People tend to ignore geography when thinking about the prehistory of Santa Fe. Archaeologist Jason Shapiro means to correct that in a free talk titled “A Very Special Place: The Geography and Archaeology of Santa Fe.” It takes place at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, in the Boardroom at the School for Advanced Research (660 Garcia St., 954-7200).
Because of geography, the Santa Fe area was “quite optimal for human survival for a long time,” Shapiro said. The nearby mountains and proximity to the great plains, the basin-andrange country, and the Colorado Plateau ensured access to a wide variety of plants and animals that could be used for food, clothing, and shelter. The mountains also offered protection from the worst storms, and the Santa Fe River provided water.
What the mountains did not provide was good soils for gardening. “The Sangres are basically granitic; and when granite, feldspar, and quartz weather out, they don’t create rich alluvial soils like you get with the mineral-rich volcanic rocks in the Jemez and Pajarito and La Bajada areas,” Shapiro said.
“The Archaic Period lasted an awfully long time in Santa Fe, probably to A.D. 600. By that time, most everyone else in the Southwest was growing corn, but here people were still doing well hunting and foraging.”
Keeping up on his field work: Jason Shapiro