The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Pueblo artifacts unearthed

In the mid-1990s, looters offered Richard Chaves, who justpurchased a plot of land in central New Mexico, several hundredthousand dollars for whatever artifacts they could find buried onhis ranch.

In January 1996, instead of accepting the offer, Chavesapproached Michael Adler at the SMU Department of Anthropology foradvice. Chaves carried with him a shoebox full of artifacts hegathered from the surface of the land, and he sensed the potentialarchaeological value of what might still remain unearthed.

Chaves turned out to be right. The artifacts in the shoeboxcaptured Adler’s interest and the two men began planning howto excavate the ranch. From that afternoon meeting has emerged theidentification of the Chaves/Hummingbird site in New Mexico, anannual summer project for students and faculty of the anthropologydepartment since 1998.

Since Oct. 1, the first floor lobby of Fondren Library hashoused an exhibit showcasing some of the artifacts and otherfindings from the excavation.

The site consists of a Pueblo Indian village dating from the13th and 14th centuries and located along one of the tributaries ofthe Rio Puerco. Its archaeological name both honors the Chavesfamily and refers to the ancestral Pueblo village, known asHummingbird Ruin. Excavators intend to improve the documentation ofthe prehistory of the region and the river, which served as acrossroad for regional relations during this time period, accordingto

The idea for exhibiting the material culture uncovered at thesite began as a discussion between John Phinney, a professor andlibrarian in the anthropology department, and Adler, researchdirector for the excavation. Phinney said he is pleased with theresults, which include arrowheads and other stone projectile pointsas well as examples of Puebloan pottery.

“All of [the artifacts] are originals, some of which thegraduate students reassembled with glue on campus,” saidPhinney, who designed the exhibit and prepared it for display.”I think people are getting a good look at what’s beenhappening at the site. I’ve been getting lots of nicecomments and phone calls about it.”

Despite the large number of artifacts recovered as a result ofthe Chaves/Hummingbird project, Adler believes the most importantcontribution to the project may be the opportunity it has providedAdler and others to educate more people about Pueblo culture andarchaeology.

For the past two summers, Adler used the location for the SMUSummer Field Program in Archaeology, where students get first-handknowledge of excavation and archaeological analysis.

“There has been an ever-widening group of people who havegotten involved,” said Adler, who is director of the fieldschool.

Adler has also reached out to the remaining Pueblo Indians inthe area, inviting them to participate in the excavation.

“We’ve tried to get some of the local tribes in itto see what they know about their past, and so we can see who thesepeople were affiliated with,” he said. “The involvementof the public, the outreach, the involvement of a lot of differentgroups — I think that’s been the most importantcontribution of this project.”

Thanks to the work of Jay Pheuer, a graduate student in theanthropology department, the span of that outreach has grown andcontinues to grow. For the past two summers, Pheuer has overseen a10-day program that invites 10 to 12 middle school students toexperience archaeology firsthand at the Chaves/Hummingbird site.Some of the students travel from a school in Albuquerque, whileothers travel from a school in Rochester, N.Y.

Pheuer said he got the idea after realizing how little chancethere was for non-graduate-level students to get direct exposure toarchaeology. The middle school students in Pheuer’s programhave the opportunity to participate in activities such asexcavation, artifact washing and mapmaking.

At the end of the program, students compose reports based ontheir findings. The quality of the results surprised evenPheuer.

“The first year, I was absolutely amazed,” Pheuersaid. “The work that they produced was impeccable. And theywould listen and always do what they’re asked and they wouldask questions when they didn’t know things.”

The program will continue next summer, but the scope of theproject’s outreach continues to grow. Pheuer and othersinvolved in the ongoing Chaves/Hummingbird excavation are workingto obtain grant money for a larger program that will bring to thesite middle school-aged kids from both Albuquerque and from thelocal Hopi, Zuni and Acoma Puebloan tribes.

“I want to bring some of these kids together because youlearn about the culture by entering into it, by being fullyimmersed in it,” Pheuer said. For now, he will focus on nextyear’s 10-day program.

Research Director Adler said that the SMU Field School would notuse the site next summer, instead allowing for more intensiveanalysis of what has already been found.

Those interested in seeing examples of those findings have untilFriday to view the exhibit, located just inside the first-floorentrance of Fondren Library.

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