

I graduated from the University of Michigan in June 1986, almost 30 years ago. Right before graduation I decided to volunteer on an archaeological excavation in New Mexico. I really did not know what to do with my archaeology degree, the professors at the university were not particularly useful at guiding people on other to tell them to get a PhD and become a professor, "All of the professors will be retiring soon!" Most of the archaeology professors who taught at the University of Michigan in 1986 are still teaching there in 2016, but I digress.

A bunch of us got into the big blue University of Michigan van to drive to New Mexico. We spent one night in Iowa and I am fuzzy as to whether it took one or two days from there. We ended up in Mountainair, New Mexico, living in a rather disgusting building (a former motel?).

Mountainair, New Mexico.

First day, we posed with the sign to thank the company that gave it to us (we cut it down and used it for the photo board. Back row: Ross, Tristine, and Homer. Front row: Jodi, Karen, and Holly.

Our luxurious housing, complete with vehicle parts and cattle bones. Left to right, Jodi, Holly, Ross, Jennifer, and Homer.

The first day out in the field at the Kite Site was exciting. We walked up a huge arroyo that was actively cutting through the site and you could see pottery sherds and bones sticking out of the wall. We started to lay out units and a rattlesnake showed up. Unfortunately, it had to be killed as it was not very happy about the humans encroaching on its home.

The arroyo cutting through the Kite Site. Dark stains visible in the left wall are from a pit structure or midden.

Karen and I were assigned a unit in the trash midden area. We excavated squares to collect a sample of garbage which Allison used for her PhD. By the end of the summer we had dug a bus-sized hole. I even managed to find an unbroken plainware mug (which I cracked with my shovel). I mostly screened dirt and filled out paperwork because Karen liked digging best. I remember finding this fired clay object and puzzling over what it was. I showed it to Karen and she exclaimed, "You found a dick!" It was a clay penis, something you occasionally find, perhaps used as a fertility object.

Karen and Homer on a rainy day.

Karen telling Homer what to do. A Munsell soil color book is next to my trowel.

Filling out paperwork while wearing short-shorts.

We often visited the University of Iowa crew, who worked at the adjacent Gran Quivira Mission.

Gran Quivira unit of the Salinas Pueblo Missions.

In Mountainair, we spent a lot of time at the Rosebud Saloon. The jukebox had Patsy Cline and Eddie Arnold songs. On weekends we went on field trips to Chaco Canyon, Santa Fe, and to the Billy the Kid Days in Lincoln. One night I slept next to a horse corral, the pickup next to us had a 101-year-old Navajo woman sleeping in the back. That night we danced at a little saloon that was opened once a year.

Rasmi, Homer, and Allison at a restaurant in Santa Fe.

4th of July celebration in Mountainair, Jennifer piggybacking.

I had brought along my Smokey the Bear teddy bear, which I got back in 1969. We were driving to Lincoln and saw the sign for Smokey the Bear's grave site in Capitan, so of course we had to stop.

Homer and Smokey.

I had been somewhat unsure what to do with myself. After spending 10 weeks digging and exploring New Mexico, I decided that I really wanted to be an archaeologist.

Pottery from the dig. I found the mug.

I always thought the design on this bowl resembled the New Mexico state flag.

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