High-Tech Wilderness at Bandelier National Monument:

OCA Archaeologists use Android Devices to Document Fire Damage

As part of a Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit agreement (CESU), OCA archaeologists spent several seasons conducting survey and re-visiting archaeological sites in the Bandelier Wilderness. Almost 95 percent of the monument has been surveyed, and OCA archaeologists are visiting some of the most remote and difficult to access areas to survey the last five percent. Crews use tablets to document new archaeological sites as well as impacts from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire on Coalition and Classic period pueblos and small structures.

With helicopter support from the Bandelier National Monument, OCA crews have backpacked to remote wilderness areas and used Android devices to document changes to site architecture and artifacts caused by post-fire erosion at 21 archaeological sites. In addition, approximately 75 new sites have been documented. The sites range from 1-2 room field houses to cavate pueblos carved into tuff cliffs. Site data were rapidly collected using digital forms developed by GIS specialist Scott Gunn with open source software. 2019 will be OCA’s fifth season working at Bandelier National Monument.

Mid-America Pipeline (WEP III)

In preparation for the expansion of the Mid-America Pipeline Company LLC (MAPL) system through the construction of pipeline loop segments between Bloomfield and Hobbs, New Mexico, the Office of Contract Archeology conducted a cultural resources inventory and data recovery along the pipeline corridor. The proposed pipeline loops total 196.6 miles (369.25 km) and are within the counties of San Juan, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, McKinley, Santa Fe, Torrance, DeBaca, Lincoln, Guadalupe, Chaves, and Lea, extending from Hobbs in southeast New Mexico to Bloomfield in northwest New Mexico. They cross lands administered or owned by the BLM Farmington, Rio Puerco, Albuquerque, and Roswell field offices; the State of New Mexico; the Navajo Nation; the Pueblo of Zia; and private individuals. In addition to the 65 pre-existing sites, the survey crew documented 126 new sites for a total of 191 sites within the pipeline corridor. Of these, only 62 required mitigation in the form of data recovery, additional structural documentation, and/or archival research. An additional 31 archaeological sites were discovered and treated during pipeline construction.

These excavations employed up to 6 field crews and archaeological monitors, who recovered over 40,000 faunal remains, 4800 ceramics, 28,800 lithics and groundstone, and 25,500 historic artifacts.The project resulted in the identification of Bison bison at three sites in the San Juan Basin dating to the Early and Middle Archaic, additional excavations at the Late Archaic/Early Agricultural site of San Luis de Cabezon (LA 110946), identification of a new Late Archaic/Early Agricultural site in the San Juan Basin (LA 179071) that contained maize as well as obsidian from southwest New Mexico and evidence for extensive bone bead manufacturing, documentation of a Pueblo IV community in an isolated valley on the north side of the Sandia Mountains, and archival research on homesteading and land claims during the early half of the 20th Century in New Mexico.

Re-evaluation of the D-5 Site on the East Flank of the San Andres Mountains

OCA conducted a re-evaluation of the so-called D-5 Site in partnership with White Sands Missile Range in 2014. This large site is located at the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon, one of few natural routes across the rugged San Andres Mountains between the Rio Grande Valley to the west and the Tularosa Basin to the east. Throughout the site, evidence of activity during the later Archaic and early Formative periods indicates the procurement of local cherts for the manufacture of bifacial tools. However, two portions of the site received intense occupation from the 11th to 13th centuries AD, corresponding to the Doña Ana and early El Paso phases of the Jornada Mogollon sequence, based on pottery styles and radiocarbon dates. From only two test excavations in each of these areas, large quantities of lithic refuse and processed faunal remains, at least two specimens of maize, and examples of an astonishing variety of pottery types were recovered. Distinct from most contemporary sites with faunal assemblages, a large portion of the animal bone came from deer and similar sized species, rather than primarily from rabbits and smaller game. Perhaps reflecting the location along a natural communication route, more than twenty pottery types were identified, including not only Jornada Mogollon wares, but examples of other pottery traditions from throughout southern and central New Mexico, and even possibly into eastern Arizona and northern Chihuahua. Finally, projectile points and a radiocarbon date indicate that the site was visited during protohistoric times as well.

Data Recovery at Lake Roberts, Southwestern New Mexico

The Office of Contract Archeology conducted excavations of two Mogollon sites at Lake Roberts in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in preparation for dam rehabilitation and construction at Lake Roberts in the Gila National Forest of southwest New Mexico. These excavations yielded two Late Pithouse Period (AD 550-1000) pithouses, and three Classic Mimbres (AD 1000-1150) pithouses. The Classic Mimbres site initially appears to be a seasonal residence occupied during the farming season and associated with the contemporaneous Lake Roberts Vista Site, a prominent Mimbres roomblock site. In total, OCA recovered over 50,000 lithics and groundstone, 30,000 pieces of pottery, 500 faunal remains, and over 400 bags of flotation samples. Preliminary sorting of the heavy fractions from the flotation samples have yielded several pieces of fish bone, which may help recreate the Sapillo Creek’s prehistoric ecology. Additionally, pottery from the site was submitted as part of a large study by UNM’s Dr. Patricia Crown, who found that one of the samples contained cacao residue.

Re-evaluation of the Lee Canyon Site on the East Flank of the San Andres Mountains

OCA performed a re-evaluation of the Lee Canyon Site for White Sands Missile Range. Situated on a ridge at the mouth of a canyon draining from the San Andres Mountains into the northwestern Tularosa Basin, the Lee Canyon Site had evidence of repeated occupations for thousands of years. Over 50 projectile points and pottery from at least ten different types indicated human activities from the Early Archaic Period to the El Paso Phase of the Jornada Mogollon sequence. Occupation was especially heavy during the Mesilla phase, when two dense middens, each between 1.3 and 1.5 meters deep, were formed. The middens were radiocarbon dated to between the mid-6th and-mid 9th centuries AD. The edge of a buried pithouse was encountered in a test pit in one of the middens, which also also yielded abundant quantities of lithic refuse and processed animal bone, but no evidence of domesticated crops. The intensity of occupation represented by these two dense and deep middens in this remote location leads to more questions than answers, and demonstrates that much is yet to be learned about the nature of the prehistoric settlement system in this extreme desert setting.

Survey of Rio Chama Wildlife Management Area, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico

Between July 21 and August 13, 2014 OCA archaeologists conducted an intensive 1,355 acre cultural resources inventory at the west end of the Rio Chama Wildlife Management Area, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. This inventory was performed at the request of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in anticipation of proposed sagebrush management within the wildlife area.

The survey documented 48 new sites and 210 isolated occurrences, representing 72 individual components ranging in time from the Early Archaic to the post-AD 1940 Historic period, with the majority of occupation occurring during the Middle and Late Archaic periods.

The primary factor in site exposure and identification appeared to be the soil types and alluvial processes within the area, which may have masked overall prehistoric resource-use strategies within the project area. The noticeable lack of pottery in the project area, with the exception of one Dinetah Gray Incised pot drop, indicates the substantial residential use of the project area did not occur during the Pueblo periods or during the protohistoric period. Instead, the area appears to have been frequented primarily for hunting game rather than residential settlement, as evidenced by the lack of Pueblo period structures or features in the project area. The Historic components in the project area were primarily trash dumps that date to the period from AD 1920 to the 1950s, and were likely associated with the final years of the lumber town of El Vado and the development of nearby Tierra Amarilla. Other primary historic period activities included sheepherding and livestock management, and at least one large scale lumber camp, possibly connected to the final years of El Vado and the construction of the El Vado Reservoir Dam in the early 1930s.

Site Re-evaluations along the Southern Margin of the Jornada del Muerto Basin

Between 2013 and 2015, OCA conducted re-evaluations of 27 prehistoric archaeological sites for White Sands Missle Range. along the southern margin of the Jornada del Muerto Basin. Most of the sites, situated along the southern margin of the Jornada del Muerto Basin, were prehistoric artifact scatters with few or no surface features, but evidence of prehistoric human activity was present from the Paleoindian, Middle Archaic, Late Archaic, Formative, and Protohistoric periods. The majority of components dated to the Late Archaic and/or Formative periods. At some sites, activities apparently focused on procurement of lithic raw materials, mostly cherts, and the production of bifaces for transport to use elsewhere. At other sites, activities focused on foraging. One Late Archaic site had evidence for repeated seasonal occupation and cultural deposits were up to 80 cm deep. The Formative components were mostly affiliated with the Jornada Mogollon culture area to the south. Among the historic sites evaluated was the Martin Ranch, home of one of the only civilian witnesses of the Trinity Atomic Test.